A Surprising Potential Cure for Postpartum Depression
There are a lot of interesting methods that have been recommended to treat postpartum depression, including eating your placenta or going through light therapy. And call me crazy, but I think the fact that we are open to new ideas is a good sign. Postpartum depression is a disorder that is easy to sweep under the rug because it “only” happens in mothers, and those mothers are often at home with their babies, so it's easy for us to not really recognize it as suffering. And even those mothers may not recognize when they are sick or feel like they deserve to seek treatment.
But postpartum depression is real, and the more we talk about how to help mothers, which ultimately helps their whole families and communities, the more we can work toward solutions and reduce rates of PPD.
New research is looking at the link between postpartum depression and oxytocin, which we know as the “love” hormone — it's the hormone in our bodies that makes us feel happy, helps us bond with each other, and overwhelms us with love when we snuggle with our kids.
The research has found that mothers with postpartum depression actually have lower levels of oxytocin in their bodies, although whether that's because of the depression or the cause of the depression isn't clear. So the researchers tried giving oxytocin to women through their IV while they were giving birth to try to boost those initial levels of oxytocin going into the postpartum period. Surprisingly, the women actually showed higher rates of postpartum depression symptoms within two days as compared to those women who didn't have oxytocin through their IVs, which frankly, seems a little puzzling at first, but my guess is that there's still a lot when we don't know about the labor process.
Although the oxytocin might not necessarily work, the review of the available studies did find that therapy geared towards parenting was effective in helping mothers decrease their symptoms and gain more effective parenting skills, so it's not all bad news here. The truth is this: sometimes just talking to other adults in a group therapy or professional therapy setting is all the medication mothers need.
It's hard to hear, especially because I'm a mom that has had PPD and still struggles with depression, but our health really does affect our children. Studies have shown that having depression as a mother affects everything about how our children develop — even the way we read to our babies signifies stress to them when we are depressed. Depressed mothers are more likely to be neglectful or aggressive, miss our children's cues, and feel like they are inadequate parents. Hearing the very stark consequences is difficult, but it also points to the importance of seeking treatment for postpartum depression as soon as possible.
Have you had success with therapy for postpartum depression? Would you try an experimental therapy like this?