Encouraging women to eat diets rich in oily fish can help prevent post-natal depression problems, according to researchers in Canada.
A study has found that a lack of omega-3 fatty acid, of which oily fish is an abundant source, can contribute to the condition.
Scientists believe that a combination of certain genetic factors and a deficiency of the acid can lead to depression after childbirth, a problem 10% to 15% of mothers suffer from during the first year after birth.
Post natal or post-partum depression (PPD) causes mothers to be disengaged or, at worst, hostile to their children and they can develop mental health problems because of it.
It is more severe than the milder condition, popularly known as the “baby blues”, but not as serious as post-partum psychosis, which affects less than one in 500 mothers.
Dr Gabriel Shapiro led a team of scientists looking at links with the 5-HTT genetic variant and omega-3 in 75 previous PDD studies.
Dr Shapiro, of the University of Montreal, said there might be a connection between the fatty acid, pregnancy and the chemical reaction in the brain that produces the mood regulator serotonin.
Further research is needed to back-up the preliminary findings, but Dr Shapiro advised that many women would be wise to make sure they take recommended levels of foods containing omega-3.