Are These the Reasons Why Postnatal Depression is on the Increase?

What modern day factors contribute to postnatal depression?

What modern day factors contribute to postnatal depression?

Modern living provides many benefits, easy access to food, medicines, warmth and all of the comforts that we have become accustomed to.

Because of this abundance of resources in many ways we are an increasingly healthier race.

However many new, modern diseases have emerged or become significant, such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

One particular ailment that has seen dramatic increase is postnatal depression (also known as postpartum depression).

A new study aimed to examine how the way we live may lead to an increased rates of postnatal depression.

Here, we address the question of whether the dramatic cultural changes that have occurred over the past century have inflated rates of postpartum depression, adding postpartum depression to the list of “diseases of modern civilization.

The study considered several factors in particular starting with diet:

Modern diets replace much of the micronutrient-dense, perishable foods with grains. This pattern has led researchers to conclude that many modern populations are overfed yet undernourished 

For example, Western diets are relatively low in omega-3 essential fatty acids

large epidemiological studies have documented negative associations between levels of circulating omega-3 fatty acids in pregnancy and risk for postpartum depression

The study then considered breast feeding:

Breast-feeding is an ancient mammalian adaptation that dramatically changes maternal hormone profiles in ways that are likely to facilitate mothers’ postpartum adjustment.

However, breast-feeding rates are much lower today than they were for the vast majority of human history

studies showed that breast-feeding fewer times per day at 3 months and weaning before 6 months predicted higher risk of later postpartum depression

Exercise levels were then considered:

There is little doubt that modern humans, particularly in the West, get less exercise than did ancestral humans.

Moreover, these biological systems undergo dramatic changes during pregnancy and lactation, which raises the possibility that exercise-induced regulation of these systems might be even more important during the postpartum transition.

Consistent with this view, a meta-analysis of five randomized controlled trials showed that exercise interventions reduced rates of postpartum depression

The study then went on to further examine how sun exposure, child care and other risk factors in modern societies may support postnatal depression and concluded:

Some interventions suggested here, such as vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, are promising because of their simplicity.

Other interventions, such as increasing breast-feeding and exercise, might be more challenging to implement because of multiple, competing demands on women today.