Randomized dose-ranging pilot trial of omega-3 fatty acids for postpartum depression


  • Preliminary results from this study were presented by Dr Freeman at the New Clinical Drug Evaluation Unit (NCDEU) Meeting on June 3, 2004, Phoenix, Arizona and the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, San Juan, Puerto Rico, December 13, 2004.

Marlene P Freeman, Women's Mental Health Program, Departments of Psychiatry, Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Nutritional Sciences, University of Arizona College of Medicine, 1501 N. Campbell Avenue, PO Box 245002, Tucson, AZ 85724-5002, USA.
E-mail: marlenef@email.arizona.edu


Objective:  Postpartum depression (PPD) affects 10–15% of mothers. Omega-3 fatty acids are an intriguing potential treatment for PPD.

Method:  The efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids for PPD was assessed in an 8-week dose-ranging trial. Subjects were randomized to 0.5 g/day (n = 6), 1.4 g/day (n = 3), or 2.8 g/day (n = 7).

Results:  Across groups, pretreatment Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) and Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD) mean scores were 18.1 and 19.1 respectively; post-treatment mean scores were 9.3 and 10.0. Percent decreases on the EPDS and HRSD were 51.5% and 48.8%, respectively; changes from baseline were significant within each group and when combining groups. Groups did not significantly differ in pre- or post-test scores, or change in scores. The treatment was well tolerated.

Conclusion:  This study was limited by small sample size and lack of placebo group. However, these results support further study of omega-3 fatty acids as a treatment for PPD.