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Higher intakes of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce postpartum depression risk

November 28, 2012

According to a new review from Canada, increased blood concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids for women may reduce the risk of developing depression after childbirth.

In the review, 75 studies investigating the risk factors for postpartum depression (PPD) were examined (1). The literature analysis showed that there is accumulating evidence that higher omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid intake is associated with a lower risk of PPD.

The researchers commented that there could be a link between pregnancy, omega-3 fatty acids and the chemical reaction that enables the mood regulating neurotransmitter serotonin to be released into the brain. Because omega-3 fatty acids are transferred from the mother to her foetus and later to her breastfeeding infant, maternal fatty acid levels decrease during pregnancy, and remain lowered for at least six-weeks following the birth. Without adequate intake to counter this, levels of omega-3 fatty acids would be signifi-cantly lowered in the mother, and could result in a higher risk of PPD. They also stressed that as the study findings are preliminary, further research is needed to clarify the link and identify reasons for it.

Studies report prevalence rates for PPD among women from 5% to 25%. Symptoms include sadness, fatigue, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, reduced libido, crying episodes and anxiety. Although a number of risk factors have been identified, the causes of PPD are not well understood.

References

  1. Shapiro G. D. et al. Emerging risk factors for postpartum depression: serotonin transporter genotype and omega-3 fatty acid status. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. 2012; 57(11):704-712.