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A look at nutriton and postpartum depression

May 17, 2013

May 16 Postpartum Depression 1All this month we are focusing on mothers and maternal health.  This week we take a look at an issue that doesn’t receive a lot of attention–particularly in global health and development spheres–but is vital for the health and well being of mothers and their children: Postpartum Depression or PPD.

PPD is only one manifestation of postpartum mood disorder on a continuum that goes from the more common “baby blues” to the more severe “postpartum psychosis:”

May 16 Postpartum Depression 3.jpg


PPD has been called the “most common complication of pregnancy” with approximately one in eight mothers (10-15%) experiencing PPD during the first year of their child’s life.  Postpartum depression can affect any new mother regardless of her:

  • Age
  • Level of education or income
  • Experience of pregnancy
  • Number of pregnancies or number of children

However according to the Mayo clinic, some women may be more susceptible to PPD if their pregnancy was unplanned and/or unwanted and if they have:

  • A history of depression
  • Had PPD after previous pregnancies
  • Experienced stressful events during the last year
  • Relationship problems
  • Weak support system
  • Financial problems

Impact on Maternal and Child Health

Maternal depression is associated with child psychological and physical health as well as nutritional status.  PPD can impact a woman’s ability to:

  • Take care of herself
  • Effectively carry out daily responsibilities
  • Take care of her baby (including proper infant feeding)

PPD and Nutrition

Nutrition impacts all facets of health including mental health.  For example, research by Bodnar and Wisler has found that:

  • Poor omega-3 fatty acid status increases the risk of depression. Fish oil and folic acid supplements each have been used to treat depression successfully.
  • Folate deficiency reduces the response to antidepressants.
  • Deficiencies of folate, vitamin B12, iron, zinc, and selenium tend to be more common among depressed than non-depressed persons.

Nutrition during pregnancy can have a profound impact on mood.  As Bodnar and Wisler explain:

  • “Childbearing-aged women are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of poor nutrition on mood because pregnancy and lactation are major nutritional stressors to the body. The depletion of nutrient reserves throughout pregnancy and a lack of recovery postpartum may increase a woman’s risk of depression.”


Treatment for PPD includes:May 16 Postpartum Depression 2.jpg

  • Counseling
  • Antidepressants
  • Hormone therapy
  • Lifestyle changes including healthy eating

Nutrition interventions can be inexpensive, safe, easy to administer, and generally acceptable to patients.

What the CARE Nutrition Plus Team is doing

CARE has trained 47 community and nutrition workers and 317 community counselors in Bangladesh on the delivery of basic psycho-social support services to women and their families.

Training included information on:

  • PPD
  • How to provide quality, personalized support for women experiencing PPD
  • The “steps to wellness” that help to empower women to help themselves
  • How to help individuals create a plan of action that will help them assess their strengths and needs
  • How to build a supportive community for women experiencing PPD

These trained nutrition counselors are now equipped to identify PPD, provide support and tools to women who are struggling with mood disorders after delivery.

Click here for more information on PPD from the Centers for Disease Control.  For more detailed information on the science behind nutrition and depression click here.

Clip Art source:

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 23, 2014 9:19 pm

    It’s really a nice and helpful piece of info. I am happy that you shared this useful info with us.
    Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Moore permalink
    June 13, 2013 7:24 am

    In very rare cases, women can have postpartum depression which is a severe case. Sometimes they may act very weirdly, hear or see things which are not there. It can be a danger to her baby and herself. In such cases it is very urgent to get treatment for depression.”>

  3. May 22, 2013 3:16 pm

    Thank you very much for you comment Walker Karraa and thank you for all you are doing to bring light to this important issue.

  4. Walker Karraa permalink
    May 17, 2013 8:57 pm

    What a wonderful resource! Thank you for acknowledging the impact of maternal mental health on all aspects of a mothers health and well-being.

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