Once I started on medication, I felt much better. Therapy was going well, I was learning tools to keep myself feeling better, and I was taking good care of myself. I started to wonder if I really needed the medication at all. As a result of my hospital experience, I was not enthusiastic about doctors or medication. I have always been interested in natural health, and I started to research alternative methods of dealing with postpartum depression.
One website that I had discovered over the first year in dealing with PPD was Mothering.com. Mothering also used to be a magazine, but they have switched completely to an online format. There is a forum section that has open discussions on everything from finding a pediatrician or food co-op in your area to vaccines, postpartum depression and PTSD, to pets and poetry. I found the mental health forum to be very helpful.
It was here that I started researching alternative ways to deal with depression. Fish oil was something that I discovered very early on, and started taking right away, with the blessing of my doctor even while I was taking the zoloft. I noticed a big difference in my ability to deal with stress after taking the fish oil. I started with 1000 mg a day, and slowly went up to 2000. I stopped there, but many people will take 3000 mg or more. Fish oil does have blood thinning effects, though, and it should not be taking close to any surgeries.
Another supplement with which I had success was vitamin B complex. Vitamin B is very helpful for any type of stress. It helps with anxiety, depression, and low energy. One has to be careful not to take it late in the day, though, or insomnia may be a problem.
Something else that anyone who is suffering from PPD should do is to get their thyroid and progesterone levels checked. Pregnancy, especially from the second pregnancy on, can deplete the thyroid. Also, pregnancy and breastfeeding have an effect on progesterone levels. This is something that should be checked as a matter of routine, even before starting antidepressants for PPD.
St. John's Wort is also a very popular supplement for depression. It should never be taken concurrently with antidepressants, though, due to the danger of something called serotonin syndrome. Too much serotonin in the body can cause problems, even death. One needs to be careful when taking drugs that increase serotonin. Only take ONE serotonin enhancing drug at a time. If taking an ssri, do not start St. John's Wort, and vice versa.
Exercise, though not really considered an "alternative" therapy, is something that increases overall wellbeing, energy, and mood. Regular physical activity is an effective weapon against depression. The problem with it is that someone who is depressed often does not have the motivation to get themselves moving. This is why the "light in the room" effect of medication is so helpful for many people.
Acupuncture is another alternative that many women choose, and it has been proven to be helpful in some cases. The thinking with acupuncture being that it opens up energy pathways in the body and brain, allowing life energy to flow more easily and the person is able to function better. I did try acupuncture, and I was amazed at the effect on my energy level after treatment.
Reiki is a form of energy healing that is also very effective, based on my personal experience. In Reiki, the practitioner uses their hands to bring good energy to the patient, feeling for places that need a change of energy and allowing positive healing energy to flow through them, in to the patient. I have had several Reiki sessions and found them to be very beneficial. There have been studies done in hospital settings that show that surgery patients heal better when Reiki is included as part of their recovery.
There is also a form of Yoga, called Life Force Yoga, that is proven to help with mild to moderate depression, anxiety, and perimenopausal mood changes. I have included a link on the Helpful Links page to a practitioner of Life Force Yoga in the Chicagoland area. Yoga appeals to me for so many reasons, and it has been something I have used in my recovery from PPD as well as for overall wellness.