Postpartum Anxiety, Depression Reduced by Probiotics

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pill capsules
Postpartum depression and anxiety were reduced by daily intake of the probiotic HN001.

Daily supplementation with probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 (HN001) beginning at 14 to 16 weeks gestation reduced postpartum depression and anxiety, according to the results of a randomized controlled trial published in EBioMedicine.

To evaluate the effects of probiotic supplementation on postpartum depression and anxiety, researchers from New Zealand randomly assigned 423 women to receive daily HN001 (n=212) or placebo (n=211). They enrolled women at 14 to 16 weeks gestation and continued the treatment for up to 6 months postpartum. At 6 to 12 months postpartum, the researchers asked women to self-report their depression and anxiety by recalling when their child was 1- to 2-months-old using modified versions of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and State Trait Anxiety Inventory.

Compared with placebo, women in the HN001 group had significantly lower mean depression (7.7 vs 9.0; P =.04) and anxiety scores (12.0 vs 13.0; P =.01). Moreover, fewer women who received HN001 had clinically relevant anxiety compared with women receiving placebo (odds ratio 0.44; P =.002).

Higher depression and anxiety scores were associated with infant colic (P <.001 for both depression and anxiety), with an increasing interval between delivery and when the questionnaires were completed (P =.07 and P =.06, respectively). However, after adjusting for infant colic and interval before questionnaires were completed, the association of probiotic supplementation with depression (P =.04) and anxiety scores (P = .01) remained significant.

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In an interview with Psychiatry Advisor, Professor Edwin Mitchell of the department of paediatrics: child and youth health at University of Auckland, New Zealand, and corresponding investigator in the study, said the results were “astonishing—that one capsule daily containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus could have such an important effect.”

Professor Mitchell noted that the results would need to be replicated before recommending L rhamnosus supplementation in pregnant women, but the study does “offer the hope that a simple, low cost, safe supplement might help reduce this common but often unrecognised and not treated condition [postpartum depression and anxiety].”


Slykerman RF, Hood F, Wickens K, et al. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 in pregnancy on postpartum symptoms of depression and anxiety: a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial. EBioMedicine. 2017;24:159-165.