Dietary supplements can fend off postpartum blues

mom with newborn
CC BY 2.0 Philip Dean

Study found a drastic difference in mood between new moms who took a three-day supplement and those who didn't.

Giving birth is an incredible experience, but it is tough, too. Many women feel sad in the days following a delivery. These ‘post-partum blues,’ as they’re called by medical professionals, are normal. Mothers will often cry and feel anxious or moody, but then it will pass. The mood swings are not dangerous unless they turn into post-partum depression, a much more serious condition, but they’re still hard on exhausted new moms and their families.

Dr. Jeffrey Meyer, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, came up with the idea that these ‘blues’ could be counteracted with dietary supplements. He conducted a study at Toronto’s Center for Mental Health and Addiction (CAMH), with results published in PNAS this week.

Meyer’s team found that administering a special dietary supplement for just three days had a profound effect on mothers’ moods. The dietary ‘kit’ contained three supplements – tryptophan and tyrosine, amino acids to compensate for loss of mood-regulating chemicals, and blueberry extract for its antioxidant effect. These were selected to compensate for a surge in a brain protein called MAO-A.

“MAO-A breaks down three brain chemicals that help maintain mood: serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. When these chemicals are depleted, it can lead to feelings of sadness. MAO-A levels peak five days after giving birth, the same time when postpartum blues are most pronounced.” (via CAMH)

Study participants knew whether or not they received the supplement. Twenty-one women got it; twenty did not. They started on the third day post-partum and went till the sixth. Mood was assessed on the fifth day, when new moms tend to feel lowest.

“The testing included sad mood induction, which measured the ability to be resilient against sad events. The women read and reflected on statements with sentiments that expressed pessimism, dissatisfaction and lethargy, and then listened to a sad piece of classical music. Before and after this test, researchers measured depressive symptoms.”

Results were dramatically different between the two groups. Women taking supplements did not experience any depressed mood, while those not taking them showed “robust” signs of a depressed mood.

Meyer plans to investigate further, if funding allows:

“Developing successful nutrition-based treatments, based on neurobiology, is rare in psychiatry. We believe our approach also represents a promising new avenue for creating other new dietary supplements for medicinal use.”

Dietary supplements can fend off postpartum blues
Study found a drastic difference in mood between new moms who took a three-day supplement and those who didn't.

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