Fish Oil in Pregnancy Treats Depression
Eating omega-3 fatty acids found in seafood such as
tuna, herring, salmon and sardines might stave off depression
in pregnant women, both before and after childbirth.
The federal government has issued warnings to pregnant
women about eating fish due to their potentially harmful
levels of mercury, but government recommendations still
allow eating up to 12 ounces a week of a variety of
In the study, researchers analyzed 11,721 British women.
They found that women who consumed greater amounts of
omega-3 fatty acids in seafood during the third trimester
were less likely to show signs of major depression during
pregnancy and for up to eight months after the birth.
Women with the highest intakes of omega-3, who consumed
fish two or three times a week, were half as likely
to suffer from depression as women with the lowest intakes.
According to researchers, the 12-ounce-a-week government
recommendation would allow for two servings of fish
per week. Salmon, catfish and scallops reportedly have
very little mercury and fish-oil supplements are supposed
to be mercury free.
About 10 percent of pregnant women--13 percent to 15
percent among new mothers--develop depression severe
enough to interfere with their functioning.
Although studies looking at the risk of antidepressant
drugs in pregnant and nursing women have showed low
risk, there have been few studies about long-term effects.
The current research shows a strong correlation between
low levels of omega-3 fatty acids and symptoms of depression,
researchers said. However, further studies are needed
to prove that boosting levels of fatty acids will fight
Government warnings have urged pregnant women to avoid
eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish
because they can contain high levels of mercury, which
can damage the nervous system of the fetus. Additionally,
fish may also pose other contamination risks. Researchers
suggested that women follow local recommendations in
regard to eating fish.
Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association;
San Francisco, CA May 20, 2003