5% of pregnant women suffer from major depression, which may
lead to health risks for the mother and developmental problems
in the child. The safety of antidepressant use during pregnancy
is uncertain, which has prompted searches for alternative
treatments. Preliminary studies on daily bright-light exposure
have shown it may successfully treat depression during pregnancy.
Morning bright-light therapy was self-administered by pregnant
women suffering from major depression. The subjects underwent
one hour of light treatment with a white fluorescent light
approximately one foot from their faces, initiated within
10 minutes of waking, for at least three weeks. A depression
rating scale was used to evaluate depression levels in this
study from the American Journal of Psychiatry.
Following three weeks of bright-light therapy, average depression
ratings in the women improved by about 50%. For women who
were followed through five weeks of treatment, an additional
improvement to almost 60% over initial scores was observed.
Light therapy did not negatively affect pregnancies, although
two women experienced nausea as a side effect to therapy.
But withdrawal from the light treatment was linked to an increase
in depressive symptoms.
This form of treatment needs to be further investigated,
but it does suggest that there may be ways to treat depression
besides taking antidepressant drugs. In the meanwhile, do
your best to avoid taking any drugs while pregnant, perform
light exercises at least several times per week, and maintain
a healthy diet.
Oren DA, Wisner KL, Spinelli M, et al. An open trial of morning
light therapy for treatment of antepartum depression. American
Journal of Psychiatry 2002:159(4), pp. 666-669.
For more information on women's health, go to http://www.chiroweb.com/find/tellmeabout/women.html.