Fish oil supplements provide omega-3 fatty acids that can help treat and prevent many different medical conditions, including several of particular concern to women, such as painful menstrual periods, pregnancy complications, postpartum depression and osteoporosis. Taking the proper amount of fish oil is crucial with regard to its effectiveness and safety. Always talk to your doctor before taking fish oil supplements or changing your dosage.
Eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, is one of the two omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil supplements. The proper daily dose of fish oil depends on what condition is being treated or prevented, as well as the amounts of EPA. In general, EPA levels in fish oil should be the highest numbers. Medline Plus recommends 1,080 mg of EPA daily for painful periods. Up to 4 g of fish oil daily is recommended for pregnant women to help prevent childhood allergies with 32 percent EPA.
Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, is the second important component of proper daily dosage of fish oil for women. Medline Plus recommends 720 mg of DHA for menstrual pain and a 23 percent concentration in capsules consumed by pregnant women to prevent childhood allergies. DHA is particularly important for women taking fish oil as part of a treatment plan for postpartum depression. Researchers at the University of Connecticut School of Nursing concluded in a 2011 study of 52 pregnant women that women who took a fish oil supplement containing 300 mg of DHA from week 24 through week 30 of their pregnancies experienced fewer postpartum depression symptoms than the women who were given a placebo.
Taking a total of 3 g or less per day of fish oil is safe for most people, according to Medline Plus, though you should talk to your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or if you have a bleeding disorder. Consider combining a low dose of fish oil via capsules with dietary changes that include fish at least once or twice per week to maintain healthy omega-3 levels if you suffer from heart disease or high cholesterol levels.
Fish oil can interact with some medications, including several that are often used by women. Taking fish oil while taking birth control pills may decrease the cholesterol-lowering effects of fish oil capsules. If you're taking certain diet drugs that block fat absorption, such as Alli, your body may not be able to absorb the omega-3 fatty acids properly. Increasing your daily dose of fish oil without consulting with your doctor first could lead to bleeding problems, which can occur with high doses or if you take fish oil in combination with anticoagulant drugs or herbs, including garlic, turmeric, ginkgo and ginger. Fish oil capsules may cause you to have an allergic reaction if you are allergic to seafood.