How Diet Could Help You Ward Off the 'Baby Blues'

Want to avoid feeling down after you give birth? Blueberries could be the key to avoiding the baby blues.

Blueberries Beat the Baby Blues Still Life Photography/Shutterstock
The experience of having a baby can throw you for a loop emotionally. Between postpartum depression/anxiety and the baby blues (the less clinical sense of sadness many women experience), many moms end up feeling a bit down during the postpartum period.

But there might be a simple way to boost your mood. According to a new study, you can slash your odds of developing the baby blues, and it's as simple as altering your diet.

Researchers observed new mothers—half of whom were given a supplement loaded with amino acids like tryptophan and tyrosine, which are commonly deemed effective in treating mood disorders, and the mood-boosting antioxidants from blueberries. Women who were given the supplements were significantly less likely to experience the baby blues in the first few days postpartum—and since the baby blues can ultimately lead to postpartum depression, this result shouldn't be taken lightly.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may mean that nutrition-based treatments for mood hold promise. Researchers behind this finding have even announced that they'll create a dietary supplement kit that will be formulated with the purpose of countering brain changes that could lead to the baby blues or even postpartum depression.

“Developing successful nutrition-based treatments, based on neurobiology, is rare in psychiatry. We believe our approach also represents a promising new avenue for creating other new dietary supplements for medicinal use," Jeffrey Meyer of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health said in a release for this news. "We believe this is the first study to show such a strong, beneficial effect of an intervention in reducing the baby blues at a time when postpartum sadness peaks. Postpartum blues are common and usually resolves 10 days after giving birth, but when they are intense, the risk of postpartum depression increases four-fold.”

But if you can't get your hands on this supplement kit, there's an ingredient you can easily sneak into your diet: Blueberries. The study's authors call out the fruit's extracts and juice as mood-boosting. The kits also contain tryptophan and tyrosine, which are commonly deemed effective in treating mood disorders, and you can find these components in foods like legumes, dairy products and fruit—but blueberries are the one specific food mentioned in this particular study. 

Angela Grassi, a registered dietician, agreed with the idea that the right diet can help women beat the postpartum blues. "Food can boost mood after childbirth," Grassi told Fit Pregnancy. "Blueberries have been shown to raise levels of the 'feel good hormone,' serotonin, which can boost mood. Other foods that can help improve mood are foods rich in vitamin D (milk, cheese, yogurt) and fatty fish (tuna, salmon, trout). Levels of vitamin D and omega-3s tend to be lower in women at the end of pregnancy. Low levels of these can affect mood." 

Our take? It definitely can't hurt to include plenty of blueberries in your late pregnancy and postpartum diet. After all, they're super healthy and delicious—and hey, they might even help you minimize the baby blues.