DURHAM, N.H., May 2 (UPI) -- Breastfeeding and omega-3 fatty acids help prevent depression in new mothers, but only if breastfeeding is going well, a U.S. study has found.
Depression in new mothers is common, affecting anywhere from 10 percent to 20 percent of postpartum women, but for some high-risk populations, the figure can be as high as 50 percent, according to the study published in the International Breastfeeding Journal.
"Breastfeeding protects maternal mood by lowering stress. When stress levels are lower, the mother's inflammatory response system will not be activated, thereby lowering her risk of depression," Kathleen Kendall-Tackett of the University of New Hampshire said in a statement.
"However positive these results, I must issue one caveat: they only apply when breastfeeding is going well; when breastfeeding is not going well, particularly if there is pain, it becomes a trigger to depression rather than something that lessens the risk."
Physical and psychological stressors increase inflammation, which is one of the top contributors to depression; a current treatment for depression includes the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory, according to Kendall-Tackett.