Taking Omega-3 Fish Oil May Lower the Risk of Postpartum Depression for Pregnant Women

December 2012, Xtend-Life Expert

Summary

Women are most vulnerable to depression during their childbearing years and the birth of a child can trigger an episode of Postpartum Depression (PPD, also known as Postnatal Depression). A recent study, published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, suggests increasing the intake of Omega-3 Fatty Acids during and after pregnancy, may help to reduce the risk of Postpartum Depression in vulnerable women. Omega-3 levels decrease during pregnancy and remain lowered for weeks following the birth of the child, which can result in a higher risk of PPD.

This is a true story told me by a friend and Xtend-Life customer... Australian couple Sandy and Derek had been trying to have a baby for over three years, so when their first child Justin was conceived they were thrilled. Sandy's pregnancy was relatively uneventful, but after a difficult delivery which resulted in an emergency caesarean, Sandy found the demands of new motherhood overwhelming.

Friends and family reassured her that her feelings of fatigue, melancholy and helplessness were natural. "It's just your hormones" they said, "don't worry, it'll fix itself." But Sandy found herself sinking deeper and deeper into the grey fog of depression.

Faced with the grim reality of getting through each day, Sandy sought help from her doctor who suggested some relaxation techniques and prescribed anti-depressants as a treatment for depression. Eventually Sandy recovered, but the experience left her feeling anxious about having another child.

Unfortunately, Sandy's story is not uncommon. Women are most vulnerable to depression during their childbearing years and the birth of a child can trigger an episode of Postpartum Depression (also known as Postnatal Depression).

Left untreated, the symptoms of Postpartum Depression can last for months, even years, interfering with the bond between mother and child and leading to the diminished health of both.

A recent study, published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, suggests increasing the intake of Omega-3 Fatty Acids during and after pregnancy, may help to prevent Postpartum Depression in vulnerable women.

A team of psychiatrists, led by Dr Shapiro from the University of Montreal in Canada, examined the findings of 75 previous studies in Postpartum Depression, to identify emerging risk factors associated with the illness.

The literature suggested a combination of two major risk factors may be involved:

  • The intake of Omega-3 Fatty Acids during and after pregnancy; and
  • A serotonin transporter gene known as 5-HTT (serotonin is a mood-regulating neurotransmitter).

 

What they identified was a possible relationship between pregnancy, the intake of Omega-3 Fatty Acids and a chemical reaction in the brain responsible for mood regulation. Basically, those women who had less Omega-3 Fatty Acids in their system had a reduced capacity to transport serotonin throughout their brain, resulting in a higher risk of developing Postpartum Depression.

"Omega-3 is transferred from the mother to her foetus and later to her breastfeeding infant. Maternal Omega-3 levels decrease during pregnancy and remain lowered for at least six-weeks after birth," Dr Shapiro said.

So what does this mean for women like Sandy? Dr Shapiro suggests that while the initial findings require further investigation, there is evidence to suggest pregnant women would benefit from bringing their intake of Omega-3 up to recommended levels, as a precautionary measure.

Source: Canadian Journal of Psychiatry Volume 57, Number 11, Pages 704-712, doi: "Emerging Risk Factors for Postpartum Depression: Serotonin Transporter Genotype and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Status" Authors: Gabriel D Shapiro, William D Fraser, Jean R Seguin Abstract available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23149286

* Omega-3 is naturally found in fish and some other food. However a good quality Omega-3 fish oil supplement is the best way to ensure dietary intake is adequate, particularly during periods of high demand such as pregnancy and after childbirth.

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