When you have a baby, it is supposed to be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. But for millions of women around the world, the months after the birth of their child are among the worst they ever face as postpartum depression takes hold.
Instead of enjoying the wonderful feeling of motherhood, they feel utterly miserable, and most of them can’t figure out why.
It is only after seeking medical help do they realize that their misery has a name. After decades of ineffective prescription drugs, it appears as if taking marijuana for postpartum depression might just be a viable alternative to traditional medication.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a mood disorder associated with childbirth, and it affects men as well as women. Unfortunately, it can remain undiagnosed for a significant period. Indeed, awareness of the condition was only initially raised in the late 1980s. Since then, an array of studies have been conducted which look at the risk factors, prevalence, and successful treatment rate of the condition.
PPD is significantly different from the ‘baby blues’, which up to 80% of women experience after giving birth. There are different statistics relating to the prevalence of the condition; although it appears to be between 10% and 20%. A study by Wisner et al., published in JAMA Psychiatry in May 2013, suggested that 21.9% of women experience depression during the first postpartum year.
Other data suggests the PPD rate is 1-in-7 women during the first postpartum year. With an estimated four million live births in the U.S. each year, this data equates to approximately 570,000 PPD diagnoses. When you include miscarriages and stillborn children, the likely figure approaches one million.
If left untreated, PPD has the potential to devastate families. Although the condition impacts everyone differently, it is often debilitating enough to disrupt everyday life significantly. Women that suffer from postpartum depression realize that they ‘don’t feel right’ but are unable to put their finger on why they feel that way.
As it transpires, their pregnancy may have inadvertently led to PPD. During pregnancy, the body releases powerful hormones, and it undergoes constant changes from conception to several months after giving birth. This process leads to frequent, and often substantial, mood changes. After delivering the baby, a woman’s level of estrogen and progesterone plummet, and while some women are relatively unaffected, others experience a noticeable change in mood.
While ‘baby blues’ last for a few days immediately after birth, PPD is clinical depression, and the symptoms can linger for years if left untreated.
What Are the Symptoms of Postpartum Depression?
It is easy to mistake PPD with baby blues initially, but if the symptoms persist for longer than a couple of weeks, it’s clear that there is a problem. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of postpartum depression include:
- Excessive crying
- Major difficulties ‘connecting’ with your baby
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Sleeping too much or an inability to sleep
- Reduced interest and joy in things you used to like
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- An inability to think clearly or make decisions
- An innate sense of worthlessness
- A feeling that you’re not a fit mother
- Thoughts of death/suicide
- Severe mood swings
- Thoughts of self-harm or hurting the baby
In rare cases, women suffer from postpartum psychosis which is a more severe form of PPD. It typically develops a week after giving birth, and symptoms include:
- An inability to sleep
- Disorientation and confusion
- Actual attempts at hurting yourself or the baby
Postpartum psychosis must be tackled immediately as it is a life-threatening condition.
What Is Life with Postpartum Depression Like?
In a word, miserable. It is difficult to describe unless you have experienced it, but it’s safe to say that for people suffering from PPD, the world is a very dark and bleak place. The novel Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel offers a unique insight into the world of a woman with postpartum depression.
It says that one day you realize that your life isn’t worth living and “one morning you wake up afraid that you’re going to live.” Depression is a completely different feeling to typical sorrow or sadness because it “involves complete absence: absence of affect, absence of feeling, absence of response, absence of interest.”
When you suffer from PPD, your mind is constantly filled with dark negative thoughts, and your behavior affects everyone around you. Family and friends are unable to communicate with you, and the baby doesn’t receive the love of its mother. In basic terms, PPD ruins your life.
Conventional (Non-Marijuana) Remedies for Postpartum Depression
This process involves talking about your experiences with a trained psychologist or psychiatrist. You use therapy to find better ways to cope with how you feel and learn how to respond to situations positively.
The most commonly prescribed antidepressants include Paxil, Zoloft, and Luvox but it is possible that some SSRIs will pass to your baby via breast milk which is obviously a problem if you’re breastfeeding. As a result, your baby could suffer from the following symptoms:
- Watery stools
- Excessive crying
- Difficulties sleeping
- Loss of appetite
As mentioned above, postpartum psychosis is serious and requires immediate treatment; preferably in a hospital setting. Treatment could include medication such as benzodiazepines and mood stabilizers.
Alternatively, you may undergo Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). This procedure involves passing small electrical currents through the brain; an act that triggers a brief seizure.
ECT can cause brain chemistry changes and possibly reduce the symptoms of depression and psychosis. However, ECT could also cause confusion, memory loss, high blood pressure, headaches, or muscle aches.
In recent years, research into marijuana’s effects on depression has yielded some promising results.
Medical Research on Marijuana for Postpartum Depression
Marijuana is already well known for its antidepressant effects, but obviously, new mothers must steer clear of any strain with high levels of THC. CBD has already shown real potential as an antipsychotic, antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication. It also doesn’t provide the psychoactive high associated with THC.
When a woman’s progesterone and estrogen levels fall after giving birth, the new mother can experience mood swings akin to what happens during their periods. Low estrogen levels also mean low levels of anandamide, the so-called ‘bliss molecule.’ Anandamide is an endocannabinoid that helps regulate appetite and mood, but new moms often have insufficient levels of it.
THC shares a chemical structure that’s almost identical to that of anandamide, and it also interacts with the same receptors in the body. CBD helps prevent the breakdown of natural anandamide in our bodies. As a result, while a CBD marijuana strain can be effective and not provide a high, a combination of CBD and THC may work best for postpartum depression.
