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Diet in the first month after birth affects postpartum depression, anxiety symptoms

Tristan Manalac
07 Mar 2018
Not spotting tell-tale signs in postpartum mothers before discharge could lead to life-threatening complications.

During the first month postpartum, diet seems to be an important factor in the mothers’ mental health, with a Traditional-Indian-Confinement (TIC) diet, rich in traditional Indian herbs, ghee and other common food items in diets across India, leading to improved postpartum depression symptoms (PPD), a recent Singapore study has shown.

On the other hand, a diet rich in assorted soups, fish, fruits and vegetables (the Soup-Vegetables-Fruits [SVF] diet) appeared to reduce postpartum anxiety (PPA) symptoms.

Aside from the TIC and SVF diets, researchers noted two other dietary patterns: the Traditional-Chinese-Confinement (TCC) diet, characterized by herbal tea, Chinese herbs and foods cooked with alcohol, and the Eat-Out diet, which was rich in deep-fried food, sweetened drinks, savoury snacks and ice cream.

Better adherence to the TIC diet appeared to have significant beneficial effects on PPD. According to multivariable models, each standard deviation (SD) increase in the TIC score was associated with significant declines in the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (β, –0.62; 95 percent CI, –1.16 to –0.09; p=0.02). The likelihood of PPD was also modestly lower in the TIC diet (odds ratio [OR], 0.56; 0.31–1.01 p=0.05). [Nutrients 2018;10:299]

In comparison, the SVF diet showed nonsignificant protective effects against PPD symptoms (β for every SD increase in SVF score, –0.48; –0.97 to 9.92; p=0.06) and a beneficial effect on PPA, resulting in significant reductions in State-Trait Anxiety Inventory scores (β for every SD increase in SVF score, –1.49; –2.56 to –0.42; p=0.006).

Neither the TCC nor the Eat-Out diet was significantly associated with the employed postpartum mental health measures.

Key components of the TIC diet, such as Indian herbs, seed herbs and curcumin, have been shown to possess neuroprotective, serotonergic and anti-inflammatory qualities, all of which may contribute to their efficacy against depressive symptoms, according to researchers. [Hum Psychopharmacol 2014;29:517-527; Brain Res 2006;1122:56-64; J Integr Med 2013;377-383]

The SVF diet is conceptually similar to a healthy dietary pattern and may reduce depressive and anxiety symptoms through its regulation of oxidative damage, they added. [Nutrients 2016;8:351; Curr Pharm Des 2012;18:5890-5899].

For the study, researchers obtained data from the Growing Up in Singapore Towards Healthy Outcomes study, restricting the participants to females who were receiving their first antenatal dating scan at the National University Hospital or the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

Using 3-day food diaries, researchers assessed the postnatal dietary composition and intake of 490 mothers at 1 week postpartum. Exploratory factor analysis with principal component extraction was used to derive dietary patterns.

“Our study derived particular postnatal dietary patterns present in a multiethnic Asian cohort and established associations with maternal mental health status at 3 months postpartum. The TIC diet was inversely associated with symptoms of PPD, while the SVC diet was shown to be protective of PPA symptoms,” said researchers.

“A balanced diet with emphasis on fruits, vegetables, fish and legumes during first month postpartum could be a potential preventive measure against postpartum mental health disorders. Further studies are warranted to confirm these findings,” they added.

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Most Read Articles
18 Apr 2018
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