Treatment For Postnatal Depression
Life is challenging for any new mom. But for 13 to 14 percent of women, there’s an added struggle – coping with postpartum depression. Typical treatment for postpartum depression includes antidepressants or cognitive-behavioral or interpersonal therapy. But if this feels daunting, you can try natural treatments like bright light therapy, aromatherapy, acupuncture, or homeopathic remedies like sepia or ignatia. Practicing yoga and pranayama regularly and Ayurvedic therapies like svedana and shirodhara can also help.
Your baby is here! But if are shocked to find yourself feeling extremely low, tired, anxious, and depressed instead of jubilant, you could have a case of postnatal depression. Unlike a passing case of the baby blues, postpartum depression isn’t something you should ignore. Striking as many as 1 in 7 women, this serious mood disorder affects women after childbirth – appearing as late as a year after the baby’s birth in some cases.1
What Is Postnatal Depression?
Postnatal depression, postpartum depression, or just PPD can strike anyone who’s just had a baby. Not too different from the symptoms of depression, the condition makes it challenging for a new mother to care for her child. Low mood, tiredness, sleeping trouble, a loss of appetite, and a loss of interest in everything in general are some signs. These are compounded by a sense of guilt, anxiety, and distress at not being the picture of perfect motherhood.2
Some amount of sadness and mood swings are common among all new mothers. But unlike the baby blues which go away on their own with some basic care and additional help, postpartum depression is more severe. For most women with postnatal depression, symptoms first appear within a couple of weeks of giving birth. But there have been cases of it cropping up as late as a year after having the baby.3
Thankfully, there are many ways to cure postpartum depression and ease the symptoms associated with it.
Traditional Treatment For Postpartum Depression
The mainstream treatment options for postpartum depression include medication or talk therapy one on one or in a group. Here’s how they work4:
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT can help you think positive and recalibrate your unrealistic expectations of being a mother. The goal is to break the pattern of negative thinking. You could do this in one-to-one sessions or as part of a group. CBT therapy goes on for anywhere from three to four months.5
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
IPT involves one-to-one sessions with a therapist so you can talk to him or her about the issues you’re facing. This allows you to identify the specific problems you face within your circle of colleagues, friends, and family, enabling you to understand your situation better. As with CBT, expect the treatment to go on for three to four months.6
Antidepressants may be used in various combinations or paired with therapy as needed. They help restore the balance of chemicals in the brain to bring your mood back on track. However, side effects like feeling sick, a dry mouth, blurred vision, dizziness, agitation, shakiness, or constipation and the possibility of passing on the drugs through breast milk are concerns that keep many women away from getting the help they need.7
Given the limitations of mainstream medicines and the time outlay and regular need to foot bills with CBT and IBT, alternative remedies and therapy have come to play an important role in the recovery of women trying to overcome postnatal depression.
Alternative Therapies For Postpartum Depression
If you’re seeking postpartum depression treatment without drugs and can’t see yourself opening up to a stranger in a therapy session or support group, some other natural treatments for postpartum depression may be the solution.
Research has shown that aromatherapy can help ease the anxiety as well as depressive symptoms associated with postpartum depression. In one study, a blend of the essential oils of rose otto with lavender was used in 15-minute sessions for 4 weeks. Women who used aromatherapy saw significant improvements in their symptoms compared to those in the control group. They also reported no adverse effects.8
Acupuncture can help stimulate energy flow and restore balance in the body. You may even find it deeply relaxing and could fall asleep during sessions, giving you the much-needed rest you need. It is considered a beneficial therapy for anxiety and depression in general. While there is abundant research on its benefits in this regard, more work is needed to see if it helps with postpartum depression. However, since there are no contraindications, it may be well worth trying.9
Bright Light Therapy
White light therapy has the advantage of being a gentle treatment option that doesn’t impact you adversely. Plus, it is something you could even do at home if you so desire. All you need to do is sit in front of a light box when you wake up. This emits light that is similar to natural outdoor light. The treatment has been very effective in other conditions such as seasonal affective disorder and premenstrual disorder which have similar symptoms of low mood, fatigue, sleepiness, social withdrawal, and decreased interest in daily activities. Small studies have proven its potential for treating postpartum depression but larger studies are yet to be done.10
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids found in foods like walnuts and fatty fish are beneficial in treating depression and may help with postpartum depression. They can also help replace depleted omega 3 fatty acids levels used for the baby’s nervous system development in utero. Unfortunately, trials and studies so far have had small sample sizes. Simply up your intake through dietary sources to tap the benefits of these fatty acids. Limit dosage to small amounts of under 3 to 4 grams a day if you take a supplement. But then, be sure to consult your doctor before you start supplements.11
Homeopathic Remedies For Postpartum Depression
Homeopathy can be a natural way to treat postpartum depression and prescribe several types of medication. Homeopaths also recommend some exercise or uplifting physical activity like dancing alongside the following homeopathic medicines to aid recovery.12
Sepia is a favored choice for women who’re experiencing a sense of helplessness and seem to have given up. Patients believe they hate their partner and their child and cannot see any hope on the horizon. Adding to the challenge is sleeplessness, which makes the woman even more tired and worsens symptoms of inadequacy.
