Category Archives: Post Natal Depression

Combating Depression During Pregnancy with Light Therapy

A study on the effects of light treatment conducted in Switzerland on 27 females has provided results that may give a tool beyond antidepressants for depression treatment in pregnant patients. The findings will be of use to doctors who are unwilling to treat pregnant women with antidepressants for fear damage to the foetus may occur.

“A lot of people feel like they’re in between a rock and a hard place.”

This is according to Dr. C. Neill Epperson, head of the Penn Centre for Women’s Behavioural Wellness in Philadelphia. This doctor was not involved in the Swiss study, yet she said it is a consistent worry amongst the very same doctors that a lack of treatment may lead to complication in the birth.

One in Ten

Research shows that as many as one in every ten pregnant women is experiencing the effects of depression. The depression puts them at a heightened risk of delivering the child preterm, with the consequent low birth weight.

Seasonal Defective Disorder

The study into how light therapy can affect women in this space, came about as a result of light therapy being proven to benefit people with seasonal defective disorder. This condition means that people are more prone to being depressed when there is less sunlight as determined by the seasons. There was evidence of effect on this sphere, but there were suggestions too that light therapy could be of benefit with non seasonal depression also.

Small yet Conclusive

Anna Wirz-Justice of the University Hospital Basel in Switzerland conducted the study along with her research colleagues to determine if the suggestion that this type of treatment works would stand up against the needs of pregnant women. Whilst the study was small the findings are conclusive.

How Evaluated

46 depressed women were taken, and randomly assigned to being treated with either a non-therapeutic dim red light, (The placebo) or a bright fluorescent light (The Treatment). The women were directed to sit under the light for one hour every day, they would begin the therapy session within a few minutes of their rising from slumber. Over the course of the 5 week study the participants would come to meet the researchers at regular intervals, at which point evaluations were made.

27 Remained out of 46

Nineteen of the women had to leave before the project was completed due to their commencing a course of antidepressants or otherwise, therefore 27 good specimens remained for the conclusion of the study.

Depression Symptoms Reduced

The study showed by the end, that out of these 27 the 16 women who received the actual light therapy as opposed to the placebo demonstrated remarkable benefits from the treatment. Improvements in depression symptoms were experienced by 13 women out of this 16 with a 50% reduction in symptoms found, with 11 of the subjects no longer presenting any symptoms of depression.

Of the placebo group 4 women no longer suffered any symptoms with just under half of the recipients of the placebo also demonstrating a drop in depression symptoms.

Safe Treatment

Dr Anna Wirz said; “The light therapy had no side effects, it’s like going outside for an hour a day but without the risks associated with UV light.” The Doctor also suggested that there would be no fall off in benefit if the women were to continue their treatment beyond the 5 week period. She added that the therapy can be used leading right up to the birth and beyond. This would lessen the likelihood of depression emerging in the wake of the birth which is a very common occurrence.

As Good as Drugs

Yet Time Consuming

The results are according to the doctor as good as the results affected by the taking of antidepressant drugs, but it is the need to devote an hour each day to the treatment that may be too much time to be a feasible treatment method for most women. She said that the downfall of this type of treatment is that there really needs to be a motivation to pursue the course. But she is positive that the research that has proven the effectiveness of light therapy will be welcome news to medical practitioners looking for another treatment method.

The associated costs aren’t all that different from each other either, with antidepressants averaging at £15 per month against the acquisition of a therapeutic light costing close to £145. The study is ongoing in an attempt to realise the same results in other groups of depressed and pregnant women.

Lack of Dad support can bring onset of ‘Pre-Baby Blues’

Research that has just been published in BioMed Central’s BMC Public Health  demonstrating how the depression and anxiety in the mum in the run up to the birth of a child is likely to be caused by a bad relationship with the father.

The impacts of this ‘pre-baby blues’ can lead not just to misery for the mum, but also an underweight child, pre-mature birth, and can impact the child long after the birth into its formative years.

