DHA and post-partum depression

DHA is not only an essential nutrient for the developing embryo and young children, but it is also very important for the future mother. The strong demand for DHA from the developing embryo together with an insufficient intake through the diet, often results in suboptimal levels of DHA in the mother. The reluctance to eat fish for fear of the possible presence of contamination by heavy metals etc., reduces even further the uptake of DHA.

Postpartum depression is a disorder that affects approx. 10-20% of childbearing women. Although its etiology seems complex (environmental, genetic factors, hormonal etc.), a growing body of evidence suggests a direct association between poor omega-3 fatty acid status (especially DHA) and risk of maternal depression and childhood behavioral disorders. The high demand for DHA during pregnancy, often results in suboptimal levels of this fatty acid after delivery which can still persist even 6 months later. The existing evidence therefore supports the supply of DHA during pregnancy in order to prevent or minimise post-partum depression.

  • Beth Levant (2011) N-3 (Omega-3) Fatty Acids in Postpartum Depression: Implications for Prevention and Treatment. Depression Research and Treatment, Vol 2011, pp 16
  • Coletta JM et al., (2010) Omega-3 fatty acids and Pregnancy. Review in Obstetrics & Gynecology 3(4): 163-171
  • Koletzko B et al., (2007). Dietary fats intake for pregnant and lactating women. Consensus Statement. Br J Nutr 98: 873-877
  • Ramakrishran U, Kunsch I, DiGirolamo AM (2009) Role of Docosahexaenoic acid in maternal and child mental health. Am J Nutr 89 (suppl): 958S-62S

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