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Nutrition and Postpartum Depression

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It is well documented that some women suffer depression after giving birth. Until recently it was not well known how prevalent this condition is.

The largest study to date shows that as many as 1 in every 7 women suffers postpartum depression. And the study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, found that 22% continued to experience postpartum depression for a year after delivery.

Symptoms of postpartum depression can range from mild to very serious and can include feelings of hopelessness, guilt, shame, and even thoughts of suicide. Postpartum depression can leave sufferers and their families feeling helpless and isolated.

Research shows a link between nutrition, specific nutrients in particular, in both maternal depression and postpartum depression.

Numerous studies, such as randomized controlled trials, cohort studies, and ecological studies, have found a positive association between low omega-3 levels and a higher incidence of maternal depression. In addition, nutrient inadequacies in pregnant women who consume a typical western diet might be much more common than researchers and clinicians realize.

Women who have recently given birth may experience a drop in potassium associated with a decrease in progesterone. This can result in postpartum depression.

Adequate selenium levels are crucial for the prevention of depression and anxiety. Consuming the recommended amount of selenium has been demonstrated to relieve depression and anxiety caused by major life stressors. Numerous studies have supported its effectiveness at preventing postpartum depression.

Recently, researchers at the University of Calgary in Canada studied 475 pregnant women to see if selenium played a role in preventing postpartum depression. They found that prenatal supplementation with selenium decreased the risk of postpartum depression. A 2011 study of 166 pregnant women in Iran reached the same conclusion; selenium supplementation during pregnancy significantly decreased the risk of postpartum depression. While selenium supplementation reduces the risk of depression, deficiencies in vitamin D, zinc, and selenium all contribute to the development of postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression is a potentially serious condition that can be prevented in many cases with adequate nutrition. Maintaining adequate levels of omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, selenium, vitamin D and zinc during pregnancy will reduce the risk of maternal depression and postpartum depression.

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  1. The Power of Potassium - Mental Heath Food - […] The Canadian Mental Health Association reports that low levels of potassium, caused by hormonal imbalances that contribute to premenstrual…

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