50,000 mums to be took part in the Norwegian study, and they were asked about a range of areas in their lives. A pattern began to emerge after all women were asked about their family or partner, their work etc. The answers were compared against bouts of illness they encountered, their drinking and smoking habits etc.

It was demonstrated in the study findings that depending on the level of support the women were in receipt of from their partners, that there was a strong link with mental health. Negative effects were demonstrated in women where the link was worse, either through absence of the male or indifference.

Those who were unhappy with the relationships it became evident were far more likely to suffer from this pre-baby depression and anxiety. Troubles in the workplace experienced by those surveyed along with those suffering from physical illnesses were also seen to be contributory factors towards the psychological ailment, creating stress which in turn leads to the condition in a pregnant woman.

It was determined from evidence collated that even if illness was present and things in the workplace were not at an optimum that a healthy relationship with the father acted as a buffer in way to the negative effects of stress.It was determined that mums to be who were more senior in years than the other subjects were more capable of handling the stresses
Gun-Mette Røsand from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said, “Failure to recognise and treat emotional distress during pregnancy stores up problems for both mother and child, and impacts continuing family welfare. It is important that antenatal courses should include relationship classes and that close attention should be paid to women who lack the support of a good relationship.”

Depressed Mums unnerved by baby tears

The latest research has shown evidence that the response offered by mothers to the sound of their weeping baby varies depending on the mental state of the mother.

In a depressed mum it has been determined by University of Oregon researchers that the sound is actually quieter or blanked out to a greater degree than is the case with non-depressed mums. It was actual brain scans of a host of individual mums that gave away the variation to the researchers.

The sound of a wailing baby is a normal thing; however the means by which a mum responds to these tears play a major part in the development of the child. Jennifer C. Ablow is the brains behind the latest research; she has for many years been studying the Mum’s response to the wails of her child and has come up with a range of results.

The most insightful evidence she has come across however is where the focus is on the differentials between the depressed and the non depressed state of the mother. She has measured psychological responses such as the heart rate response, along with respiration when measuring response to date.

There is a new study out there now in the Journal of Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience which is giving us a first look into this interesting area. You will if you follow, be provides with links that show exactly the variation in the brain scan data that returns when a depressed mother’s brain functions are measured whilst their child cries, and whilst a non-depressed mum’s baby cries.

The study also takes into account how the brain reacts when the child is not their own. 22 women took part in the study and their brains scrutinized under (fMRI) functional magnetic resonance imaging. This measures the changes in blood flow, with the aid of radio frequency pulses and a magnetic field. This technology is usually used to help diagnose disease.

All of those subjects observed had children of 18 months old, and were mothers for the first time. There was a half and half spilt between mothers who had shown signs of depression in their medical histories, and those who had shown no signs of depression to date.

“It looks as though depressed mothers are responding in a more negative way than non-depressed mothers, which has been one hypothesis,” it was stated by Heidemarie K. Laurent, assistant professor at the University of Wyoming after the research was conducted. That doctor led the study as a postdoctoral researcher in Ablow’s lab. “What we saw was really more of a lack of responding in a positive way.”

Depressed mums failed to show any unique response to the sound of their baby’s tears whilst non-depressed mums demonstrated the effect the tears were having on them with a range of activity in the sub-cortical cluster in the brain. That particular area is closely associated with where we process rewards and motivations in adults and children.

The non-depressed mums showed through this area being active that the sound of the baby crying was actually a ‘positive cue’ or call to action. The depressed mums however lacked any marks of positive cues towards the cries of the child. The mums who reported that at the time of the scan they were experiencing bad symptoms of depression showed even less brain activity when the cries occurred. Here they showed diminished prefrontal brain activity.

Health visitors with training reduce numbers with post natal depression

The period following childbirth can be a difficult time for many women and statistics have shown that around one in ten women will experience symptoms of depression after giving birth.

Now a recent study has revealed that women who see a health visitor who has had extra training in mental health are less likely to develop post natal depression in the six months following childbirth.