A study by de Mello Schier et al., published in CNS & Neurological Disorders in 2014, found that CBD had anxiolytic and antidepressant effects. A 2018 study by Sales et al., published in Molecular Neurobiology, also found that CBD induces ‘rapid and sustained antidepressant-like effects.’
5 Best Marijuana Strains for Postpartum Depression
1 – Charlotte’s Web (The Famous Marijuana Strain)
This strain gained international fame when it was used to successfully treat Charlotte Figi, a young girl who had Dravet’s Syndrome. It is a cultivar strain developed by the Stanley Brothers in Colorado. It is a slightly sativa-dominant strain by all accounts, and its CBD content is up to 17%, against a THC level of between 0.1% and 1%.
The minimal THC content means you should not feel any intoxicating effects whatsoever. This is one of the many reasons why Charlotte’s Web is considered safe for children. It has mainly physical effects, and users report feeling more relaxed after using it. Typically, you can expect to feel a happy and focused effect and may experience a boost in energy.
Charlotte’s Web has among the highest levels of CBD of any marijuana strain and is often used to treat epilepsy. However, as it tends to improve a person’s mood, it could be the ideal option when treating postpartum depression. CW is also used to treat headaches, fibromyalgia, anxiety, and stress.
2 – Cannatonic (A Marijuana Strain for Your Spirits)
Cannatonic is a high CBD/relatively low THC masterpiece that’s a cross of G13 Haze and MK Ultra. It is a balanced hybrid specially engineered for medical marijuana patients looking to treat their conditions without getting stoned. While its THC content is reasonable at between 7% and 15%, the 12% CBD helps counteract the intoxicating effects.
One of the downsides of Cannatonic is that its high doesn’t last as long as other strains. However, the mellow high offers a pleasant experience that helps you feel more optimistic. Some users report feeling as if they are floating on a cloud of happiness. Fortunately, the Cannatonic high doesn’t space you out; instead, you retain a feeling of clear-headedness that enables you to complete your daily tasks.
Cannatonic is one of the world’s most popular medical marijuana strains. As well as lifting the mood of people with PPD, this strain could reduce the impact of chronic pain if you have a condition such as cerebral palsy. Cannatonic has also been praised for its apparent anti-inflammatory effects which can help with joint pain.
3 – ACDC (Packed with CBD Goodness)
This strain is a multiple Cannabis Cup winner and is a phenotype of Cannatonic selected by Dr. William Courtney. He received a packet of seeds from Resin Seeds and created ACDC, an exceptional CBD-rich strain with a CBD to THC ratio of between 20:1 and 30:1 depending on who you listen to. Its overall CBD content can hit as high as 24%.
While it is purported to be a balanced hybrid, ACDC tends to provide sativa-dominant effects slightly. However, rather than feeling a cerebral buzz, you’re more likely to feel full-body relaxation.
According to some users, a few tokes of this strain is all they need to regain a sense of focus.
ACDC has been hailed as an effective mood-booster, and its analgesic effects help you feel the healing process without the intoxicating high. A combination of feeling good and having a clear head means ACDC is also an excellent ‘social strain.’ Aside from treating depression, this strain is also used to treat issues such as PTSD and epilepsy.
4 – Harlequin (The Hybrid Marijuana Strain)
The Harlequin fictional character is known for wearing clothing with an odd mixture of colors. The strain of the same name is a cross of multiple parents: A Nepali Indica, and Swiss, Colombian Gold, and Thai landrace sativas. The result is an unusual marijuana strain with a THC content ranging from 7% to 15%, and a CBD content of up to 15%.
Harlequin is said to be a sativa-dominant hybrid, but its effects are not always predictable given the fact it has four parents! Generally speaking, Harlequin is an excellent strain when you are looking to release some pent-up mental energy. It is known as one of the most relaxing marijuana strains on the market, yet it still keeps you focused.
Most pertinently for individuals with postpartum depression, Harlequin is famed for its ability to improve your mood. As it keeps your mind clear and your body energized, this strain is the ideal way to start your day. Harlequin is also used to treat common pains and aches, such as muscle spasms.
5 – Sour Tsunami (The Sweet Marijuana Strain)
Sour Tsunami is the final strain on the list and is yet another example of combining high CBD levels with a low to moderate THC content. It is a cross of NYC Diesel and Sour Diesel and is the culmination of four years of hard work by the Southern Humboldt Seed Collective, or Lawrence Ringo to be more precise.
It is a slightly sativa-dominant strain with a THC level of 1-10% and a CBD content that usually hits 10-11%. While Sour Tsunami is not the best option for recreational users seeking an intoxicating high, it provides a nice, relaxing high with cerebral effects that cause you to feel uplifted and focused.
It is very much a marijuana strain for medicinal use, and its ability to induce happiness makes it a good option if you have PPD. Sour Tsunami’s high CBD level makes it the strain of choice for people with epilepsy keen to reduce the number of seizures they experience. You can also use this strain to treat muscle spasms and chronic pain.
Find out how you can have CBD delivered to your doorstep (all states) and how it helps depression…
Final Thoughts About Marijuana and Postpartum Depression
For far too long, women have suffered from postpartum depression in silence. It is a genuinely debilitating, and in some cases dangerous, condition which is capable of tearing families apart. Conventional medication doesn’t work as often as it should, but an increasing number of new mothers swear by the efficacy of marijuana to treat their postpartum depression. It can improve your mood and keep you calm without negatively impacting your ability to be a mother to your child.