Washington, Sep 28 (PTI) Women who receive fewer daylight hours during late pregnancy may have a greater risk of developing depression once their babies are born, a study led by an Indian-origin scientist has found. Also Read - 'If PM Modi Doesn't Allow...': Trump Warns India of 'Retaliation' if US Order of Hydroxychloroquine Not Released

The results, published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, are consistent with what is known about the relationship between exposure to natural light and depression among adults in the general population. Also Read - US Sets New Global Record With 1,480 Deaths in 24 Hours; President Trump Recommends Face Masks

The findings by Deepika Goyal of San Jose State University in the US and her colleagues could lead clinicians to encourage at-risk women to increase their exposure to natural daylight and vitamin D. Also Read - Coronavirus: Trump Tests Negative For Second Time, Says 'It Took Just 15 Minutes For The Result'

Researchers analysed available information from 293 women who participated in one of two randomised controlled clinical trials about sleep before and after pregnancy.

The participants were all first-time mothers from the US state of California.

Data included the amount of daylight during the final trimester of their pregnancy, along with information about known risk factors such as a history of depression, the woman’s age, her socioeconomic status and how much she slept.

Overall, the participants had a 30 per cent risk of depression.

The analysis suggested that the number of daylight hours a woman was exposed to during her final month of pregnancy and just after birth had a major influence on the likelihood that she developed depressive symptoms.

The lowest risk for depression (26 per cent) occurred among women whose final trimester coincided with seasons with longer daylight hours.

Depression scores were highest (35 per cent) among women whose final trimester coincided with “short” days and the symptoms continued to be more severe following the birth of their babies in this group of women.

In the northern hemisphere, this time-frame refers to the months of August to the first four days of November (late summer to early autumn).

“Among first-time mothers, the length of day in the third trimester, specifically day lengths that are shortening compared to day lengths that are short, long or lengthening, were associated with concurrent depressive symptom severity,” Goyal said.

The findings by Goyal and her colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco suggest that using light treatment in the late third trimester when seasonal day length is shortening could minimise postpartum depressive symptoms in high-risk mothers during the first three months of their children’s lives.

Goyal said that women with a history of mental health problems and those who are already experiencing depressive symptoms in the third trimester might further benefit from being outdoors when possible, or using devices such as light boxes that provide light therapy.

“Women should be encouraged to get frequent exposure to daylight throughout their pregnancies to enhance their vitamin D levels and to suppress the hormone melatonin,” said Goyal.

“Daily walks during daylight hours may be more effective in improving mood than walking inside a shopping mall or using a treadmill in a gym.

“Likewise, early morning or late evening walks may be relaxing but would be less effective in increasing vitamin D exposure or suppressing melatonin,” said Goyal.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.