The Journal of American Medical Association has published a study claiming fish oil is an ineffective postpartum depression treatment, despite other studies finding the treatment to be highly effective. Fish oil provides DHA, which has been linked to relief from postpartum depression. JAMA studied more than 2,000 women in the randomized trial. Claims of increased cognition and language development in offspring were also unfounded, according to JAMA.

Many prenatal vitamins include labeling pushing DHA as a healthy choice for pregnant women. While DHA may be healthy, the positive benefits once associated with the oil supplement may not longer be supported by clinical research. The 2,000 active participants in the study were given an 800 mg DHA fish oil capsule or a vegetable oil capsule. About 9.5% of women receiving DHA reported postpartum depression compared to 11.2% of women receiving vegetable oil.

Children were tested for cognition and language development skills as a secondary part of the study. Again, prenatal supplements with DHA are marketed as healthy for mom and the fetus, so researchers wanted to test all claims. Children born to women who took the 800 mg of DHA showed no greater developments in the area of cognition or language development than those born to the control group.

Researchers admitted these study results were not parallel to previous studies supporting the use of DHA for postpartum depression. Undoubtedly, more studies will be required before a final theory is adopted. Until then, it is suggested that women continue taking prenatal vitamins. There are no negative side effects associated with DHA.

Sources: Maria Makrides; Robert A. Gibson; Andrew J. McPhee; Lisa Yelland; Julie Quinlivan; Philip Ryan; and the DOMInO Investigative Team.JAMA. 15 October, 2010.


Emily Oken, Mandy B. Belfort. JAMA. 15 October, 2010.