It’s common for new mothers to get the “baby blues.” They might notice that their mood is a bit lower than usual, or feel anxious about their new parenting adventure. But for at least 1 in 8 women, these “baby blues” develop into something more serious, like a postpartum depressive episode.
Postpartum depression (also known as perinatal depressive disorder) is a lot more serious than the “baby blues.” Leaving it untreated only makes it worse, and may even affect the baby’s development and attachment patterns. Untreated Postpartum Depression also impacts the whole family including other children, your spouse and the grandparents.
But it’s understandable for women to be nervous about treating depression while pregnant or breastfeeding. When we think about depression treatment, we often think of antidepressant medication — and while many antidepressant medications are safe during pregnancy, it’s normal to be wary of taking psychiatric medications during this important time.
But medication isn’t your only option. If you’re a new mother facing postpartum depression, there are drug-free treatments that can help you.
TMS for postpartum depression
Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, is one alternative treatment for postpartum depression that has the most convincing amount of evidence behind it.
TMS has been so effective in the research that it’s been approved by the FDA as a safe and effective treatment for depression. The evidence supporting TMS for depression is of high quality and includes multi-site randomized controlled trials. TMS is also approved as an effective treatment for OCD and migraine, and clinical trials are being conducted to see how it might help for a wide variety of other mental health conditions.
The research that’s been conducted so far has found that up to 90% of women reach remission from their postpartum depression symptoms with a full course of TMS treatment.
TMS works by placing an electromagnetic coil on your scalp. – The coil delivers micro-pulses that stimulate the areas of your brain that are affected by postpartum (or any type of) depression. We’re still learning exactly how TMS works, but we know that depression and other mental health conditions affect how your brain works. TMS helps your brain work like it’s supposed to.
The biggest advantage of TMS therapy for pregnant or postpartum women may be that it’s relatively side-effect-free, especially when compared with antidepressants. Especially when you’re already stressed with the challenges of new parenthood, side effects from medications are the last thing you need. Some minor side effects that can come with TMS include scalp pain and fatigue, but these are usually mild and temporary.
Note: acupuncture can be used for depression. It is not recommended for post partum depression which is considered a psychiatric emergency. Recommending acupuncture for depression, yes. For post partum would be ill-advised.
Physical exercise for the baby blues.
We don’t tend to think of physical exercise as a “treatment” for depression. But in reality, it’s one of the practices that has the most evidence supporting its benefits for depressed people.
Numerous research studies have found that getting regular aerobic activity can help lower depression symptoms. Research has also found that pregnant women who exercise regularly are less likely to have symptoms of depression.
The results are the same for postpartum depression as well. One randomized controlled trial found that an exercise program (pram-push walking) was effective in lowering depression symptoms for postpartum women. This would not be a recommended intervention for a depression that is serious enough to be labeled post partum depression but would be effective for low level symptoms known as baby blues.
We don’t know exactly how exercise lifts our mood. It probably has to do with the release of brain chemicals like dopamine that happens when we exercise. But, in general, exercise is important to maintain your overall health after birth. Experts usually recommend that new mothers (without complications or health issues) get around 30 minutes of aerobic activity most days of the week.
Southern Colorado TMS can help
Of these alternative treatments for postpartum depression, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has the most robust evidence supporting its efficacy. It’s been found to be so effective that even the FDA has approved it for treating depression. Best of all, it’s safe for pregnant and postpartum women and has little to no side effects.
Are you a new mother who’s ready to start your healing journey with TMS? Southern Colorado TMS is the leading provider of TMS therapy in our region. Get in touch with us today for more information about how we can help you start enjoying motherhood and live a life that’s free from postpartum depression.