A cure for the baby blues could be just a yoghurt away.
A New Zealand-led study has revealed that symptoms of postnatal depression and anxiety can be reduced by taking probiotics during pregnancy.
Researchers from the University of Auckland and the University of Otago surveyed 423 women who were between 14 and 16 weeks pregnant as part of the Probiotics in Pregnancy Study.
Mothers in the probiotic treatment group reported significantly lower depression scores than those in the placebo group.
* Mothers with postnatal depression falling through the gaps
* More education called for to prevent postnatal depression
* Christchurch mum’s struggle for help with postnatal depression
Probiotics were taken by 212 women, and 211 were given a placebo. Capsules were taken daily from enrolment through to six months after the birth if breastfeeding.
Probiotics are typically found in some yoghurts and other fermented foods. They provide health benefits to the host if consumed adequately.
Lead author Dr Rebecca Slykerman of the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Health Sciences says the results are positive and could point to a simple way for mothers to manage their mental health.
“Woman are unable to access psychological therapy or are reluctant to take antidepressant medication in pregnancy, or while breastfeeding.
“Furthermore it takes several weeks for the therapeutic effect of antidepressants to appear and there is a 15 to 30 percent discontinuation rate.
“Safe and effective therapies to prevent and treat postnatal depression are needed.”
However, Dr Slykerman says “the results must be replicated before recommending probiotics to all pregnant women.”
Fonterra Programme Manager Nutrition and Health Dr James Dekker said the Co-operative is encouraged by these promising results.
“It’s pleasing to see more evidence of the health benefits of Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001, one of Fonterra’s two probiotics. As we know not all probiotics are created equal and there needs to be sound evidence for the benefits for each probiotic strain.
“While the probiotic is not commercially available through Fonterra at the moment, it can be found in the Go Healthy “Go Derma Protect” product sold in some pharmacies,” said Dekker.
The Probiotics in Pregnancy Study is funded by the Health Research Council and Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited, and was conducted in Auckland and Wellington from December 2012 to November 2014.