Women are vulnerable to depression during their childbearing years, and giving birth to a child precipitates postpartum depression (PPD) in some women. This review focuses on comparing the effectiveness of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation on depression during pregnancy or PPD after childbirth.
MEDLINE, PubMed, PsycINFO, and the Cochrane Collaboration Registry of Controlled Trials etc. through July 2017 were searched. Studies of dietary intake and plasma and/or milk levels of omega-3 fatty acids and trials of benefits and effects of omega-3 fatty acids supplements on pregnant or postpartum women with depression were specifically selected.
Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency, due to inadequate intake, fast depletion during pregnancy and lactation, is one of the risk factors of PPD. Associations between neuroinflammation (elevated pro-inflammatory cytokines) and aberrant neurotransmission (low serotonergic transmission activity) and risk of PPD have also been reported by numerous studies. Supplementation with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)-rich oil can effectively reduce depression during pregnancy and PPD after childbirth. Long term treatment with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)-rich oil can be effective in reducing the risk of PPD in healthy women, but not in lactating women. Supplementation of DHA-rich oil to women begun at pregnancy and continued after childbirth exerts no beneficial effect on depression.
Dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids rich in EPA during pregnancy or postpartum reduces some symptoms associated with depression. DHA supplementation to healthy pregnant women can also reduce the risk of PPD.