Postpartum Depression and Acupuncture

Posted by Christina Pistotnik

Although the exact cause of postpartum depression is not known, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) does have a few different viewpoints on the matter. Three main factors are believed to be the driving force behind this condition:

1. Emotional disruption due to the emotional and physical rollercoaster that a woman experiences over the course of the entire pre and post natal experience (hormonal changes, body changes, pregnancy, labour, breastfeeding, etc.)

2. Extreme fatigue experienced after child birth, especially if an individual has a predisposition towards low energy. Fatigue can cause mental anguish as a result of the fact that a woman may not having enough energy to deal with all the changes that are occurring in her life.

3. Blood deficiency due to the loss of blood that a woman experiences during child birth. This blood loss affects a woman’s state of mind as it results in a lack of nourishment being provided to her brain.

These factors can occur either singularly or simultaneously in conjunction with each other. Each woman can be different, and the ability to focus the treatment according to each person’s specific and individual needs is what makes TCM is so effective. This is important when dealing with the myriad of possible symptoms that are associated with post-partum depression: sadness, depression, laughing or crying for no apparent reason, inability to calm down, chest oppression, shakiness, possible loss of consciousness, and in severe cases hallucinations.

The benefits of using acupuncture as a complimentary therapy when treating psychological disorders is scientifically proven. It naturally increases the release of ACTH, beta-endorphins, serotonin, and noradrenaline. These are all hormones released by the central nervous system (CNS) in order to help a person feel good and allow them to properly cope with their stress.

A Stanford University study demonstrated that of those women who suffered from depression during pregnancy, and received acupuncture treatments specifically to treat their depression, 69 percent showed improvements and 86 percent stayed symptom free 10 weeks post-partum.

An additional benefit to receiving acupuncture in the treatment of postpartum depression is that acupuncture works with the body’s natural chemistry and therefore does not interfere with lactation by entering the blood stream. This means that women who are breastfeeding do not need to worry about chemicals entering the breast milk.

It is important to note that in addition to receiving acupuncture as a treatment option, a woman suffering from postpartum depression should remain in contact with her family doctor, psychotherapist, and any other support network she may have.

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