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Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2005 Apr;39(4):274-80.

Role of omega-3 fatty acids as a treatment for depression in the perinatal period.

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  • 1School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Black Dog Institute, Hospital Road, Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick, NSW 2031, Australia.



To consider the possible rationale and utility of omega-3 fatty acids as a treatment for depression in the perinatal period.


A review of published and unpublished research was undertaken, using electronic databases, conferences proceedings and expert informants.


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.


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.

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