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Depression During Pregnancy: Can Omega-3 Fatty Acids Help Treat This? - CAPT. Hibbeln, M.D.

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CAPT. Hibbeln, M.D., discusses how omega-3 fatty acids help treat depression during pregnancy.

CAPT. Hibbeln, M.D.:
The case of depression during pregnancy was an especially fascinating one and useful one, and that is that these fatty acids are so important, especially DHA – Decosahexaenoic Acid -- is so important to the very bio-physical substance of neurons that mothers transport their sources of omega-3 fatty acids across the placenta selectively and concentrate it in the baby’s brains.

Like with other nutrients that can easily leave the mother deficient and we have found, first of all looking across countries there’s almost a 50-fold increased risk of depression during pregnancy in the postpartum in women who don’t eat fish.

But also we looked at a very carefully controlled study in England that had 14,500 pregnancies in it, the Alsbach study in the University of Bristol.

And in that study we found that for every dose of deficiency and seafood intake the mothers had, they had a marked increase in the risk of depression, especially in the third trimester when the transport of the fatty acids is the most important.

So mothers can have this fatty acid probably literally being sucked out of their brains and their immune systems.

And it is very difficult to do treatment studies of depression in pregnancy and that’s why there’s only one treatment study of antidepressants in pregnancy.

But all the pilot data and the open data in trials we have done in pregnancy show a very profound treatment effect of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy.

Now there’s many reasons to take omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy aside from depression, but we feel that this is likely to be a very strongly effective treatment and something that shouldn’t be overlooked, especially because it has no side effects, but only has beneficial effects to lengthening gestation and to improving the child’s cognitive and functioning status later in life.

About CAPT. Joseph R. Hibbeln, M.D.:
Joseph R. Hibbeln, M.D., is a Captain in the United States Public Health Service. He is the acting chief on the Section of Nutritional Neurosciences at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. CAPT. Hibbeln is a psychiatrist, a lipid biochemist, and an epidemiologist.


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