Nutritional interventions in depression and perinatal depression

Yale J Biol Med. 2013 Jun 13;86(2):127-37. Print 2013 Jun.


Depression is the leading cause of mental disability worldwide. Women who are depressed during pregnancy are at a higher risk for preterm delivery, preeclampsia, birth difficulties, and postpartum depression. The treatment of depression in conventional medicine has focused on physiological factors that lead to impaired neurotransmitter function and treatments to improve neurotransmitter function. Pharmaceutical substances pose risks for pregnant and lactating women, and lower risk options are preferred. Micronutrients, including certain B vitamins, folate, and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), play a role in the synthesis and absorption of neurotransmitters. Experimental studies suggest that supplementation with specific micronutrients may alleviate depressive symptoms and improve birth outcomes in patients with perinatal depression. Alternative treatments for depression, including nutritional supplements, are an important treatment option for depressive symptoms while limiting potential side effects and treatment costs. This article explores the biological basis of perinatal depression and reviews the potential benefits of non-pharmacological interventions.

Keywords: depression; nutrition; perinatal depression.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Depression / diet therapy*
  • Depression / drug therapy
  • Depression, Postpartum / diet therapy*
  • Depression, Postpartum / drug therapy
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Homocysteine / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Pregnancy


  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Homocysteine