Observational studies suggest association between low concentrations of omega-3 family fatty acids and greater risk for post-partum depression (PPD). The objective was to investigate the effect of unbalanced dietary intake of omega-6/omega-3 ratio >9:1 in the prevalence for PPD.

The study comprises a prospective cohort with four waves of follow-up during pregnancy and one following delivery. PPD was evaluated according to the Edinburgh Post-partum Depression Scale (PPD ≥ 11) in 106 puerperae between 2005 and 2007, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Independent variables included socio-demographic, obstetric, pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) and dietary intake data, which were obtained by means of a food frequency questionnaire in the first trimester of pregnancy. Statistical analysis involved calculation of PPD prevalence and multivariate Poisson regression with robust variance. PPD prevalence amounted to 26.4% [n = 28; confidence interval (CI) 95%: 18.0-34.8], and higher prevalences of PPD were observed in women who consumed an omega-6/omega-3 ratio >9:1 (60.0%) and in those with pre-pregnancy BMI <18.5 kg/m(2) (66.7%). These variables held as factors associated to PPD in the multivariate model, elevating the chances of occurrence of the outcome in 2.50 (CI 95%: 1.21-5.14) and 4.01 times (CI 95%: 1.96-8.20), respectively. Analyses were adjusted for age, schooling, pre-pregnancy BMI, lipids consumption and time elapsed since delivery.

It verified an association between omega-6/omega-3 ratio above 9:1, the levels recommended by the Institute of Medicine, and the prevalence of PPD. These results add to the evidence regarding the importance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in the regulation of mental health mechanisms.