This remedy is suggested for women who are gentler and more maternal but find themselves struggling with postpartum depression. If you find crying helps ease your symptoms, this may be the medication that can help.
Another herbal remedy for postpartum depression if you feel despair and hopelessness and find yourself crying when someone shows you sympathy. Low self-esteem may be accompanied by a fear of failing. You may also notice symptoms seem to lessen by evening. If exercise and dance don’t do much for your mood, lycopodium may be better suited to you. Homeopaths mention that women who respond to this treatment may also have shown signs of an irritable bowel previously.
Ignatia helps women with postpartum depression who experience mood swings and feel like they’re on an “emotional roller coaster.” If you’ve long held romanticized notions about what having a baby will be like and find the reality more challenging, ignatia can help you cope with the depression and guilt. Women with this form of depression try and conceal their true feelings for fear of having their baby taken away because they’re not being good mothers. Recognition of the problem and sympathy from those close to the patient can help. If you’re facing this problem, it’s also important to talk to someone close to you.
Ayurvedic Remedies For Postpartum Depression
According to Ayurveda, postpartum depression is the result of excess vata dosha in the pelvis that makes mothers emotionally withdrawn and unable to bond with their babies. The kapha dosha in the region must be restored to keep the balance of energy in the body. Here are some treatments you may be prescribed to rejuvenate the body and mind.13
Traditional oil therapies like svedana, a steam therapy, and shirodhara, where medicated liquids are poured gently on the forehead, may be administered to build strength and restore vitality in your body as a whole. Panchakarma is another ritual that may be suggested. This comprises five treatments for cleansing and detoxifying the body
Rasayanas, natural herbal concoctions designed to boost body fluids like plasma and lymph, will help restore healthy digestion.
You may be asked, among other things, to:
- Practice sexual restraint
- Take adequate rest
- Eat a light diet with foods like kitchdi (a mung bean, rice, and vegetable meal)
Yoga And Deep Breathing For Postpartum Depression
Research has shown that yoga can be an effective way to relieve stress, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and improve sleep as well as psychological health in pregnant women. When you perform yoga postures or asanas, you improve flexibility and circulation, of course, but also sharpen mental alertness and improve energy levels.14 The perfect recipe for a stressed-out new mother who finds her energy reserves fast depleting!
In one study, women with postpartum depression took yoga classes twice a week for 8 weeks. After the yoga intervention, 78 percent experienced a clinically significant improvement with fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety and a higher health-related quality of life score.15
Here are some yoga asanas and techniques suggested specifically to fight postpartum depression. Do keep in mind you could learn many more asanas to treat specific issues like aches and pains you have. Check with your local yoga school for details.
Rhythmic Spinal Flex
This movement from Kundalini yoga massages your adrenal glands and helps put you into an almost trancelike state, aiding healing.16
- Begin seated in sukhasana with your arms out straight ahead, crossed at your wrists, eyes closed.
- Inhale as you raise your arms up to the third eye. Flex your neck and spine forward. As you do this, picture something or a place that makes you happy. Feel like you are taking in all that support.
- Exhale forcefully as you bring your arms down to the navel, letting your spine curve in the other way. Visualize letting go of others expectations of you through your navel center, also known as the third chakra.
Yogic breathing or pranayama is a form of very deep breathing, designed to fight stress.17
Here is how you can perform the nadi shodhana pranayama or channel cleaning breath, a slow breathing technique that can wash away anxiety and stress.18
- Sit with your legs crossed(Sukhasana pose) and breathe out deeply.
- Hold the right nostril closed using your thumb, allowing air to enter from the other nostril.
- Once you have completed an inhalation from the left, close this nostril with your fourth and fifth fingers.
- Next, close both your nostrils. Hold your breath for a count or two.
- Now hold the left nostril closed, and exhale slowly from your right.
- Take a breath in from your right nostril keeping the left closed.
- Hold both nostrils closed once more, again for a few seconds.
- Lastly, close your right nostril and exhale from the left nostril. Breathe in from your left nostril, keeping the right closed.
Mindfulness is an important tenet of yoga and it can help to begin and end your yoga session with some meditation. The savasana can help you do this. 19
The pose, designed for total relaxation, can be performed as follows20:
- Lie down flat on your back, keeping your arms by your side and the palms of your hands facing upward.
- Visualize your nose, forehead, tongue, and even your inner ear channels softening and relaxing. Imagine your eyeballs releasing back into the skull.
- The muscles on your face must be completely relaxed at this point.
- Now breathe in deeply, feeling your belly lift as it fills.
- Exhale, emptying the air from it, as it flattens.
- Continue doing this for at least five minutes, and for as long as you wish to feel completely relaxed.
