Did you know that what you eat can affect your mood?
I guess the age-old adage is true…you actually are what
Today we will go over the important role of nutrition in your postpartum
mental health and wellness.
1 out of 5 moms will have PMADs in the first year after delivery.
Did you know this is the most common medical complication of childbirth?
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are often due to many risk factors
that lead to this “perfect storm”. Some of these risk factors you may not
be able to change such as your genetics or environmental factors. But you DO have control over what you feed your body.
Proper nutrition during this time can support your emotional and mental transition into motherhood.
You must be wondering how what you eat can affect your mood?
Well…there are many biological pathways connecting nutrient levels to mood.
These nutrients are needed to make or to help regulate
Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that carry, boost and balance
signals in our brain.
We are also learning more about the gut microbiome and its influence on
The gut microbiome is all the little organisms living in your intestines.
These microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, viruses) interact with your
brain and can affect your mood…...and what you eat can change the balance
of your microbiome!
Although postpartum nutrition and mood are not as well studied as other
nutritional requirements……lower levels of Omega- fatty acids, Vitamin D,
Vitamin B, Magnesium and Zinc have all been associated with postpartum
depression and anxiety. Some with a stronger link than others.
Okay wait......no need to rush to the pharmacy and fill up your
cabinets with these vitamins and minerals.
There is no definitive evidence to say that dietary supplements can prevent
So instead let’s review how you can fill your diet with natural sources
of healthy foods including these nutrients!
Omega-3 fatty acids also called polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFA) have one of the strongest links to depression and anxiety in the postpartum period. The three main omega-3 fatty acids you will hear about are: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
ALA is found mainly in plant oils such as flaxseed, soybean, and canola oils. DHA and EPA are found in fish and other seafood. These fatty acids help make and regulate neurotransmitters.
All of the above are good sources, especially for those following a vegan or vegetarian diet. The food with the highest naturally occurring omega-3 fatty acids is fish and seafood (salmon, trout, herring)
Remember the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrician) recommends lactating women to take 200-300 mg of day (by diet and if needed supplements). While up to 3,000 mg of omega-3 EPA/DHA per day is considered safe, you should talk to your health care provider or registered nutritionists about the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids for you.
Food with natural omega-3 fatty acids:
Food that are fortified:
TRUE! Vitamin D is well known for bone and immune health but also has been shown to have a role in mood disorders. Vitamin D is made by the skin in response to sunlight and helps in the production of neurotransmitters.
So get outside for a walk in the sun...or take a moment to sit by a window and bathe in the sunlight (sunscreen of course!).
Vitamin D is not easily found in the diet and is usually fortified.
Here are some sources rich in vitamin D:
The B vitamins have a few studies showing a link with depression and anxiety postpartum. The most studied were riboflavin (vitamin B2), folate (vitamin B9) and cobalbumin (vitamin B12).
If you are following a vegan diet you may need to get Vitamin B12 supplementation.
Here are some sources rich in Vitamin B:
Minerals such as Magnesium, Zinc and Selenium have also been found to be linked to depression and anxiety although the link is not as strong. A well-rounded diet can provide enough of these important nutrients.
Here are some sources rich in these minerals:
I know...I know…sooo many lists!
But you don’t have to remember each and every food.
Just remember to eat a balanced diet!
Recent study suggests that eating a healthy, balanced diet such as the Mediterranean diet and avoiding inflammation-producing foods may be protective against depression.
Although postpartum depression/ anxiety can not necessarily be prevented, you can make sure that what you put into your body can decrease your risk and make sure that you are at your best.
You don’t have to create the perfect meal plan; you just have to try your best!
Go ahead…have your guilty pleasure you’ve been waiting to eat until you deliver!
But also keep your body fueled with healthy nutritious food to support your mental and physical health!
*Talk to your health provider or a registered dietician for any questions or concerns about dietary supplement needs or specific diets. You can also reach out to MaternalWell for general questions via text support or contact our registered maternal nutrition counselors for more tailored advice.