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Baby Blues

Dr. Karol M.D Article by: Dr. Karol M.D
Date: Nov 29, 2013 · Posted in: Reproductive Health, Mental Health
Baby Blues
Baby Blues.

Today’s topic is a continuation of mother and baby topics. It’s about Baby Blues, which is the slight depression felt by some mothers after giving birth. I picked this topic partly because of the recent change in weather, which makes some of us a little depressed.

Baby Blues is a psychological state experienced by about 50% of women right after giving birth. It’s basically light depression. The reason for this is not entirely clear, but it is likely multifactorial. The ending of pregnancy may be one of them. Most women are very happy to be pregnant and to have the baby as part of their body. Birth, although bringing into the world the baby that mothers love, and wait for, ends this stage. The other most likely reason is pain and exhaustion associated with giving birth. I have seen it many times and it’s absolutely mind boggling what women have to go through. Even today with strong pain killers and muscle contractants like oxytocin it’s an amazing feat to say the least. After going through so much pain and physical exhaustion it’s no wonder that some women feel depressed. Finally there are many hormonal changes during and after birth. This can cause some imbalances in the hormonal milieu of the mother, contributing to the blues.  Unfortunately this can last a few weeks, so it makes utmost sense to try something natural that can alleviate this, without going into prescription anti-depressants.

St. John’s wort is one such solution. It is completely natural and just as effective for depression as prescription anti-depressants. Furthermore, in a recent study the rate of side effects was half that of the newest prescription anti-depressants and one fifth that of older anti-depressants. Most of the time there are no side effects at all, but even if there are any, they are much less serious. The most common being some gastrointestinal discomfort. On the other hand, prescription anti-depressants have a long list of possible side effects, including even suicidal thoughts. The other important thing is that stopping St. John’s wort after the depression or Baby Blues is over, does not cause any discomfort. In comparison, stopping prescription anti-depressants usually causes deeper depression than what you started with.

This is precisely why St. John’s wort is not only an excellent choice for Baby Blues but also for depression experienced by any person, as well as for the slight depression many of us experience due to the recent changing weather conditions. The Cochrane Collaboration (an authoritative research review board), after reviewing twenty nine clinical trials involving five thousand patients, concluded that St. John’s wort is superior to placebo for major depression, and that it has similar effectiveness to standard anti-depressants with much less side effects, if any at all. 

Even though this is an amazing herb with amazing properties, as a physician I must present the whole story. St. John’s wort is renowned to have some interaction with other drugs. It increases the enzymes in the liver that neutralize drugs and also increases cellular pumps that pump drugs out of cells. The overall effect is that it neutralizes the drugs we may be treated with, making them less effective. There is a whole list, but keep this in mind. If you are on some prescription meds for a serious medical condition consult with your physician. The other thing to keep in mind is that one of the ways that St. John’s wort alleviates depression is by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. Therefore one has to be very careful when taking St. John’s wort with medications (like prescription anti-depressants) or illicit drugs (like cocaine or amphetamine) that also increase this neurotransmitter. The consequence could be something called Seratonin syndrome, which is very serious.

All that said, if you are not on prescription meds and are not taking street drugs (which I pray most mothers during birth are not) then St. John’s wort maybe a wonderful natural solution to Baby Blues or for any other situation that calls up the blues. Let’s stay happy to enjoy life to the fullest. See you in the next episode and have a great weekend.