Objectives: To consider the possible rationale and utility of omega-3 fatty acids as a treatment for depression in the perinatal period.
Method: A review of published and unpublished research was undertaken, using electronic databases, conferences proceedings and expert informants.
Results: Relevant bodies of evidence include an epidemiological link between low fish intake and depression. Laboratory studies show correlations between low omega-3 fatty acid levels and depression, as well as reduced levels of omega-3 in non-depressed women during the perinatal period. Treatment studies using omega-3 in patients with mood disorders further support an omega-3 contribution, as do neuroscientific theories. Research into omega-3 and infant development also highlights potential effects of depletion in the perinatal period and supports infant safety and benefits of supplementation.
Conclusions: There is a relative lack of knowledge about the safety of standard antidepressants in the perinatal period. There is a clear need for more research into alternative treatments, such as omega-3 fatty acids, in the management of depression in the perinatal period.