The study was carried out by researchers at Leicester University, Nottingham University and Sheffield University and involved over 2,000 women who had given birth and who were from the Trent area in England.

These women were followed for a period of a year and half following the birth of their child. Around 1,500 received support from a health visitor who had special training in mental health and a further 767 had their support from a standard health visitor who hadn’t undergone extra mental health training.

The study started six weeks after the birth of the baby and at that time none of the women were experiencing depression reported the BBC.

An analysis of the data at the end of the study showed that the women who received support from health visitors who had extra training in mental health were 30 percent less likely to develop post natal depression in the six months following childbirth than those women seeing a standard health visitor who had no extra training.

Terry Brugha from Leiciester Clinical Division of Psychiatry and who led the study told the BBC:

“This study shows that women are less likely to become depressed in the year after childbirth if they are attended by an NHS health visitor who has undergone additional training in specific mental health assessment and in psychological approaches based on either cognitive behavioural or listening techniques.”

At the moment there is a shortage of NHS health visitors in many parts of the UK and the researchers were unable to replicate their research in other parts of England because of this shortage. There simply weren’t enough health visitors.

“Mothers were fortunate if they receive just one home visit from a health visitor” Professor Brugha told the BBC.

The study also revealed that many health visitors didn’t take the extra mental health training because they couldn’t take the necessary time off work.

The government has said it is committed to increasing the number of health visitors in the country, let’s hope they do this sooner rather than later.

New Dads Suffer From Post Natal Baby Blues Too Says Study

New dads can suffer from postnatal depression after the birth of a baby but their suffering might go undetected says US researchers. Apparently around ten percent of new fathers can have a form of post natal depression and this is a higher figure than what is currently recognised.

It’s true, new fathers’ lives are also turned upside down by a new arrival to the family. They experience sleepless nights but still have to get up for work, they are expected to support their partner in the home, and they also feel the weight of responsibility bearing down on them.

Researchers Dr James Paulson and Sharnail Bazemore at the Eastern Virginian Medical School looked at 43 different studies involving over 28,000 parents from 16 countries around the world.

The trigger period for most fathers to sink into a depression seems to be around three to six months after the birth where up to 25 percent of new dads experienced the baby blues the researchers found. The study also revealed that if the mother had post natal depression the father was more likely to have it too.

They are calling for better screening and referral of fathers considered to be at risk of post natal depression.

“Depression in one parent should prompt clinical attention to the other” said the researchers.

“Likewise, prevention and intervention efforts for depression in parents might be focused on the couple and family rather than the individual” they said.

Bridget O’Connell, from the mental health charity Mind, told the BBC “becoming a parent is one of the biggest changes that both men and women can go through, yet there is still very little understood about how it impacts on mental health, and how many people will experience a perinatal mental health problem”.

“New parents can be faced with sleep deprivation, changes in lifestyle, changes in their relationship and new responsibilities all at once, and we don’t always remember that this is going to be an issue for men as well as for women” added O’Connell.

However, Ellie Lee, a lecturer in social policy at Kent University, believes that emotions shouldn’t be too medicalised.

“It is, of course, essential to diagnose and treat serious clinical depression. But there is a tendency to overuse medical labels” Lee told the BBC, adding that men haven’t given birth and experienced hormonal fluctuations, their problems are different she said.

“It is no longer good enough to just be the bread-winner. They have to be engaged and involved. They are expected to abstain from alcohol, attend every scan and ‘feel the pain’ of birth” she said, adding “This can be a stressful experience.”

Dealing With Postpartum Depression? (Baby blues)

Postpartum depression, also known as postnatal depression or the baby blues affects some women after they have given birth. The symptoms can include:

  • Feeling low and sad for no apparent reason
  • Feeling tired most of the time
  • Tearfulness
  • Irritability
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Disinterested in caring for the baby
  • Lack of appetite or eating too much
  • Feeling worthless and inadequate
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of libido
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Excessive worrying

If severe, the effects can be devastating on mother and baby and indeed the rest of the family, and at a time that is supposed to be joyful.

