Cannabis & Post-Partum Depression

The majority of studies suggest that postpartum depression (PPD) affects around 15 percent of all new mothers at some point following a pregnancy. That number may be close to reality, but there are plenty of pediatricians, obstetricians and family doctors who will swear that PPD is much more common than 1 out of 6. In either case, there are a whole lot of new and experienced mothers who are looking for relief from their symptoms. These can run the gamut from depression and anxiety to mood swings, insomnia, loss of appetite and difficulty bonding with your child. 

Like so many other medical problems today, PPD treatment has fallen into a somewhat alarming mainstream trend. In the majority of cases, mothers who are struggling with symptoms of PPD are given SSRIs and other powerful psychiatric drugs as a first-line measure. For a growing number of women, this is an option that is neither effective nor palatable. Many are choosing to turn to medicinal cannabis and CBD as an alternative to antidepressants, but what does the science have to tell us about that? 

There is certainly a lack of statistical data when it comes to trying to determine the utility of cannabis as a direct treatment for PPD, but that is the case for much of the medical literature on marijuana. Because cannabis enjoyed a place as a Schedule 1 drug for so long, we are only just starting to realize its full potential in the medical community. 

The good news here is that cannabis has already been shown to treat a number of the broad symptoms that come along with PPD. Take for example insomnia. Having trouble sleeping is 

Cannabis and Postpartum Depression 

one of the calling cards of PPD, and a symptom that can bleed into many others like anxiety and a reduction in appetite. 

A 2019 study published in The Permanente Journal showed remarkable improvement in anxious sleepers through the use of CBD. In a field of 72 adults anxiety scores decreased within the first month in 79 percent of patients, while sleep scores improved in the first month for 66.7 percent of patients. There is a similar wealth of evidence that cannabis and CBD are effective as broad treatments for general anxiety as well as appetite suppression—two other key contributors to PPD. 

When it comes to depression and anxiety, research being conducted at The University of New York at Buffalo shows that animals undergoing chronic stress show a lack of endocannabinoids, which are important neurotransmitters. Endocannabinnoids play a vital role in regulating many of the body’s functions that often become upset during PPD. New mothers often have difficulty when it comes to their inherent stress response system, worrying constantly about their child when there is no cause for alarm. Cannabis has been shown to combat this problem in a variety of patients, especially those suffering from PTSD. It stands to reason that it would also aid the anxiety that can follow after a pregnancy. 

As a note of caution, it is not recommended by the medical community that mothers use cannabis while they are still breastfeeding because of complications that can occur. If you are seeking relief from PPD symptoms and are considering CBD or cannabis, consult with your physician before making any decisions to ensure the health and wellbeing of both you and your child.