Post natal depression or PND – sometimes referred to as post-partum depression – affects about 10 per cent of women after having a baby. You can read more about the condition here.
From a nutritional perspective, one of the things that has been shown to help protect against PND are the so-called omega-3 fats found plentifully in ‘oily’ varieties of fish including salmon, trout, mackerel and herring. You can read more about relevant research here and here.
Recent research suggests another nutritional agent that has potential to help prevent PND is the mineral selenium . In the study in question, 166 women in their first pregnancies were supplemented with either selenium (100 mcg per day) or placebo (inactive supplement) from sometime in the first third of the pregnancy, up to the time of the birth. Symptoms of depression were assessed over an eight-week period following the birth.
In women who supplemented with selenium, levels of this nutrient were found to rise (compared to women taking placebo, where they didn’t). And compared to women taking placebo, ratings of depression (as adjudged by the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale) were also significantly lower in the women taking the selenium supplement. The authors of the study concluded that “These findings suggest that supplementation with selenium during pregnancy might be an effective approach for the prevention of postpartum depression.”
It should be perhaps mentioned that selenium is only one of a range of nutrients that may, if supplemented during pregnancy, have benefits for the mother and her baby. For more information about the potential benefits of nutrient supplementation during pregnancy see here.
1. Mokhber N, et al. Effect of supplementation with selenium on postpartum depression: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med 8 June 2010 [Epub ahead of print]