Post-Partum Depression
Answered by: Susan Eagles
Question from: Nicole
Posted on: May 11, 2001

I’ve been trying to fight a bit of post-partum depression. I’ve seen a specialist but I’m not really following his advice to stop breastfeeding and take some medication. We’re kind of arguing about whether it would be safe to try to continue breastfeeding. I know there are some doctors starting to recommend continuing even when taking certain anti-depressants, but this guy is very cautious. I really do not wish to discontinue breastfeeding my son!

Is there some blend of herbs which may help? Is Saint John’s Wort safe while breastfeeding?

Yes, there are herbs that are safe, and commonly used in post-partum depression.

Fluctuating hormone levels, nutrient deficiencies and extra stress may be factors. Hormone levels drop quickly after giving birth. Vitex agnus-castus helps to balance hormones via the pituitary gland, where the signals for the hormones are released. Vitex is also used for increasing the milk supply after birth. The dose is 2 ml of a 1:2 preparation (ask for this at your health food store), taken first thing in the morning. Nutritive herbs that are also supportive of your hormonal changes and your milk supply are Red Raspberry leaf and Nettle leaf (Urtica dioica). These can be taken as a tea, one teaspoon of each herb steeped in a cup of boiling water for 15 minutes, three times a day. Dandelion root supports the liver, helping it to metabolize hormones more effectively. Dandelion root may be taken as dandelion coffee (available in health food stores), or as a tincture. Follow the dosage directions on the package.

The alcohol in tinctures can be dissipated by measuring the dose into a cup and pouring 1/4 cup of boiling water over the dose. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature before drinking.

Vitamin B-complex, 50 mg three times a day, nourishes the nerves, helpful in stress and depression.

Evening Primrose oil provides the building blocks of serotonin, which is often low in depression. The dose is 2 (500mg) capsules twice a day for 6 weeks.

Maintain a good diet, with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and one to two servings of whole grains daily. Avoid coffee, which is often linked to depression, refined and processed food.

For reference, see Amanda McQuade Crawford’s "Herbal Remedies for Women" (Prima Publishing) and Siegfried Gursche, "Encyclopedia of Natural Healing" (Alive Publishers, Canada, (800) 663-6580 or Natural Life Publishing Inc., U.S. (800) 663-6513).

Good luck!

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