According to The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology , 14-23% of pregnant women suffer from depression. Women suffering from depression usually have the following symptoms that persist for 2 weeks or more:
- Persistent sadness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Loss of interest in activities that you usually enjoy
- Recurring thoughts of death, suicide, or hopelessness
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Change in eating habits
There are many treatments that are commonly used to treat depression during pregnancy, such as psychotherapy, light therapy, support groups, and medication. Treatment with medication typically involved SSRI’s or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Lately, research has been coming out against medicating for depression during pregnancy because it has been linked to a lot of problems in newborns, such as physical malformations, heart problems, low birth weight, pulmonary hypertension, and an increase in the likelyhood to give birth to a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This evidence scares me, so I wanted to present moms with a more natural option of treatment to go along with their support groups, light therapy, and psychotherapy.
So what typically causes depression anyway? One of the recurring themes I have been reading in my research is that chronic inflammation is the culprit. According to studies found in JAMA (1) (2), “Higher levels of inflammation dramatically increase the risk of developing depression. And the higher the levels of inflammatory marks, the worse the depression.” In more detail, inflammatory cytokines (inflammation) increase the breakdown of serotonin, which means our impression should not be that depressed people are unable to make enough serotonin. The problem with depression is that a chronic inflammatory state is associated with a loss of normal serotonin levels. This means that one of the major natural treatments for depression would be to reduce chronic inflammation.
One way to reduce inflammation is encourage patients to exercise more. Studies have shown that exercise can be as effective as Zoloft. Exercise naturally increases serotonin levels and decreases cortisol (inflammatory) levels. Another way to help reduce inflammation is adequate sleep, around 8 hours a night, which is essential in allowing your body the time to heal and rejuvenate for the next day. Your body and mind will then have a better chance at handling the next day’s stressors more effectively. Next, you can reduce inflammation by consuming a diet of anti-inflammatory foods such as lots of dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, brussel sprouts, collared greens, broccoli, cabbage) and adding anti-inflammatory spices to your meals (turmeric, curcumin, cayenne pepper, ginger, oregano, curry, basil, coriander, cumin). The more vegetables you add to your diet the better. Almonds, walnuts, and cashews are also anti-inflammatory. You can add teas to your diet as well (ginger, herbal rest tea or sleepy time tea, white tea, etc) Basically you want to stay away from processed foods with sugar or grains. According to research, people that consumed a Mediterranean-type diet, rich in healthy, anti-inflammatory fats and proteins, enjoy significantly lower rates of depression. Next, make sure you are taking your prenatal multivitamin, probiotics, magnesium (150 mg), fish oil (2 grams), and vitamin D3 (400o IUs). All of these supplements have been shown to reduce inflammation. Lastly, chiropractic adjustments are another added benefit. Not only do the adjustments cause you to be in less pain, but it will also elevate your mood because you will feel better and be able to do more things that you like to do.
Resources and/or further reading:
- Exercise and Pharmacotherapy in the treatment of major depressive disorder
- Antidepressant use during pregnancy and risk of ASD in children
- Antidepressant use during pregnancy and childhood Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Prenatal SSRI use and offspring with autism spectrum disorders
- “Brain Maker” by David Pearlmutter
- Depression and inflammation: Examining the link
- Association of serum interleukin 6 and C-reactive protein in childhood with depression and psychosis in young adult life: a population-based longitudinal study.