Post-Natal Depression Reduced with Probiotic Supplement

Earlier in the year we had the publication of the SMILES Trial, a study that showed a cause and effect relationship between poor diet and depression and now a new paper provides more good evidence of the role of probiotics and the gut microbiome on mental health.

Researchers in New Zealand set up a trial in which 423 pregnant women were randomly assigned to two groups. One group received a daily supplement of a strain of bacteria called Lactobacillus rhamnosus (HN001). The other group received an identical looking/tasting placebo. The women took the supplement/placebo from the moment they enrolled until their child was born, and from birth until 6 months if the mother was breastfeeding. Information about the women’s mental state was taken at baseline (14-16 weeks pregnant), when the child was 6 months and 12 months old. They found a strong effect of the probiotic. The women who had taken the supplement (and none of the women knew whether they were taking the active supplement or the placebo) were much less likely to experience depression and anxiety after the birth of their children.

Between 10%-15% of women experience post-natal depression, which can impair the development of a strong bond between mother and infant, creating psychological and physical health risks for both. Medication options for breastfeeding women are limited and it is practically difficult for women to access psychological help on top of the demands of a new baby. Further, some women feel reluctant to ask for help because they feel ashamed or guilty that they should feel so unhappy following the birth of their baby. Clearly then, the development of accessible and effective treatments is essential. There are many questions still to be answered but this study adds to the evidence of the role of gut health in mental health and of taking the health of the whole body into consideration when looking to treat mental health problems.

Reference
Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 in Pregnancy on Postpartum Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety: A Randomised Double-blind Placebo-controlled Trial. DOI: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2017.09.013