Can blueberries cure baby blues?

Can you really say goodbye to baby blues with a little blueberry or two? Martha Alexander explores

Is there no end to the virtues of the blueberry? These sweet little bounties are already considered a super-food, proven to protect our bodies from free-radical damage, reduce blood pressure and help prevent cancer and heart disease.

But now blueberries have another string to their healthy, helpful bow; they prevent the ‘baby blues’ in new mothers.

Scientists at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto have created a supplement of blueberry juice containing tryptophan and tyrosine to compensate for the loss of mood-regulating brain chemicals that occurs after birth.

The supplement was given to 21 first-time mothers three days after giving birth. None went on to have a dip in mood five days after giving birth, when ‘baby blues’ – characterised by general weepiness and deflation – typically peak.

However, the 20 other first-time mothers who did not take the supplements had much higher scores in their depression tests on day five.

“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 post-partum sadness peaks,” said Dr Jeffrey Meyer, who heads the neuroimaging programme in mood and anxiety at CAMH, adding that there is hope the treatment could ultimately help protect women from post-natal depression.

“Post-partum blues are common and usually resolve 10 days after giving birth, but when they are intense, the risk of post-partum depression increases four-fold.

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.”

Blueberries have already been proven to reduce blood pressure and help prevent cancer and heart disease and now it seems they help with baby blues too

Dr Meyer also warned that while most postpartum blues disappear around ten days after giving birth, if they have been intense it is four times more likely that full postnatal depression will develop.

Although postnatal depression now affects around one in ten women, many sufferers are not diagnosed.

While the CAMH study is only relatively small, the results are promising and hopeful. However, the general health benefits of blueberries are countless: so there’s no harm in filling up on them before and after birth.