Post-natal Depression in Chinese Medicine
Surprisingly, the condition of post-natal depression is not mentioned in modern Chinese books and the discussion of it in this chapter draws primarily on old gynecology and obstetrics books. The pathology of post-natal depression in Chinese medicine revolves around Blood: the exertion and loss of blood occurring at childbirth induce a state of Blood deficiency; since the Heart houses the Mind and governs Blood, Heart-Blood becomes deficient, the Mind has no residence and it becomes depressed and anxious.
- Mild anxiety
- Inability to cope
- Loss of libido
- Anger or guilt
From Blood deficiency, other conditions may develop: after some time, and in women who have a predisposition to Yin deficiency, Blood deficiency may give rise to Yin deficiency and Empty-Heat. This would cause a more severe condition of depression with more intense anxiety, insomnia, mental restlessness and agitation. Conditions of neurotic, obsessive, phobic or psychotic behavior after childbirth are usually due to stagnant Blood harassing the Mind (rather than the more common Phlegm-Heat). In such cases, the woman is not only depressed but also confused, she may display obsessive behavior or phobias and, in extreme cases, she may manifest psychotic behavior. She may be aggressive and offensive, she may have hallucinations and delusions and she may display suicidal tendencies and even harbor destructive thoughts against her baby.
- Severe blood loss during childbirth
- Deficiency of Blood and Yin
- Pre-existing disharmonies (e.g. Phlegm obstruction)
Of course, every woman suffering from post-natal depression will present with pre-existing disharmonies which will play a role in the pathology of this condition. In old China, there were various conditions describing the above situations.
- Nourish Blood and Yin
- Resolve Phlegm and Blood stasis
- Calm the Mind
Herbal formulas and acupuncture are commonly used in the treatment of post-natal depression in Chinese medicine.