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Cannabis and anything to do with children has been considered an incredibly bad idea for a long time. The widely held (and wildly inaccurate) beliefs about cannabis, that it causes madness, delinquency, and corruption, have thankfully been debunked in favour of actual facts. Medical cannabis is one of the most tolerable drugs available. Finally it seems people are starting to realize that. Suggest using cannabis to help treat postpartum depression symptoms, however, and be prepared for some horrified looks.
Obviously, using illegal drugs at the same time as being a parent is not advisable. A spell in prison for possession is not the way to build positive relationships with your children, partner, or anyone. However, in states where it is legal, the use of cannabis to treat mental health conditions like postpartum depression (PPD) is becoming more accepted.
PPD itself, however, is still largely misunderstood. Many people continue to dismiss the signs of postpartum depression as a simple case of the baby blues. During and after pregnancy, there is a massive drop in the levels of some hormones in a woman’s body. This is normal and to be expected.
However, roughly 10% to 20% of women develop the symptoms of postpartum depression in the days, weeks and months after giving birth. This is when family and friends usually suspect something is wrong. This is much more serious than the typical baby blues.
PPD symptoms include:
Mood disorders like postpartum depression vary in severity and have different symptoms for different people and at different times. Postpartum depression symptoms can be made worse by the sleep deprivation that comes from having a small, demanding new human in the house. If you are feeling any of these symptoms, please call your doctor. PPD is treatable, but if left untreated it can have very severe consequences. It can even lead to postpartum psychosis.
Treating Postpartum Depression Symptoms
There are two main ways of treating PPD: talking therapies and medications. Most people find that a combination of talk therapy and medications is effective. Support groups are popular and are successful for some people who experience postpartum depression. Sharing feelings and thoughts of inadequacy, fear, uncertainty, and even a lack of interest in their new baby can encourage mothers to confront the fears and find ways of getting through the difficult times in the best way for them and their baby. Online blogs and forums like Postpartum Progress are popular and full of good advice and support.
Some men do suffer from postpartum depression, or demonstrate postpartum depression symptoms. The reasons for this are not well understood, it seems to be some kind of sympathetic hormone alignment. Regardless of cause, it is being recognized more and the amount of support for men after birth is increasing.
A range of antidepressants have been approved for use for breastfeeding women. These are relatively safe. However, many new mothers are still very concerned about the impact that antidepressant medication can have on their baby, who is receiving a small dose through the mother’s breast milk. The science proving their safety is robust, but many people will not want to take a chance if they are breastfeeding.
The aforementioned concerns with antidepressant medications and breast milk carry over to cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are chemicals the body generates naturally and they are highly tolerable to most people. Cannabinoids are also found in cannabis and medical cannabis products. There is a concern with exposing a baby to them during breastfeeding. It is known that smoking cannabis during pregnancy has some irreversible and negative effects on the development of the baby, so it is recommended that the mother desist from using cannabis during and after pregnancy.
The real concern is the lack of good data. Nobody has properly studied the use of cannabis as an antidepressant during this phase of life. In the complete absence of good scientific data, new parents should avoid the use of cannabis when the baby is breastfeeding.
If the child is not breastfeeding, the risks are understandably lower. The mother might have used cannabis effectively for depression before and wants to use it again. Because there is no transmission via breast milk of these drugs, the baby is extremely unlikely to be exposed to the potentially harmful cannabinoids. The risk of harm is not quantified, there is no data, so the safest thing to do is to assume harm until there are more data with which to make a decision. But of course the decision lies with the mother.
Your doctor might make a different assessment of risk. If cannabis can be consumed safely for the relief of PPD or postpartum anxiety symptoms and it is more tolerable than the alternatives, then it might prove to be the best route to effective treatment. They will balance the risks with you to help make the best decision for you.
Postpartum depression is a serious condition that needs careful, attentive care for the mother to recover and provide the best care for her baby. Using untested drugs at this time would be irresponsible.