Who would have guessed that a war of the words between Tom Cruise and Brooke Shields would identify a much hidden disease? Now that we have come out of the closet so to speak about post partum depression where is all the information on alternative treatments?
In order for the buzz to actually benefit women with a natural approach we need more info on treatment methods other than antidepressant drugs and support groups. There most definitely are other treatment strategies and they have been identified and research has been conducted in western medicine.
Research shows that after delivery 11-18% of women experience a major depressive episode. Post partum depression is a serious problem that can affect not only the mother but the child as well. Numerous studies documented adverse effects on children’s cognitive and social development from exposure to maternal depression during the first year of life.
Currently antidepressant drugs and psychotherapy are the mainstream strategies for treating post partum depression. Unfortunately many antidepressant drugs cause side effects in women such as decreased libido and effectively debilitate the renewed intimacy that many women post delivery look forward to. There are also concerns for breast feeding mothers; some antidepressants are not safe to be passed to the child via breast milk. Support groups and counseling are also encouraged however caring for small children and making time for meetings is sometimes impossible.
Alternative treatments that have been identified by western medicine as having some benefit for general depression are acupuncture, herbs, homeopathy, dietary supplements, massage and relaxation techniques. Unfortunately research has not yet been produced that documents any alternative treatments’ benefit for post partum depression.
However the fact that benefit has been documented for general depression is a spark of hope that no woman should easily pass over. In my practice, the women I treat for post partum depression are usually at “wits end” trying to regain control of their lives.
One theory identifies Omega 3 fatty acids as a possible solution. Inadequate levels of Omega 3 fatty acids have been linked to depression including post partum depression. Omega 3 fatty acids have been also used to potentiate or make stronger the effect of antidepressant drugs. These fatty acids are necessary to support the adequate neurological development of the fetus. High demand from the mother can lead to inadequate supply after birth.
Herbal supplements such as St John’s Wort have been linked to treating depression. However the concern here is of the quality of the herbal. As we know the FDA is not regulating quality or label requirements for dietary supplements. The answer here is to buy supplements from reputable practitioners such as allopathic physicians, acupuncture physicians, naturopathic physicians and licensed nutritionists/dietitians.
Hormone replacement is also an alternative. Supplementing estrogen and natural progesterone appear to have significant effect on mood. Reduced estrogen levels have not been conclusively documented to be linked to post partum depression.
Emphasis should be placed on the use natural progesterone, as natural progesterone is metabolized into allopregnanolone, a neuroactive steroid that enhances GABA in the central nervous system producing anti-anxiety and hypnotic effects. Synthetic progestogens do not help postpartum depression and may, on the contrary, exacerbate the symptoms. Unlike natural progesterone, synthetic progestogens (e.g., medroxyprogesterone) are not metabolized into GABA-ergic neuroactive steroids.
Bright light therapy, massage, relaxation techniques, homeopathy and acupuncture are other alternative treatment strategies that are all linked to the successful resolution of depression. In short there are many treatments other than psycho-therapy and drugs that should be investigated by a woman experiencing post partum depression.
Consulting with an open minded physician may help you determine which one is best suited for you or just try an adventure into natural medicine and nutrition for your treatment. Remember ask questions you have the ability to choose and co-treat your health challenges what ever they may be. A physician who doesn’t listen is not one you should make another appointment with.