Medical Minute: Depressed Moms

Many nursing mothers are understandably cautious about the drugs they take, but new research suggests they don't need to refrain from taking certain anti-depressants. In fact, one researcher at UCLA says it may be better for the baby than the alternative.

Amy Vansickel is such a happy mom it's hard to believe she was clinically depressed after son Zuma and daughter Venice were born.

"I would walk around for hours, wringing my hands, my head down and just sobbing for hours. And, I used to go in my garden and ask God to take me because it was so unbearable," says Amy.

She turned to postpartum depression specialist Victoria Hendrick for help. Dr. Hendrick's research shows nursing infants of untreated depressed mothers seem to weight less at six months.

"Infants of mothers who were depressed for a prolonged period of time, two months or more, weight a lot less than infants of the mothers who were not depressed," says Dr. Aruna Ramanan.

Amy took anti-depressants for her depression after both children were born. She breastfed her kids, and the drugs appeared to have no effect on their growth. Dr. Hendrick says untreated depression in mom might leave a child undernourished.

"Depression has been linked with a reduced tendency to breastfeed, with women not breastfeeding as avidly as if they're not depressed."

Dr. Aruna Ramanan agrees anti-depressants for breastfeeding moms are o.k.

"It is quite safe for the mom to take these medicines, and yet breastfeed. We, however, do need to warn the mother that these drugs have a long half-life, so they stay in her body for a long time."

Dr. Hendrick urges new moms to seek treatment for depression. Amy agrees.

"It's not something that you can just mentally think away, or pray away, or wish away."

For more information, contact:

Joni Zuckerbrow-Miller

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