In my first pregnancy eight years ago, there was little said about “depression in pregnancy,” and yet I found myself in a deep pit in the beginning of the third trimester. Other expectant moms are designing nurseries and enjoying baby showers and you just can’t stop crying or snapping at everyone. Anxiety starts to paralyze. You are unable to complete basic work-related or household tasks. It sure doesn’t seem fair.
Depression is complicated, but one key reason depression hits us in pregnancy is biological: it takes a whole lot of nutrients to grow a baby. As baby uses our nutrients to grow, we are sometimes left short and one possible consequence is major depression.
Pregnancy, depression, and nutrition are linked
Medical research link nutrients and depression:
• In clinical trials, Omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and B-12 alleviate depression.
• Fatigue and depression are symptoms of low iron.
• Clinical trials of postpartum women low in iron that if they add an iron supplement to their regimen, their depression is alleviated.
• Low zinc levels in the brain are associated with depression. Shock therapy increases those levels.
• Low levels of magnesium have been found in the cerebral-spinal fluid of suicide victims.
You may be thinking “nutrient deficiencies don’t happen in advanced industrial countries.”
Do we live in a nutritional wasteland?
Before you got pregnant, you were not likely consuming adequate magnesium. Sixty-four percent of us do not consume enough, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the US Department of Agriculture.
Nearly one quarter of young women do not consume adequate B-6 and approximately 15% of young women do not consume adequate levels of zinc, folic acid, and iron. The government requires food companies to add folic acid to our cereal grain foods and many of us still do not consume enough folic acid. Researchers are discussing fortifying our foods with vitamins B-12 and D as well.
Pregnancy is stressful
When we are pregnant, our requirements for all nutrients grow, particularly in the third trimester and while breastfeeding. Baby’s brain requires our Omega-3 fatty acids, baby’s body and placenta require iron. Babies require many building blocks and they will take what they need from our bodies to build their own.
Our bodies store nutrients and babies will draw on these stores as they need them. As those stores become depleted, our own bodies begin to function less effectively. One of the consequences is depression in pregnancy.
If you are struggling with depression in pregnancy, consider your nutrient intake. Improving your nutritional status may alleviate your depression. In fact, nutrient therapy may take care of your depression in pregnancy altogether depending on the specific cause of your depression.
Look first at your Omega-3 fatty acid and B-vitamin intake. These are common deficiencies and our need for them in the third trimester of pregnancy and during breastfeeding is greater than at any time in our life.
Get your iron levels tested at your next appointment. You may need to take a prenatal vitamin with iron, but you should also increase the iron in your diet. We have extensive information on iron rich foods in our downloadable e-book.
When baby arrives, do not give up on the fight. Depression in pregnancy can turn into postpartum depression symptoms. Pay attention to the basics: work on your sleep and work on your nutrition. Get as much help as you can manage. On top of the nutritional therapy, these basic were key to me getting through my second pregnancy (seven years after my first). Read the depression in pregnancy story or check out the video below (also available at YouTube: Depression in Pregnancy.)
Best of luck to you.