Omega-3 Can Prevent or Treat Postpartum Depression

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The week of July 20 is Healthy Pregnancy Week at

Postpartum depression (PPD) is different from the “baby blues” that effect up to 80% of women following childbirth. PPD is clinical depression, diagnosed using DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria and effects approximately 1 in 10 women following child birth. PPD may or may not include Postpartum Psychosis, made famous by Andrea Yates, or postpartum anxiety. If symptoms are interfering with your functioning or you believe you are experiencing any hallucinations, please seek the help of a mental health professional. Many people find it is helpful to talk to a caring counselor during any life transition. Other moms may prefer to use diet and exercise to help them overcome PPD.

The number one nutritional suggestion for treating PPD is omega-3 fatty acids and DHA. Your DHA stores can be diminished during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and DHA blood levels drop further with each pregnancy. According to Dr. Beth Levant Omega-3 fatty deposits in the brain will stay there even if a rat’s diet contains an insufficient amount of good fat content, unless that rat is pregnant. An expectant rat whose diet is deficient of Omega-3 fatty acids will transfer fatty deposits from her brain to that of her babies who need it for healthy development. This will leave the pregnant and postpartum rat with an insufficient amount of Omega-3 fatty deposits. Luckily healthy levels of fatty deposits can be renewed with a diet rich in good fats.

Science assumes it similar in humans. Research has linked diets low in Omega-3 fatty acids to depression, including higher incidences of depression in countries and cultures that eat less seafood, such as New Zealand, compared to diets rich in Omega-3 fatty acids in countries like Japan. A survey of women from the United Kingdom found that those who ate more Omega-3 fatty acids during their third trimester were less likely to show symptoms of PPD. Eating seafood during pregnancy can be discouraged due to the risk of high levels of mercury found in some species. Discuss with your doctor what is safe and when.

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