With all the joy that a new baby brings to a family, there can also be a lot of stress, anxiety, and big changes that might affect a mom's mental health. Postpartum depression affects anywhere from 10 percent to 20 percent of women, according to a paper by Dr. Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Ph.D., IBCLC, health psychologist, and specialist in mind-body medicine.
What are your options if you're a breastfeeding mom and feeling depressed? Can you take medication to treat depression while breastfeeding? Are commonly prescribed anti-depressants passed through breastmilk? If so, are they safe for your baby to consume? Is it true that breastfeeding itself can combat the symptoms of depression?
We got Dr. Kendall-Tackett on the phone to answer these questions and more. I think her responses will put many minds at ease! The most important information that came out of our conversation was:
- Stay away from the MAOI class of antidepressants. While almost all other antidepressants are safe, this type of drug (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitor) is dangerous to consume while you're pregnant or nursing. Dr. Kendall-Tackett mentions that Nardil and Parnate are two names to avoid.
- Don't discount the effectiveness of non-drug treatments for depression. Exercise, bright-light therapy, Omega-3 fatty acids, and psychotherapy can all be very effective. Some have been shown to work as well as pharmacologic solutions.
- Breastfeeding lowers stress hormone levels. Those warm fuzzy feelings moms get when they're breastfeeding aren't just a nice side-effect. They can actually combat and prevent symptoms of depression by reducing stress.
- Depression can lead to early weaning. When you lose confidence and feel you've lost control over things in your life, which are two symptoms of depression, you might start believing your body isn't capable of making enough milk for your baby. Supplementing breastmilk with formula might negatively affect your supply, and eventually lead you to wean inadvertently.