Alternative Treatments and Postpartum Depression

If you’re a new mom with postpartum depression and you don’t want to take prescription drugs, you might be looking into complementary or alternative medicine, along with counseling and everyday things that you can do to help you feel better.

Complementary treatments are those that you use along with regular medical care. Alternative treatments are those that you would use instead of standard medicine. Some of these may ease your postpartum depression. Others may not be right if you’re breastfeeding.

Always check with your doctor before you try anything new, especially dietary or herbal supplements. Just because they’re natural doesn’t mean they don’t have side effects.

Which Ones Work?

Yoga . Exercise is a proven way to lift mild to moderate depression. In one study of depressed new moms, more than three-quarters of them who did yoga twice a week for 8 weeks got better.

Massage. The healing power of touch may have a positive effect on postpartum depression. Although more studies are needed, findings so far suggest that massage helps improve symptoms.

Relaxation training. Learning how to soothe yourself can help you cope with depression. More than a dozen studies have shown that relaxation training can help you recover.

Examples of relaxation techniques include:

  • Deep breathing
  • Guided imagery
  • Self-hypnosis

Meditation. Learning to meditate lets you “exist in the moment.” You focus on your breathing and let go of your thoughts. It might help you with your depression.

Which Haven’t Been Shown To Work?

Herbal and dietary supplements. More research is needed on how dietary supplements affect postpartum depression. Studies on St. John’s wort, which is a common herbal treatment for depression, have had mixed results.

Studies on omega-3 fatty acids suggests it may improve symptoms when used with antidepressants, but more analysis is needed – and it wasn’t a replacement for medicines.

Also, studies on the supplements inositol, which is a B vitamin, and SAMe, or S-Adenosyl Methionine, suggest they are not helpful for depression.

Acupuncture. It’s safe to try, but it may not help your depression. A few reports show that it wasn’t better than a placebo.

Light therapy. Exposure to bright light can help with some forms of depression, including during pregnancy. But research on women with postpartum depression did not show bright light therapy to be effective.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on July 19, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Depression and complementary health approaches.”    

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Complementary, alternative or integrative health: What’s in a name?”   

Buttner, M. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, May 2015.

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “5 tips: What you should know about the science behind depression and complementary health approaches.”

Breese McCoy, S. Southern Medical Journal, February 2011.

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Massage therapy for health purposes.”

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Relaxation techniques for health.”

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Meditation: In depth.”

Qureshi, N. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, May 2013.

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Acupuncture: In depth.”

Deligiannidis, K. Best Practice & Research: Clinical Obstetrics and Gynaecology, January 2014.

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