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Complement Ther Nurs Midwifery. 2002 Nov;8(4):197-203.

The role of alternative medicine in treating postnatal depression.

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Department of Public and Community Health, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK.


Postnatal depression is a serious and debilitating condition. Due to the perceived stigma of mental illness, the incidence of it is underreported and many mothers refuse psychiatric help either assuming postnatal depression to be normal or because of the potential consequences of having a psychiatric history. Community practitioners who are in contact with new mothers may welcome additional interventions which can enhance the supportive care they give to these women. This article discusses the evidence for a number of these interventions which mothers may find more acceptable than orthodox treatment. The aim of this article is to highlight the possible role of a number of complementary and alternative medicines as adjuncts or alternative treatments for postnatal depression. The interventions discussed in this article include Ayurvedic medicine, herbalism, homeopathy, aromatherapy, massage, hypnosis and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). With the exception of TCM and Ayurvedic medicine, these interventions have been supported by the House of Lord's Select Committee on Science and Technology (2000) as having an evidence base. Ayurvedic medicine and TCM have been included in this article however, because a number of clients may be using them as their main system of health care--thereby validating the need for information regarding their efficacy. This article is not exhaustive, nor a licence to practice, but is intended as a resource for practitioners with a sound understanding of postnatal depression and conventional treatments whose clients may reject these approaches and be looking for alternative interventions. The final choice of treatment should be the result of discussion between the health visitor and the client and will depend on considerations such as availability, cost and acceptability of the intervention--this article does not, therefore, suggest a 'best option' approach. In addition, it does not address the professional and legal responsibilities of practitioners since these have been well reviewed by Darley (1995), Mantle (1997), Knape (1998) and Rankin-Box (2001).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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