New research suggests there is an association between the amount of natural daylight pregnant women are exposed to in late pregnancy and their predisposition to developing postpartum depression.
The study was done by researchers from San Jose State University and found that women who were in the last stages of pregnancy during darker months of the year had greater risks of developing postpartum depression after they gave birth.
This, of course, falls in line with what we already know about depression and natural light exposure, as well as the lack of vitamin D that most Americans are prone to, and suggests that exposure to more natural light in late-term pregnancy may ward off postpartum depression.
Dr. Deepika Goyal is the lead author of the study that was just published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine and says that the findings also fall in line with what we know about the general adult population’s depression and exposure to natural light.
Dr. Goyal’s team looked at 293 first-time mothers from California and looked at the amount of natural daylight they were exposed to in the third trimester of their pregnancy. They also analyzed the woman’s history of depression, the woman’s age, her socioeconomic status and the number of hours she slept.
What they found was that the women whose last trimester were in seasons with more daylight, they were at the lowest risk of postpartum depression (26%). In women whose third trimester were in seasons with fewer daylight hours, the depression risk was the highest (35%). In those women, depression-related symptoms were most severe after their babies were born.
Dr. Goyal said that this information can give pregnant women who are already prone to depression based on family history or experience or those women who are delivering in winter some recommendations about natural light exposure. She suggests that pregnant women be encouraged to get as much daylight exposure as they can through their pregnancy so they can amp their vitamin D levels. She also suggests the exposure so that melatonin levels are suppressed.
For those who live in areas where natural light exposure is difficult, natural light lamps may also be useful for warding off postpartum depression.
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