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Complementary therapy for postnatal depression

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Postnatal depression (PND) affects up to 15% of new mothers and can come on any time within the baby’s first year.  The causes of PND are not yet full understood and it is widely believed that there is no one thing that brings it on, rather a number of factors combining to result in the condition. Just as PND isn’t the same for everyone, people respond differently to treatments and what might work for one person may be of little help to another. While it’s important to seek medical advice if you think you are suffering from PND.


There are two ways in which massage can help in the treatment of PND.  The first is by the mother being massaged. Massage stimulates nerve endings, which in turn releases feel-good chemicals into the body. Even if you don’t find this is the case for you, an hour or so of calm time will at least help you relax for a while.  Alternatively, baby massage is a great way of not only bonding with your little one, but also reducing stress levels in the mother. Most health centres and community groups run baby massage classes (many of which are free) where you can learn the correct techniques.


Essential oils such as rosemary and bergemot are said to have an uplifting effect on moods, while lavender and chamomile (which also helps insomnia) help achieve a state of calm.  Oils can be used in a variety of ways including massage, bathing and inhaling, so you can have an uplifting oil aroma wafting around the house during the day and then relax into a hot lavender bath in the evening to unwind. A qualified aromatherapist should be able to come up with a blend of oils specifically tailored to your situation.

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It may be the last thing you feel like doing, but exercising really is one of the best ways to beat PND. Swimming and aqua-aerobics are popular choices for new mums but fitness or dance classes are also a great way of getting those endorphins flowing.  Lots of leisure centres also run classes like Power Mums, where you take your baby along and do exercises involving her. If you can’t face doing anything more strenuous or don’t feel up to mixing with new people, then go for a brisk walk with your baby and enjoy a cuppa in peace when you get home with a baby who has probably been lulled off to sleep by the movement of the pram.

Rest & Support

A great support network that will allow you even half an hour a day to yourself is invaluable. It is often easier said than done, but be open with your partner, your friends and family about how you are feeling and accept any offers of help, be it someone offering to cook for you or an hour’s babysitting while you soak in the bath. Talking about how you feel will help your partner understand what you’re going through and allow him to be there to support you.

Mood Foods

Young babies don’t give you much time to prepare fresh meals from scratch – in fact many of them seem to have a radar that wakes them the minute you open the fridge or sit down to enjoy a meal! However, rather than just grabbing a slice of toast or a chocolate bar here and there, it is crucial to eat healthily and stock up on those all-important vitamins.  Make sure there are plenty fruits and vegetables in the house and try to get lots of B vitamins into you from foods like meat, eggs, fish, milk and whole grains.  Try to avoid alcohol, caffeine and refined sugars, which may give you a boost of energy at first but will leave you feeling flat.

Herbal Remedies & Homeopathy

A host of herbal or homeopathic remedies are available in tablet form from chemists and health food shops without prescription.  Some of these are widely regarded as being effective supplements in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. While plant extracts may be the answer for many women, it is wise to check with a pharmacist or GP that a complementary remedy won’t interfere with any other medication you are taking before heading down to your local Holland & Barrett. Breastfeeding mothers should also ask about any effects supplements might have on breast milk.




About Jenny Smith

About Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith is a freelance writer and facilitator specialising in mental health, well-being and ecotherapy. She writes for National Mind and The Working Parent and facilitates training in the Work that Reconnects and Ecotherapy. She is inspired by nature, gardening, love and non-duality teachings

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