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Eating fish oil while pregnant may cut risk of postpartum depression

April 13, 2011 - Washington

Eating fish during Pregnancy could cut risk of developing postpartum depression, according to a new study.

It found that the omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish such as salmon and herring may play a critical role in both development and maintenance of the brain and nerves.

Michelle Price Judge, a faculty member at the University of Connecticut School of Nursing, is keenly interested in how omega-3 fatty acids consumed during Pregnancy impact both maternal and infant health.

Judge oversaw a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled dietary intervention trial in which 52 pregnant women took either a placebo (corn oil) or a fish oil capsule containing 300 milligrams of DHA 5 days each week from 24-40 weeks of Pregnancy. This is the amount a woman would consume if she ate about half serving of salmon.

Using the Postpartum Depression Screening Scale developed by her colleague and coauthor Cheryl Beck, Judge was able to categorize postpartum women as having negligible depressive symptoms, significant symptoms of postpartum depression, or being "positive" for this condition.

The Postpartum Depression Screening Scale also assisted the research team in discerning between several symptoms specific to the disorder including sleeping/eating disturbances, anxiety, emotional liability, confusion, loss of self, guilt, and thoughts of suicide.

Although the study did not have enough women to investigate if fish oil consumption resulted in a lower incidence of diagnosable postpartum depression, women in the treatment group had significantly lower total Postpartum Depression Screening Scale scores, with significantly fewer symptoms common to postpartum depression.

Judge and coworkers concluded "DHA consumption during Pregnancy - at levels that are reasonably attained from foods - has the potential to decrease symptoms of postpartum depression."

The study was recently presented at the Experimental Biology 2011 meeting in Washington, DC.


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