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Postnatal depression: fish oil’s no answer

A study by researchers at The University of Adelaide contradicts previous American and European findings that taking fish oil capsules during pregnancy can help reduce the risk of postnatal depression. The study, involving 2,400 pregnant women in five Australian hospitals between 2005 and 2009, was led by Prof Maria Makrides, Director of the Women’s and Children’s Health Research Institute at the university.

15 Nov 2010

A study by researchers at The University of Adelaide contradicts previous American and European findings that taking fish oil capsules during pregnancy can help reduce the risk of postnatal depression.

The study, involving 2,400 pregnant women in five Australian hospitals between 2005 and 2009, was led by Prof Maria Makrides, Director of the Women’s and Children’s Health Research Institute at the university.

Half the women in the study had been given capsules containing fish oil and the other half capsules containing vegetable oil. No significant difference was found in either the incidence of postnatal depression or neuro-developmental outcomes in the women’s children.

Depressive symptoms were more common among women with a previous or current diagnosis of depression. But there was no difference between the control group and the group tasking fish oil capsules.

The 700 children from the study group were assessed for cognitive and language development at 18 months. They showed no marked differences either.

Prof Makrides said that the previous findings had come from observational studies that could not separate the influence of social variables from the intake of fish and seafood.

The Adelaide findings – which have been published in The Journal of the American Medical Association - showed that recommendations to increase omega 3 fatty acids in pregnancy were being made without sound evidence, she said.


Published: 15 Nov 2010