Kiwi study finds probiotic use in pregnancy might ease depression and anxiety

by RNZ / 18 October, 2017

Researchers say a probiotic is safe to take during pregnancy and the study has yielded positive results. Photo / Getty Images

Taking a probiotic during pregnancy may help prevent postnatal depression and anxiety, a New Zealand study has found.

The joint study by Auckland and Otago University researchers, involved 423 women. Of those, 212 were given the probiotic; the rest were given a placebo.

The study was double-blind, meaning neither the women nor the researchers knew who was receiving the probiotic until after the trial.

Those taking the probiotic reported significantly lower depression and anxiety scores than those in the placebo group.

The study's lead author Dr Rebecca Slykerman said depression and anxiety during and after pregnancy affected 10 to 15 percent of women.

"We know from animal studies that gut health and mental health are linked. The study findings are really exciting because this is the first study that has shown that taking a probiotic during pregnancy reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety during pregnancy."

Probiotics are live micro-organisms which are typically found in some yoghurts and other fermented foods.

The study, funded by the Health Research Council and the Fonterra Co-operative Group, was published in the journal EBioMedicine in collaboration with The Lancet.

Dr Slykerman said probiotics were natural and safe to take during pregnancy.

"This is important because many women are reluctant to take medication whilst pregnant, if further studies back up our results then they could potentially be implemented as a cheap prevention treatment of symptoms of depression and anxiety in pregnant mothers."

She said not all probiotics were the same and only one strand, lactobacillus rhamnousus HN001, was used during the study.

Dr Slykerman said the results would have to be replicated before doctors could recommend all pregnant women take probiotics.

This article was originally published by RNZ.

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