Omega-3 supplementation from pregnancy to postpartum to prevent depressive symptoms: A randomized placebo-controlled trial

Juliana dos Santos Vaz, Dayana Rodrigues Farias, Amanda Rodrigues Amorim Adegboye, Antonio Egidio Nardi, Gilberto Kac

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18 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Low n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) has been linked to depression, but the preventive effect of n-3PUFAs supplementation on maternal depression needs further investigation. We aimed to evaluate the efficacy of a daily dose of n-3 PUFAs supplementation (fish oil) on the prevention of postpartum depression (PPD). Methods: A randomized, placebo-controlled, double blind trial was designed and nested into a cohort study conducted in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Sixty pregnant women identified as being at risk for PPD were invited and randomly assigned to receive fish oil capsules [1.8 g (1.08 g of Eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and 0.72 g of Docosapentaenoic (DHA) acids)] or placebo (control). The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) was scored at 5-13 (T0, baseline), 22-24 (T1), 30-32 weeks of gestation (T2) and 4-6 weeks' postpartum (T3). Supplementation started at week 22-24 of gestation (T1) and lasted for 16 weeks. Serum fatty acids were assayed to evaluate compliance. Prevalence of EPDS ≥11 was the primary outcome, and mean and changes in EPDS score, length of gestation, and birth weight the secondary outcomes. Linear mixed-effect (LME) and random-intercept logistic regression models were performed to test the effect of fish oil supplementation on prevalence of EPDS ≥11 and EPDS scores variation. Results: In intention-to-treat (ITT) analysis, at 30-32 weeks' gestation women in the fish oil presented higher serum concentration of EPA, DHA and lower n-6/n-3 ratio comparing to the control group. There were no differences between intervention and control groups in the prevalence of EPDS ≥11, EPDS scores over time, or in changes in EPDS scores from pregnancy to postpartum in either the ITT or per-protocol analyses. Women in the fish oil group with previous history of depression presented a higher reduction on the EPDS score from the second to the third trimester in the fish oil comparing to the control group in the ITT analyses [-1.0 (-3.0-0.0) vs. -0.0 (-1.0-3.0), P = 0.038). These results were confirmed on the LME model (β = -3.441; 95%CI: -6.532- -0.350, P = 0.029). Conclusion: Daily supplementation of 1.8 g of n-3 PUFAs during 16 weeks did not prevent maternal depressive symptoms in a sample of Brazilian women. Trial registration: Identifier: NCT01660165. Retrospectively registered on 24 May 2012.

Original languageEnglish
Article number180
Number of pages13
JournalBMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.


  • Depression; pregnancy
  • Fatty acids
  • Omega-3
  • Randomized controlled trial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology


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