THREE supplements, including blueberry juice, could help new mums beat postnatal depression, experts have suggested.
The supplements – all designed to counter the mood-altering changes – virtually eliminated the “baby blues” in new mums, a new study has shown.
The “baby blues” is a precursor to full blown postnatal depression.
One in 10 women will be affected by postnatal depression within a year of giving birth.
Though less common, new dads can be affected too.
By reducing the risk of the “baby blues”, which typically hits around three days after birth, it’s possible to reduce the risk of more serious depression.
The kit included three supplements – tryptophan, tyrosine and blueberry extract.
They were carefully selected by scientists at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
All can compensate for a surge in the brain protein MAO-A, which happens in the early stages of postnatal depression.
The same pattern is seen people with clinical depression.
The protein breaks down three chemicals that help maintain mood – serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.
When there are low levels of these three chemicals, it can lead to feelings of sadness.
MAO-A levels peak five days after giving birth, the same time when it’s most likely a mum will succumb to postnatal depression.
Trytophan – which is found in high levels in turkey – and tyrosine – found in cheese, soybeans, and meat – help boost the three chemicals.
And blueberry extract has an antioxidant effect.
Dr Jeffrey Meyer, who lead the study, said: “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.”
Dr Meyer and his team also tested and found the levels of trytophan and tyrosine supplements – given in higher amounts than you could get normally in your diet – did not affect a mum’s breast milk.
His team gave 21 women the supplements and compared them to 20 new mums who took a placebo.
They took their supplements over three days, starting three days after giving birth.
“We believe this is the first study to show such a strong, beneficial effect of an intervention in reducing the baby blues at a time when postpartum sadness peaks
Dr Jeffrey MeyerToronto’s Centre For Addiction And Mental Health
On day five, when postnatal depression typically peaks, the women underwent tests to measure their mood.
Dr Meyer’s team found the results were dramatic.
Women not taking the supplements had a significant increase in depression scores.
Those taking the three supplements, did not experience any depression.
Dr Meyer said: “We believe this is the first study to show such a strong, beneficial effect of an intervention in reducing the baby blues at a time when postpartum sadness peaks.
“Postpartum blues are common and usually resolves 10 days after giving birth, but when they are intesnse, the risk of postpartum depression increases four-fold.”
He added more research is now needed to trial the supplements in a larger group of new mums.
The findings are published in the journal, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.