Red Light Therapy Bests Drugs for Postnatal Blues

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For 1 in 7 new mothers, what should be joy can turn to darkness. But a new dawn is breaking...

Postnatal depression (PND) afflicts up to 15% of new mothers, bringing feelings of sadness, anxiety, fatigue, and making it difficult to care for a newborn.1 Current standard treatments like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can have concerning side effects like nausea, weight gain, sleep problems, and reduced libido,2 as well as more serious effects like increased suicidal ideation.3 Further, SSRIs transfer into breast milk and impact nursing infants.4 However, a new approach using red light therapy is showing dramatic benefits for PND, without risks to mom or baby. 

recent study found 73% of women had remission of PND symptoms after 6 weeks of morning bright light therapy, compared to only 27% improvement with a placebo.5 The light therapy's 73% remission rate significantly outpaced typical SSRI response rates below 60%.6 Remission was sustained over 12 months postpartum, allowing normal maternal-infant bonding critical for child development. Unlike SSRIs that transfer into breastmilk, light therapy has no systemic effects, only working when the light box is on. 

Light therapy capitalizes on the circadian system's influence on mood.5 By realigning the circadian rhythm disrupted by pregnancy and newborn care using timed bright light exposure, symptoms of PND rapidly improve. Given the ease of use, lack of side effects, and superior efficacy, light therapy should be considered a first-line PND treatment, either alone or combined with other natural antidepressive agents such as saffron. If this level of efficacy is replicated in larger trials, light therapy could revolutionize PND management. New mothers deserve access to the safest, most effective care to nurture their own wellbeing along with their child's.

For more research on the therapeutic value of Red Light therapy, visit our database on the subject.

For more natural approaches to postnatal depression, visit our database on the subject. You can also visit our much larger database on natural ways to address Depression here.

For information on the dangers of SSRIs, visit our database on the subject.


References

1. O'Hara MW, McCabe JE. Postpartum depression: current status and future directions. Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2013;9:379-407.

2. Betts, K. S. (2013). SSRI side effects outweigh benefits for pregnant women. Environmental health perspectives, 121(11-12), A326.

3. Fergusson D, Doucette S, Glass KC, Shapiro S, Healy D, Hebert P, Hutton B. Association between suicide attempts and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors: systematic review of randomised controlled trials. BMJ. 2005 Feb 19;330(7488):396.

4. Orsolini L, Bellantuono C. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors and breastfeeding: a systematic review. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2015 Jul;30(1):4-20.

5. Garbazza C, Cirignotta F, D'Agostino A, et al. Sustained remission from perinatal depression after bright light therapy: A pilot randomised, placebo-controlled trialActa Psychiatr Scand. 2022;146(4):350‐356.

6. Thase ME. Achieving remission and managing relapse in depression. J Clin Psychiatry. 2003;64 Suppl 18:3-7.

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