Having a new baby to care for can be a daunting experience so it is perfectly natural to feel tired and a little anxious. You are suddenly responsible for a new life and along with this there are sleepless nights to deal with, and then your days are taken up caring for the new baby with feeds and nappy changes and routines to settle in to. There’s no doubt about it, having a new baby involves a great deal of adjustment in the home and this is inevitably going to be stressful and tiring.

However, the difference between normal feelings of fatigue and worry, and postpartum depression, is that with postpartum depression the symptoms are more severe and they persist.

What causes Postpartum Depression?

There is no single clear cut reason why some women develop postpartum depression and not others but research has shown that nutritional deficiencies can be involved so it’s important to make sure that your diet is good before, during and after pregnancy.

One nutrient in particular that has been found to play quite an important role during and after pregnancy is Omega 3. The Omega 3 fatty acids Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are vital during pregnancy and indeed where EPA is concerned each and every one of us need adequate supplies for the whole of our lives whether we are pregnant or not. DHA is needed for healthy growth and development of the brain and eyesight and EPA is needed for efficient functioning of the brain on an ongoing basis.

It stands to reason that if the mother is not getting all the nutrients she needs whilst the baby is taking what little she has, then the mother will find her supplies of nutrients severely depleted.

It’s an interesting point that people suffering from depression, and not just postpartum depression but indeed any mental health problem tend to have lower than normal levels of EPA in their blood.

Self help techniques for postpartum depression

  • If your diet has been less than adequate it may be worth considering an Omega 3 fish oil supplement, speak to your doctor for more advice
  • Get as much rest as you can, try to sleep when baby sleeps
  • Try to avoid any extra stresses, this wouldn’t be a good time to move house for example
  • If you find yourself with a spare moment, indulge. Read a book, watch television, have a relaxing bath, don’t spend these precious moments rushing around trying to do chores and be perfect, that little space can be a life saver
  • Talk to your family and your care professionals about how you are feeling

Postpartum Depression Risks, Symptoms, And Treatment

Postpartum depression is a form of depression that can affect new mothers within the first several months of birth.  It is a form of depression that strikes just as a new baby needs to be taken care of and when bonding between mother and baby begins.

It is not the natural sadness that some mothers feel following the birth of a baby.  This natural sadness is often mixed with feelings of joy and resolves itself within several weeks.  This postpartum disorder is something more.

Risk Factors

Any new mother can experience the postpartum symptoms of depression, but there are certain factors that seem to make this experience more likely to occur.  Previous bouts of depression mean an increased likelihood of depression postpartum.  As stated previously, this does not make the postpartum form of depression a certainty, but it does increase the chances of depression occurring.

Poor support from friends and family may contribute to the likelihood.  A sick baby could introduce an added element of stress that could increase your likelihood of depression postpartum, as could having a very stressful life in general.


Often depression symptoms are thought of as affecting an adult and those surrounding him or her, but in the case of postpartum disorders there can be a profound impact on the child, too.

The general symptoms include feeling sad, empty, and hopeless.  Anxiety may present itself in addition to these.  A loss of interest in life may occur.  Changes in appetite or sleep patterns may manifest.  An inability to concentrate is common as well.  All these symptoms interfere with the mother’s ability to provide care for and bond with the new baby.


The most common treatment is counselling services and antidepressant medication, much in the way that other types of depression are treated.  A mother who is considering taking antidepressants will want to discuss the effect that such medication might have on the possibility of breast feeding for the child.

The main thing a mother can do is to get professional help and to maintain her own health.  This means eating well, getting enough sleep, and getting regular exercise.  All can help facilitate recovery.

Postpartum depression strikes at an inopportune time to say the least.  There is no good time to be depressed, but the interference with caring for and parenting the new baby can be hard on both the baby and the mother.  By seeking professional help, this depression can be treated and life, both lives, can go on as planned.