Home Remedies For Postpartum Depression
Often, especially in milder forms of postnatal depression like baby blues, self-help can go a long way. So even as you get professional mainstream medical help, therapy, or approach an Ayurvedic practitioner or a homeopath, some things can make life a little better and help you go easier on yourself.
Here are some tips on how to deal with postpartum depression.21
- Get help: Don’t try and go it alone. If you have a partner, reach out to them and get help with the chores and baby care duties. Share the responsibility. If you’re on your own, rope in a close friend or family member to help.
- Exercise: Working out, whether it is a gentle stroll in the park or an uplifting dance session or yoga at home or in a class, can help.
- Talk: Sometimes what helps with postpartum depression is to just be able to talk it through with someone else. Speak to those who are close to you about the problem. This can help reduce the feelings of isolation and despair.
- Make some “me time”: You need to give yourself some time off. Hire a babysitter or pay for an hour or two of childcare so you can just sleep, exercise, or even read a book, watch a movie or have an indulgent long bath. Even if this isn’t possible every single day, be sure to work in some free time for yourself every week at regular intervals.
- Sleep: Try and rest whenever possible. Divide nighttime baby care duties with your partner. If you’re going it alone, follow the “sleep when baby sleeps” routine.
- Eat healthy: Eat plenty of fresh produce and keep your body healthy. Avoid skipping meals. This will make you feel even more tired and out of sorts.
- Steer clear of alcohol and drugs: These can seem like an escape from reality, but they will only worsen your symptoms.
- Go out and get some sun: Sunshine can help lift your mood and get you the vitamin D that can go a long way in battling depression.
Is St. John’s Wort A Good Idea?
Another alternative remedy for treating postpartum depression that you may have heard of is St. John’s Wort. This is, in fact, a highly popular remedy for depression in general. However, as some researchers caution, while small studies have found no side effects of this herbal remedy on mother or child in nursing moms, long-term studies on the effects on the infant must be done before it can be recommended across the board for postpartum depression.22
Another caveat is that the remedy has proven less effective in severe cases of depression, though it has improved condition of patients with mild to moderate depression.23
References [ + ]
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|4.||↑||Depression during and after pregnancy fact sheet. Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.|
|5, 6.||↑||Postnatal depression – Treatment. National Health Service.|
|8.||↑||Conrad, Pam, and Cindy Adams. “The effects of clinical aromatherapy for anxiety and depression in the high risk postpartum woman–a pilot study.” Complementary therapies in clinical practice 18, no. 3 (2012): 164-168.|
|9, 23.||↑||Weier, Kira M., and Margaret W. Beal. “Complementary therapies as adjuncts in the treatment of postpartum depression.” Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health 49, no. 2 (2004): 96-104.|
|10.||↑||Corral, Maria, Xanthoula Kostaras, and Annie J. Kuan. “Nonpharmacological treatments during pregnancy and the postpartum period.” BC Medical Journal 47, no. 3 (2005): 143-145.|
|11.||↑||Fitelson, Elizabeth, Sarah Kim, Allison Scott Baker, and Kristin Leight. “Treatment of postpartum depression: clinical, psychological and pharmacological options.” International Journal of Women’s Health 3 (2011): 1.|
|12.||↑||[Post-natal depression. British Homeopathic Association.|
|13, 14.||↑||Davies, Gemma. “The Ayurvedic Perspective and Treatment of Birth Complications.” California College of Ayurveda, 2015.|
|15, 19.||↑||Buttner, Melissa M., Rebecca L. Brock, Michael W. O’Hara, and Scott Stuart. “Efficacy of yoga for depressed postpartum women: A randomized controlled trial.” Complementary therapies in clinical practice 21, no. 2 (2015): 94-100.|
|16.||↑||Balancing the Brain: Easing Stress and Postpartum Depression through Yoga. Yoga Journal.|
|17.||↑||Sharma, Vivek Kumar, Madanmohan Trakroo, Velkumary Subramaniam, M. Rajajeyakumar, Anand B. Bhavanani, and Ajit Sahai. “Effect of fast and slow pranayama on perceived stress and cardiovascular parameters in young health-care students.” International journal of yoga 6, no. 2 (2013): 104.|
|18.||↑||Kinabalu, Kota. “Immediate effect of ‘nadi-shodhana pranayama’on some selected parameters of cardiovascular, pulmonary, and higher functions of brain.” Thai journal of physiological sciences 18, no. 2 (2005): 10-16.|
|20.||↑||Mueller, Donna. “Yoga Therapy.” ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal 6, no. 1 (2002): 18-hyhen.|
|21.||↑||Postnatal depression – Treatment. National Health Service.|
|22.||↑||Klier, C. M., M. R. Schäfer, B. Schmid-Siegel, G. Lenz, and M. Mannel. “St. John’s Wort (Hypericum Perforatum)-Is it Safe during Breastfeeding?.” Pharmacopsychiatry 35, no. 01 (2002): 29-30.|