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Does Fish Oil Prevent Depression in Pregnancy and Postpartum?

This study has been completed.
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
Ellen Mozurkewich, University of Michigan Identifier:
First received: July 7, 2008
Last updated: January 22, 2013
Last verified: January 2013

This study is designed to test whether an alternative medicine treatment, fish oil, will prevent depressive symptoms in pregnant and postpartum women who have been found to be at risk for depression. Epidemiologists have observed that people who live in countries where people on average eat a diet high in fish have a lower risk of depression than people who live in populations that eat less fish. Postpartum depression is also less common in these countries. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are thought to be responsible for this beneficial effect of eating fish. The two major omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA is an essential building block of the brain and nerve tissue. EPA may act to optimize the electrical signals between nerve cells and brain cells and may help the immune system to function well.

Some researchers have treated people who are already suffering from depression with fish oil. Some of these studies have shown a benefit for the fish oil treatment and others have not. These studies have tested EPA and DHA alone and in various combinations. Currently, it is not known whether EPA or DHA is more effective in preventing and treating depression. Some of the researchers involved in this study have learned how to identify mothers who are most at risk for developing depression during and after pregnancy. This study is designed to learn whether EPA-rich and DHA-rich fish oil supplements will prevent depressive symptoms in women who are at risk to develop depression.

Condition Intervention Phase
Drug: EPA-rich fish oil supplement
Drug: DHA-rich fish oil supplement
Drug: placebo
Phase 2
Phase 3

Study Type: Interventional
Study Design: Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
Masking: Double Blind (Subject, Caregiver, Investigator)
Primary Purpose: Prevention
Official Title: Does EPA or DHA Prevent Depressive Symptoms in Pregnancy and Postpartum?

Resource links provided by NLM:

Further study details as provided by University of Michigan:

Primary Outcome Measures:
  • Beck Depression Inventory [ Time Frame: 6 weeks postpartum ]

Enrollment: 126
Study Start Date: September 2008
Study Completion Date: January 2013
Primary Completion Date: August 2012 (Final data collection date for primary outcome measure)
Arms Assigned Interventions
Active Comparator: 1
EPA-rich fish oil supplement
Drug: EPA-rich fish oil supplement
1060 mg EPA plus 274 mg DHA
Other Name: ProEPA Xtra
Active Comparator: 2
DHA-rich fish oil supplement
Drug: DHA-rich fish oil supplement
900 mg DHA plus 180 mg EPA
Other Name: ProDHA
Placebo Comparator: 3 Drug: placebo
control arm


Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years and older   (Adult, Senior)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   Female
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   Yes

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Women who are more than 12 weeks pregnant but less than 20 weeks pregnant
  • Women who are found to be at risk for depression
  • Women who have been treated for depression in the past
  • Women with depression after a previous pregnancy
  • Women planning to deliver at University of Michigan Hospital

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Women who have major depression or other psychiatric disorders (current substance abuse, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder) at the time of screening
  • Women who are currently taking anti-depressant or other psychiatric medications
  • Women who routinely eat more than 2 fish meals per week
  • Women on anticoagulants (blood thinners)
  • Women currently taking omega-3 fatty acid dietary supplements (fish oil, flaxseed oil or cod liver oil)
  • Women with bleeding disorders such as von Willebrand's disease
  • Women under the age of 18
  • Women with a multiple gestation (twins, for example)
  • Women planning to deliver at another hospital
  • Women planning to move away before 6 weeks after delivery
  Contacts and Locations
Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the Contacts provided below. For general information, see Learn About Clinical Studies.

Please refer to this study by its identifier: NCT00711971

United States, Michigan
University of Michigan Hospital
Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States, 48109
Sponsors and Collaborators
University of Michigan
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)
Principal Investigator: Ellen Mozurkewich, MD, MS University of Michigan
  More Information

Publications automatically indexed to this study by Identifier (NCT Number):
Responsible Party: Ellen Mozurkewich, Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Michigan Identifier: NCT00711971     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: R21AT004166-01A1 ( US NIH Grant/Contract Award Number )
IRBMED# HUM00004684
Study First Received: July 7, 2008
Last Updated: January 22, 2013

Additional relevant MeSH terms:
Depressive Disorder
Behavioral Symptoms
Mood Disorders
Mental Disorders processed this record on March 23, 2017