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Originally published January 20 2009

Postpartum Depression can be Prevented without Drugs

by Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor

(NaturalNews) It's not unusual to have some mood swings after giving birth. After all, new mothers are usually sleep deprived for a while and they can be extra tired from the rigors of childbirth, too. But for some women, serious depression occurs. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), postpartum depression affects around 10 to 15% of women a few weeks to a year after they give birth. Symptoms include feeling restless, anxious, sad, having a sense of worthlessness and sometimes worrying about hurting themselves of their babies.

Like actress Brooke Shields, who went public with her account of her own struggle with postpartum depression, many women are prescribed antidepressant drugs, usually SSRIs like Prozac or Paxil. But are those often side effect-loaded medications necessary?

According to a new University of Toronto study just published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), there's an effective non-drug way to prevent postpartum depression in many moms after childbirth. The key is a common sense, practical strategy no doubt used by countless mothers throughout history -- heart-to-heart talks with other women who have given birth and understand the experiences moms go through taking care of newborns.

Dr. Cindy-Lee Dennis, an associate professor at the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing and Canada research chair in perinatal community health at the University of Toronto, headed the research which studied the effectiveness of telephone peer support for new mothers. The researchers screened more than 21,000 women from seven health regions in Ontario and then recruited 701 high risk mothers who were randomized to receive standard postnatal care or standard care and the support of a peer volunteer. All the peer volunteers were women who had "been there, done that" when it comes to both childbirth and experiencing postnatal depression themselves.

By 12 weeks, the peer support had cut the risk of postpartum depression by 50% in the group of high risk women, compared to those in the control group. The new moms were receptive to the heart-to-heart chats with their volunteer peers and more than 80% reported they were pleased with the experience and would recommend this kind of support to other new mothers.

"Women and family members need to be educated about postnatal depression so they can recognize the symptoms. Treatment needs to be convenient and accessible to new mothers," Dr. Dennis stated in an editorial in the BMJ accompanying her study. She also pointed out that many women don't want to take the often-prescribed antidepressants, especially when they want to breastfeed their babies.

For more information see:

Effect of peer support on prevention of postnatal depression among high risk women: multisite randomised controlled trial at

Depression During and After Pregnancy at

About the author

Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.

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