Objective: Depression is a leading cause of disability and hospitalization. Women are at the highest risk of depression during their childbearing years, and the birth of a child may precipitate a depressive episode in vulnerable women. Postpartum depression (PPD) is associated with diminished maternal somatic health as well as health and developmental problems in their offspring.

This review focuses on 2 PPD risk factors of emerging interest: serotonin transporter (5-HTT) genotype and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (n-3 PUFA) status.

Method: The MEDLINE, PubMed, and Web of Science databases were searched using the key words postpartum depression, nutrition, omega-3 fatty acids, and serotonin transporter gene. Studies were also located by reviewing the reference lists of selected articles.

Results: Seventy-five articles were identified as relevant to this review. Three carefully conducted studies reported associations between the 5-HTT genotype and PPD. As well, there is accumulating evidence that n-3 PUFA intake is associated with risk of PPD. Preliminary evidence suggests that there could be an interaction between these 2 emerging risk factors. However, further studies are required to confirm such an interaction and to elucidate the underlying mechanisms.

Conclusions: Evidence to date supports a research agenda clarifying the associations between n-3 PUFAs, the 5-HTT genotype, and PPD. This is of particular interest owing to the high prevalence of poor n-3 PUFA intake among women of childbearing age and the consequent potential for alternative preventive measures and treatments for PPD.