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Nutrition Support for Postpartum Depression - Guest Blog by Dr. Amanda Stevens

posted May 8, 2013, 10:40 PM by Tascheleia Marangoni   [ updated May 8, 2013, 10:40 PM ]
Postpartum depression and other perinatal mood disorders are far more common than people realize. Many mothers prefer to avoid pharmaceutical interventions when possible, especially while breastfeeding. Here are some extremely helpful nutrition tips that can be used to not only encourage great health, but also balance your mood! 

Pregnancy and lactation can drain maternal nutrient stores, producing deficiencies that can contribute to depression. The most common nutrient deficiencies seen in new moms with symptoms of depression are: B vitamins, Magnesium, Iron, Essential Fatty Acids, and specific Amino Acids.

B Vitamins

B vitamins are important for energy production, neurotransmitter metabolism, and so many other crucial brain and body functions! Even minor deficiencies in vitamins B1, B2, B3, or B6 can produce depression symptoms all on their own. Taking a quality B-100 Complex supplement can help you receive a baseline of all your “back-up B’s”. An emphasis on thiamin (B1) and pyridoxine (B6) should be considered for postpartum depression.


Not only is the mineral magnesium important for energy metabolism, glucose breakdown, healthy bones, and over 300 different chemical reactions in your body, but it also acts as a nervous system and muscle relaxant. Deficiencies in magnesium can cause muscle cramps, trembling, depression, irritability, and loss of appetite. A magnesium deficiency will also affect your body’s balance of calcium, potassium, and vitamin D.


During pregnancy, your iron requirements doubled. This is a difficult deficit to recover from without deliberate action. Iron helps your mitochondria produce energy and it enables your red blood cells to transport more oxygen throughout your body.

Essential Fatty Acids (Omega-3)

Healthy fats play a huge roll in all types of depression and mood disorders (and general health). Postpartum depression is 50 times more common in countries with low fish consumptions. Mothers who ate high amounts of seafood during pregnancy and who had the highest levels of DHA in their breast-milk had the lowest rates of postpartum depression. When consuming fish while pregnant and breastfeeding (and in general), always consider source to avoid excess toxin exposure. (Consult the NRDC for a comprehensive guide.) Deficiencies in zinc, magnesium, and B6 will actually impair your body’s ability to process EFAs. When consuming high doses of healthy fats, always include additional vitamin E which acts as protection against fat oxidation and free radicals.

Amino Acids

Amino acids are the building blocks for proteins.


Tryptophan is the amino acid precursor for the neurotransmitter serotonin (and for niacin). Your body needs healthy levels of serotonin for regulate mood, sleep, and appetite. Three different B vitamins (including B6) are needed to help tryptophan transform into serotonin, so you need to have adequate B vitamin sources to encourage this process.


Phenylalanine readily crosses the blood-brain barrier and acts as a precursor for the synthesis of mood regulating neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. Just as with tryptophan, B vitamins are needed to facilitate these processes. (Are you noticing a common theme yet?)


Brewer’s yeast, pork chops, ham, oatmeal, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, green peas


Potatoes, banana, lentils, brewer’s yeast, trout, spinach


Whole rice, sunflower seeds, soy flour, lentils, wheat germ, walnuts, peanuts, almonds, spinach


Liver, oysters, lentils, oatmeal, rye, whole rice, figs, apricots, meat, eggs, zucchini, dates


Fish, shellfish, wild game


Cashew, veal, sunflower seeds, tune, chicken breast, beef, oatmeal, eggs, wheat germ, hard cheese, and of course turkey


Soybeans, peanuts, almonds, tuna, beef, trout, cottage cheese, wheat germ, hard cheese, eggs

The Postpartum period is a very special time for Mom and baby to begin developing a bond that will last a lifetime. Your body (and brain) will require some time to recuperate (after all, you did just build a person); a well-balance diet, adequate rest, and emotional support can go a long way toward creating an gratifying transition phase. Enjoy!

Dr. Amanda Stevens is a passionate, holistic healthcare provider in the heart of the Okanagan. Her practice is a unique integration of clinical nutrition, chiropractic care, exercise rehab, and functional neurology. She focuses on pediatric and maternity healthy and loves helping whole families thrive.