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Cannabis Medicine For The Treatment of Postpartum Depression

Emily Robertson
cannabis, women, postpartum depression, pregnancy, neonatal, medical cannabis, THC, CBD, hormone changes, mom

High CBD strains are a safe option to treat depression in mothers with Postpartum Depression.

Postpartum Depression (PPD) is an insidious threat affecting a population of moms with newborns. It can strike anyone, regardless of race, economic status, or personal and community supports. Symptoms include: frequent crying, depressed mood, insomnia, difficulty bonding, loss of appetite, and overwhelming fatigue.  Women often suffer in silence because they feel ashamed that they don’t have positive feelings about motherhood. Media representations depict new mothers as happy and glowing, when in reality they’re undergoing massive body changes, total exhaustion, and incredible hormone fluctuations.

New mom sitting at table overwhelmed

Current Treatments for PPD

Doctors traditionally treat PPD in a couple of ways. Either anti-depressant pharmaceuticals, or therapy. Cannabis is a less explored option, mainly due to the stigma of a new mom “smoking weed.” This needs to be shed immediately. Cannabis is an important tool in the fight against depression and PPD. And these days, there are so many different ways to consume cannabis.

The true extent of postpartum depression is hidden as most women do not seek help from their doctor. A 2005 study suggests that a minimum of 10 to 15% of mothers suffer from PPD. These numbers likely do not match reality.

As mentioned, women who are diagnosed with PPD are often prescribed pharmaceutical and counseling interventions. While the benefits of therapy and counseling are indisputable, the side effects of antidepressants on pregnant or breastfeeding women are a concern. Some antidepressants explicitly warn against their use while women are breastfeeding or pregnant.

Sertraline, in particular, appears to increase the risk of neonatal abstinence syndrome and serotonergic over-stimulation in women who are breastfeeding. Symptoms include tremors, crying, sweating, fever, and sleep disturbances.  Considering that sertraline is the antidepressant most often given to breastfeeding mothers (because it’s unlikely to transfer to the infant), mothers may trade depression for a litany of different problems.

Breastfeeding and PPD

Studies have demonstrated that breastfeeding reduces the risk of postpartum depression, as well as increases the opportunities for bonding between mother and child. This is not always the case for mothers with PPD, adding to the anxiety and guilt surrounding the condition. The swath of studies relating to cannabis use and mothers focuses on consumption during pregnancy. The results are very different. Anecdotal reports are overwhelmingly positive for long term outcomes of these children. There are very few studies that examine the effects of cannabis consumption on milk production or how the transfer of cannabinoids to the newborn may affect his or her development.

New Mom Overwhelmed

It is clear that cannabinoids do pass into the breastmilk – both endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids. What we haven’t surmised, however, is the impact of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC. Especially on the developing infant. Since the jury is out, so to speak, we can’t recommend that nursing mothers use high THC cannabis as a treatment for PPD.

Cannabis and PPD

A safe option for all mothers is a cannabis strain high in CBD. There are numerous studies, using the animal model, that support the anti-depressive power of CBD. It is important to note that patients benefit most from a full spectrum CBD oil, not just CBD extract. This is due to something called the “Entourage Effect.” Even the presence of a small amount of THC is not a concern as CBD is an antagonist for THC, meaning that it mediates its effects.

Cannabinoids from cannabis interact with the endocannabinoid system to regulate homeostasis, emotions, inflammation, and many other aspects of well being. Even more, there are no dangerous side effects when taking cannabis medicine.

Postpartum depression needs wider awareness. What are your experiences of PPD?

Emily Robertson

Emily Robertson has been writing freelance and contract work since 2011. She has written on a variety of topics, including travel writing of North America and the growing legalized cannabis industry across the globe. Robertson has a master’s degree in literature and gender studies, and brings this through in her writing by always trying to explore different perspectives. Born and raised in southwestern Ontario, Robertson moved to Glasgow, Scotland in 2016 to undergo her doctorate in Scottish Literature. She lives in the West End with her dog, Henley.

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