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Micronutrients Might Help Women With Antenatal Depression, And Their Babies

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Research shows that increasing nutrients in maternal diets and reducing consumption of ultra-processed foods could improve the mental health of mothers and their babies.

[Image source: Adobe Stock]


Affecting between 15 to 21 percent of pregnant women worldwide, antenatal depression poses significant risks to both maternal and infant health. Conventional treatments such as antidepressant drugs have safety concerns, thus prompting research into alternative solutions. Studies have repeatedly linked poor nutrition to mental health problems, with a Brazilian study finding that ultra-processed foods, low in essential nutrients, constitute over 30 percent of daily energy intake during pregnancy.

The NUTRIMUM trial, conducted in Canterbury, New Zealand, from 2017 to 2022, investigated the efficacy of broad-spectrum micronutrient supplements for antenatal depression. A randomized controlled trial involving 88 women with moderate depressive symptoms, participants were assigned either a micronutrient supplement or an active placebo for 12 weeks. The results indicated significant improvements in psychological functioning, sleep, and overall day-to-day activities for the micronutrient group, with 69 percent rating themselves as “much” or “very much” improved.

Further investigation followed the infants of mothers in the NUTRIMUM trial for 12 months, comparing their development to infants from the general population and those exposed to antidepressant drugs during pregnancy. Infants exposed to micronutrients exhibited better behavioral regulation, attention, muscle tone, and emotional interaction, clearly surpassing those of typical pregnancies or those exposed to antidepressant treatments.

To learn more about the importance of micronutrients during pregnancy, see parts one and two of the special pregnancy feature article on our website.

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