Nutritional deficiency and postpartum depression:
Foods to focus on during pregnancy
We all know how critical it is to eat well during pregnancy – it’s so important to keep both you and your baby healthy. Focusing on a balanced, nutritious diet is even more important when you’re expecting triplets – growing multiple babies requires a lot of energy! Healthy development of your baby isn’t the only benefit of good nutrition during pregnancy – there’s also a strong link between nutritional deficiency and postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression occurs more frequently in mothers of multiples, and can lead to feelings of sadness, mood changes, and exhaustion, all of which may last for months or even years if not treated. Many aspects of postpartum depression aren’t fully understood, including many of the causes. As we do learn more about postpartum depression, we’re beginning to understand the importance of a healthy diet, and the role that several key nutrients may play in preventing this condition. Read on to learn more about nutritional deficiency and postpartum depression.
Examining the link between nutritional deficiency and postpartum depression
Postpartum depression can be caused by many factors – more often than not it comes out of the blue and catches unsuspecting mothers by surprise. Hormonal changes, a history of depression, and a difficult pregnancy can all increase your chances of developing postpartum depression. Recently, more research has been performed to assess the link between nutritional deficiency and postpartum depression. Here are some of the things we know:
- Deficiencies in vitamin D, zinc, and selenium have all been linked to postpartum depression
- Omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and iron also appear to be linked to postpartum depression
- The body’s natural stores of these nutrients are depleted during pregnancy, and need to be replenished through either diet or supplement pills
Fun (or not) fact: Your brain actually shrinks during pregnancy to support the growth of your baby
Specific foods that may prevent nutritional deficiency and postpartum depression
Trace minerals, fatty acids, and B vitamins may all help to prevent postpartum depression, but how do you make sure you’re getting enough of these nutrients? Let’s take a look at some of the foods you really can’t get enough of during pregnancy.
Vitamin D nutritional deficiency and postpartum depression
As well as the role it may play in preventing postpartum depression, vitamin D serves many important functions during pregnancy. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and bone development, and also plays roles in the immune system and preventing autoimmune diseases.
Foods containing high levels of vitamin D include some fatty fishes that don’t contain mercury, including salmon and sardines. Other great sources are eggs (the vitamin D is in the yolk) and mushrooms – the only good plant-based source of vitamin D.
Trace mineral nutritional deficiency and postpartum depression
Trace minerals are small but mighty when it comes to preventing postpartum depression. In particular, zinc, selenium, and iron deficiencies have all been linked with an increased risk of postpartum depression. Zinc is also important for cell division and tissue growth, promoting the healthy development of your baby. Selenium plays important role in thyroid function, which may help to explain its role in postnatal depression. Iron is important for red blood cell development and making sure your growing baby can get enough oxygen.
Good sources of zinc include red meat, fortified breakfast cereals, and whole grains. To boost your selenium intake, focus on grass-fed beef, canned tuna or sardines, and Brazil nuts. Foods containing high levels of iron are beef, chicken and eggs, or spinach, kale, beans, and legumes if you’re looking for plant-based sources.
Omega-3 fatty acid nutritional deficiency and postpartum depression
Omega-3 fatty acids are so important during pregnancy. Not only do they help develop your baby’s heart, immune system, and brain, but they also play a role in preventing postpartum depression, and helping to control pregnancy-related mood swings.
Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids include fish such as salmon and trout, eggs, grass-fed beef, and free-range chicken. Plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids include walnuts, flax seed, and some leafy greens like rocket.
Can supplements prevent nutritional deficiency and postpartum depression?
Surveys suggest that around 97% of US women aged 18-45 took prenatal vitamins during their most recent pregnancy. Although prenatal vitamins can certainly help give your body the nutrients you and your baby need, particularly during the early stages of pregnancy, there isn’t a lot of research suggesting that prenatal vitamins can reduce the likelihood of postpartum depression.
If you’re concerned about postpartum depression, talk to your doctor about dietary and other measures you can take to reduce your chances of developing this condition.