In the last part of this series on omega-3 fatty acid and depression, I hone in on the common postpartum depression, as well as depression in children. The most medicinal fatty acid in the world can be of help in both these circumstances.
Postpartum depression affects approximately 10% to 15% of women. But women who take antidepressants in their third trimester do have increased risk of complications. Plus, antidepressant use during pregnancy is associated with a higher risk of premature delivery and lower gestational age at birth.
Thus, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should be reluctant to take antidepressants. It might not be so safe for the fetus or baby. Women with postpartum depression are reported to show reduced blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids, but normal levels of omega-6 fatty acids.
Two recent studies showed promising results with omega-3 supplementation in postpartum depression. In one, omega-3 in three different doses (0.6 g/day, 1.4 g/day, or 2.8 g/day) used in a small number of women with postpartum depression showed a beneficial effect on depressive symptoms.
The second study, an eight-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study comparing omega-3 (3.4 g/day) to placebo was conducted in 33 women with postpartum depression. Omega-3 treated patients showed a much greater reduction in their depressive scores as compared to the placebo group.
Besides, there were no adverse effects in either the patients or the newborn babies. There was, however, one study in 51 patients over eight weeks that failed to show any benefit from omega-3.
What about depression in children? In 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about the use of antidepressants in children and adolescents, namely that increased risk of suicidal thinking and actual suicide have been associated with the use of these drugs. There is only one high-quality study on the efficacy of omega-3 in childhood depression.
These investigators studied 28 children aged six to 12 years who were randomly assigned to receive 560 mg to 600 mg a day of omega-3 (eicosapentaenoic acid plus eicosapentaenoic acid) or placebo for a period of four months.
Those who were treated with omega-3 showed a significant reduction of depressive symptoms starting at eight weeks of treatment, whereas the placebo-treated group failed to improve. Even though it is a pilot study, the promising results are quite encouraging — especially in view of the safety concerns related to the use of antidepressants in youth.
Important Note: Anyone who is already on antidepressants — pregnant or nursing women, children, and men/women of any age – should not discontinue use of the medication without speaking to their doctor first.
If you want to consider natural avenues, such as omega-3 fatty acid, work with your doctor. Discontinuing medication suddenly or inappropriately can have negative consequences.