Prevent Pregnancy Blues
Omega-3 essential fatty acid, a beneficial oil found in certain
kinds of seafood, may significantly reduce the risk of depression
in pregnancy, new research claims.
With all the mixed messages about
mercury exposure from fish and its impact on the brain development
of the fetus, many pregnant women may be hesitant to eat a diet
rich in fish.
But this study by National Institutes
of Health and University of Illinois-Chicago researchers found
pregnant women who had a deficient intake of omega-3 acids had
double the risk of depression than women with a normal to high
"During pregnancy, the baby
gets omega-3 at the expense of the mother," explains study
co-author Dr. John Davis, a professor of psychiatry at the University
of Illinois-Chicago. He presented the research May 20 at the American
Psychiatry Association's annual meeting in San Francisco.
A developing fetus draws on the
fatty acid stores of its mother for optimal neurological growth.
The study sought to determine if women are at the greatest risk
for depression in the third trimester, when their rate of omega-3
depletion is the greatest.
Using British data compiled from
14,541 women who were expected to deliver between 1991 and 1992,
the researchers used a statistical model to analyze the association
between omega-3 fatty acids and depression.
The subjects' omega-3 intake was
recorded at 32 weeks' gestation and was compared to the mothers'
scores on a standardized depression test given at 18 and 32 weeks'
gestation and again at eight and 32 weeks after birth.
Even after the researchers adjusted
the data for confounding factors such as age, prior history of
depression, education and substance abuse, the association remained
Their findings were supported by
an additional analysis, which showed that in countries where omega-3
intake is the highest, the incidence of depression appears to
be the lowest.
"We suspect that too little
omega-3 in the diet may be a risk factor for depression,"
However, a clinical trial where
subjects with different intakes of omega-3 are randomly assigned
to comparison groups is needed to draw any conclusions about the
relationship between these fatty acids and depression, Davis says.
"The results are consistent
with prior epidemiological work and consistent with more recent
clinical trial work," says Dr. Andrew Stoll, an assistant
professor of psychiatry at Harvard University.
Among the reasons many people may
be deficient in omega-3 fatty acid is because it's available in
just a handful of foods and because the body can't produce it
on its own. According to Stoll, fatty cold-water fish such as
salmon and omega-3 supplemented eggs are excellent sources of
the healthful nutrient.
Learn about depression from the
Institute of Mental Health, while you can get more about nutrition
and pregnancy from the American
College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Reference Source 101