Eating oily fish during pregnancy can cut the odds of a new mother suffering from post-natal depression, research by the University of Connecticut has indicated.

Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids - including mackerel, sardines, trout and salmon - can protect against post-natal depression as a "store" built up during pregnancy can provide a boost to mental health months after birth.

However, the experts warn that too much omega-3 can harm a baby's development - meaning the amount of omega-3 consumed must be closely monitored.

The scientists gave 26 women fish oil tablets five times a week from around the 24th week of pregnancy, while another 26 took a corn oil placebo. After their babies were born those given the fish oil tablets scored better on a questionnaire designed to spot symptoms of post-natal depression than those who took the placebo.

Lead researcher Dr Michelle Price Judge told the annual Experimental Biology conference that "DHA [an omega-3 fat] consumption during pregnancy - at levels that are reasonably obtained from foods - has the potential to decrease symptoms of [post-natal] depression."

Posted by Robert Mair on 14.4.11 Comment on this article by sending it to: penny.hosie@pavpub.com