Is Fish Oil Effective for Treating Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum (postnatal) depression occurs with some women after childbirth. It is a serious medical condition, which at times happens to women within the first two months after they have had a baby, miscarriage or stillbirth. You may have just had a baby and concerned with whether your down moments are more than the baby blues. Baby blues are temporary where postpartum depression can last for months.

Mother The symptoms for postnatal depression are the following:

  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Crying
  • Feeling stressed
  • Anger
  • Loss of interest in things around you
  • Sadness, helplessness, hopelessness, or other negative feelings
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Changes in your appetite
  • Changes in your eating habits
  • Aches and pains in various parts of your body

You could need medical attention to cure this postpartum depression. However, many are trying alternative therapies today and fish oil is one of them. The experts do not agree on whether this oil has a beneficial effect on this depression. Let's look at the research to find out more.

Is Fish Oil Effective at Relieving Post Partum Depression?

A study, in 2010, shows that DHA supplementation is not effective in preventing postpartum depression at least in this one study. This Australian study included 2,399 women given 800mg of DHA each from the 21st week of their pregnancy and on from there.

Another study though, held in the USA, gave 52 women 300mg of DHA daily for five days each week starting with their 24th week of pregnancy. The results for this study was that the participants who took the DHA had fewer postpartum depression symptoms than the ones who took corn oil. Researchers from the University of Connecticut performed this study.

Laurie Levy, a certified doula, says "Well nothing is a magic cure but fish oil has been used successfully to treat schizophrenia (sorry that I don't have the link to the study handy) when used in very high doses (40,000 IU)." She goes onto say that she feels since neither of the above studies had administration rates near this dosage are they good measures of if fish oil works or not? Laurie also feels that neither study proves the point regardless of its sample size and feels that the time, quantity, and also the manner of administration also needs to be examined. She also stated "Personally I found that my rX meds work better when I am using fish oil concurrently (12,000 IU/day)- how about that study?"

Lack of Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Young and Conquer in 2005 stated that a reduction in n-3 fatty acids in the diet is a probable cause for Alzheimer's disease, ADH disorder, depression and even schizophrenia. However, there is not enough proof as of yet to conclude that supplementing your diet with omega-3 fatty acids reduces the symptoms of these disorders.

More occurrences of postpartum depression - Hibbeln in 2002 stated that low levels on omega-3 fatty acids in mother's mile, along with low fish consumption by said mother result in more occurrences of postpartum depression. A number of studies on this, report no difference on depression with a lack of omega-3 fatty acids in the system.

A study by Browne in 2006 on the link between fish consumption while pregnant and postpartum depression with small groups of females. The results of the study are useless because none of the women at just fish high in DHA.

Low levels of omega-3 is linked to postpartum depression

De Vriese in 2003 did a better study that proved low levels of omega-3 fatty acids were present with those participants with postpartum depression. The results pointed to the fact that pregnant women at risk for suffering postpartum depression would profit from taking a certain dosage of omega-3 fatty acids.

One problem some have with most of the studies is that they base their findings on DHA consumption and not EPA consumption. Both of these acids are in fish oil. More research needs to be done in this area to see how the EPA taken with the DHA works to prevent postpartum depression.

More Information on Fish Oil for Depression


Fish oil capsules could help to relieve some symptoms to depression according to psychiatrist Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D. with the Mayo Clinic. He goes onto to say that fish oil is most useful to treat severe symptoms of depression as with many anti-depressants. It may not have the same effect on more moderate cases.

Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and is useful for brain functioning. Patients suffering from depression in some cases have low levels of DHA and EPA. Fish oil is an excellent dietary source for these. There is no set dosage for fish oil. However, capsules containing anywhere from 100mg to 300mg of either both DHA and EPA together or just EPA is useful when treating depression.

Fish consumption is another method for boosting the level of omega-3 fatty acids in the body. It only takes a few servings of each week. Fish such as salmon, sardines, trout, canned white tuna, snapper, mackerel, and shellfish are high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Fish oil is not a replacement for medically treating depression it is though useful as an additional treatment. A need exist for more studies on this subject. It is still a good idea to add enough of these fatty acids to your diet for your overall health.

Fish Oil for Postpartum Depression is Complicated

You see that fish oil for postpartum depression is a complicated subject.

Choose fish low in mercury

One thing to remember if you are pregnant is that there are certain fish high in mercury that you should avoid. These include such fish as king mackerel, swordfish, orange roughy, grouper and white tuna. Some of the fish that are the lowest in mercury are haddock, flounder, catfish, crab, shrimp and scallops.

Pregnant women need to make sure they stick to the types of fish low in mercury even though some of the fish high in mercury is also high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Add fish to your diet if you are pregnant

Fish oil is good for the heart, brain and overall health of the body. It is just not conclusive on whether it will help with conditions such as postnatal depression or other mental problems. Researchers do keep pushing forward in this area trying to come up with the definitive proof beyond any doubt. Eat fish a couple times a week if you are pregnant just limit the type and amount you eat. It will be good for your overall health.

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