Postpartum depression affects more than half a million women in the United States, as the realities of motherhood sometimes become too much. But it appears that CBD, the wildly popular non-intoxicating cannabinoid, could be the solution to the baby blues.
Eye-opening stats from a study carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2004 and 2005 found that America has something of a postpartum depression epidemic. The self-reporting study concentrated in mothers on 17 states to determine the scale of the postpartum depression (PPD) problem. The results revealed that around one in seven new mothers were experiencing or had experienced PPD, and that the mood disorder was most prevalent among young mothers, low-educated mothers, those in poor financial situations and mothers subjected to “partner-related stress or physical abuse.”
Extrapolating from these numbers, Postpartum Progress determined that 600,000 American women were suffering from PPD, and the number could be even higher, since study participants had to self-report their symptoms. Furthermore, those experiencing PPD from miscarriages or stillborn births were not taken into consideration, and nor were mothers who symptoms related more closely to postpartum anxiety than PPD.
On its own, depression can be extremely tough to beat, and with the added weight of a new-born baby on a mother’s shoulders, doing so can become even more difficult. The CDC listed a few symptoms associated with PPD. They include feelings of guilt in terms of “not being a good mom” or “doubting your ability to care for your baby.” Feelings of numbness and disconnect from the baby are also not uncommon. Concerningly, according to Postpartum Progress, 85% of PPD sufferers do not get professional treatment, not dissimilar to those with regular depression.
Ideally, somebody with PPD will seek out professional treatment, in the form of therapy and perhaps psychotropic medication. While there’s no comparable alternative, for many new mothers, CBD oil is proving a saving grace.
The research is admittedly very limited, and we are unsure about whether there are any adverse effects to breastfeeding mothers using marijuana. However, from the studies that are available, there’s no evidence to suggest neonatal risk is increased by exposure to cannabinoids – although with no research dedicated to this issue, take that finding with a pinch of salt.
Interestingly, however, breastmilk is packed with lots of natural, helpful endocannabinoids. But whether this balance should be offset by phytocannabinoids is another matter.
Breastfeeding mothers with PPD are in a tricky situation. While the theoretical risks of using cannabinoids are enough to put them off trying, the very act of breastfeeding can be hard enough as it is for a mother with PPD, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. There’s a chance that cannabis oils could bring mothers out of their depression and enable them to breastfeed with confidence, yet the question remains of whether a baby should be introduced to any cannabinoids, even if they’re non-psychoactive like CBD.
Take breastfeeding and its benefits out of the equation, PPD can seriously inhibit a mother’s ability to form that crucial early attachment to their child. With that in mind, anything that can help reduce the problems brought about by PPD should be given a fair hearing. Switching from breastfed milk to formulated milk and treating PPD with CBD oil is preferable to struggling on with the condition and not building that vital bond. However, for some mothers, breastfeeding is non-negotiable, and that’s perfectly fine too – there’s no specific blueprint for parenting.
THC is possibly not the most suitable cannabinoid for dealing with depression, as it can induce paranoia and anxiety in some users – the psychoactive cannabinoid stifles and blocks GABA, a calming neurotransmitter. Contrastingly, CBD promotes GABA and helps increase the number of transmissions in the brain.
CBD also helps to boost serotonin, a neurotransmitter that has links to depression. A 2014 study from the Federal University of Rio De Janeiro found that CBD has both anti-depressant and anti-anxiety (anxiolytic) properties when used on animal models, and more recent clinical human trials are confirming these findings.
Cannabis activists, and particularly those in medical spheres, often talk up the advantages of whole-plant medicine, thanks to the entourage effect. However, the postpartum depression scenario is perhaps a rare one that favors isolated CBD oil, over cannabis oil infused with other cannabinoids and terpenes. Our understanding of CBD is much greater than most cannabinoids (e.g. CBN, CBG and CBC), meaning mothers can administer it with more confidence.
Many PPD-suffering mothers, and especially those who have high anxiety levels too, have reported that CBD oil helps to make them more mellow and relaxed around their children. The pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory traits of this natural treatment are a bonus.
Young mothers afflicted with PPD and/or postpartum anxiety should definitely consult their doctor before attempting to self-medicate. For many mental health disorders, talking can be the best therapy. But for mothers frustrated with prescription medication – and mothers who are only prepared to consider natural solutions – CBD oil may be just the ticket to make motherhood the joy it should be.