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An open trial of Omega-3 fatty acids for depression in pregnancy*

  • Marlene P. Freeman (a1) (a2), Joseph R. Hibbeln (a3), Katherine L. Wisner (a4), Marcy Watchman (a1) (a2) and Alan J. Gelenberg (a2)...



In this flexible-dose, open-label trial, we examined the efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids for the treatment of depression during pregnancy.


Fifteen pregnant women with major depressive episodes participated. Subjects initially received two capsules per day [0.93 g of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)]; the dose could be increased by one capsule per day every 2 weeks to a maximal dose of 2.8 g. Subjects were assessed with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) and Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD).


Average duration of participation in this treatment trial was 8.3 weeks (SD ± 7.1). Average final dose of EPA + DHA in this flexible dose trial was 1.9 g per day (±0.5). The mean reduction in EPDS scores was 40.9% (SD ± 21.9); the mean decrease in HRSD score was 34.1% (SD ± 27.1).


This open trial provides data to support the need for randomized controlled dose-finding trials of omega-3 fatty acids in major depressive episodes during pregnancy.


Corresponding author

Marlene P. Freeman, Women's Mental Health Program, Department of Psychiatry, University of Arizona College of Medicine, 1501 N. Campbell Avenue, PO Box 245002, Tucson, AZ 85724-5002, USA. Tel: +1 520 626 6509; Fax: +1 520 626 6050; E-mail:


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