Ask The Doula: Treating Anxiety and Depression During Pregnancy

Dear Jen,

I have been taking both 5-HTP and L-lysine for about 6 months as an alternative to conventional meds for anxiety/OCD. Also, low serotonin. They have worked REALLY well with no side effects and I have been thrilled and felt better the past 6 months than I have in a long time. However, based on what I read, I didn’t gather that they were totally safe during pregnancy. We just started trying for a baby this month but obviously I don’t want to continue taking anything that isn’t safe for a newly developing fetus. But I’m nervous to go off of it b/c I don’t want to end the “feeling stable” streak. Do you have thoughts, comments, or concerns involving 5-HTP or L-Lysine during pregnancy?If you had suggestions for safer alternatives, that would be awesome! 

-S

Dear S,

Great question! To be honest, for me to deem 5-HTP and L-lysine”safe” or “unsafe” in pregnancy would be going a bit beyond my scope. Even the FDA refuses to determine that, because testing on fetuses is not OK! So, if you’re used to taking them, but might become pregnant, you might want to slowly make the move to other options.

For the symptoms you mentioned, what I can do is offer some safer ideas of things you can ‘do,’ rather than ‘take.’ Ideally, the goal is to help your body to start producing the ‘feel good hormones’ on its own, and one (or all) of these actions could really help:

1) Vary your exercise. There are only guesses as to why, but changing the way you move your body can have a big effect on changing the way you think and feel. So if you usually do something that is very repetitive (such as running), be sure add activities like dancing and yoga to your exercise regimen, like maybe one of each, once a week.

2) Early morning walks (before or during sunrise) are regarded as the cure to depression in Chinese medicine. Again, who knows why it works, but I imagine it has something to do with increased Serotonin from being out in that particular type of light. (Not to mention it’s beautiful, quiet, smells good, and reminds you of your own place in this amazing world we live in. Remembering our part in the ‘big picture’ can play a huge part in keeping our worries in perspective!)

3) Consider talking to someone. A wise friend once told me that there’s no shame in seeking counseling, because everyone can benefit from it–not just those who have been ‘through’ something. I’ve seen that it’s pretty common for young/expectant moms to really start thinking through their own childhood, and feel pressure from themselves to be the perfect mother for their own children. Talking to a family therapist either alone or with your spouse can really help with figuring out what your real goals should be with regard to raising your family (since nobody can be perfect, obviously).

I’m also a huge fan of SPLANKNA therapy, which is a method of therapy used by real, licensed practitioners that is different from traditional ‘talk therapy.’ It is heavy in the use of prayer for releasing issues that end up stored in the body. As a proponent of the holistic model of health, I can vouch for the validity of SPLANKNA philosophy. And as someone who has received SPLANKNA therapy following the traumatic loss of a loved one, I can also vouch for its efficacy. Taking the focus away from healing yourself, and instead getting you in touch with God to figure out what the deal is–and getting it healed–is absolutely where it’s at, in my opinion. Still, “talk” therapies may also be helpful.

4) Orange, ylang ylang, lavender, and sandalwood essential oils are all helpful for your specific symptoms. I would buy each of them and create the following blend (this can get a little pricey, but it will last you longer than the pre-blends):

5 drops sandalwood (grounding and connecting to higher power); 3 drops ylang ylang (balancing and uplifting); 2 drops lavender (balancing and calming); 4 drops orange (mood enhancing, positivity).

Mix with grapeseed or apricot oil in a small dropper bottle (available at health foods stores) and add a few drops to your wrists (or the bottoms of your feet if you don’t like the smell). Or, if you’re not into mixing your own, I’ve determined that doTerra has high-quality products, many of which are pre-blended roll-on oils designed to be used to treat specific things like anxiety, depression, or even obsessiveness.

5) I’m not qualified to get into homeopathic remedies for this level of cure, but you could also consider seeking out a naturopath (make sure they hold a degree from a school like Bastyr). They could give suggestions after doing a more complete workup on you. It would probably  cost around $100 for the appointment, but I think you could find it very helpful and insightful. And of course, consult your doctor or midwife, as well.

I’m proud of you for reaching out and asking these questions; it’s hard to allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to get the answers you need sometimes. So give yourself a hug from me, because you are on the right track! May you find a cure that you–and your baby–can live with.

Love,

Jen

 

Jennifer DeBrito, CCLD, CCBE is a doula and birth educator in Colorado Springs. She is the author of Expectant Parents Workshop: Devotional and the owner of Eden’s Promise, LLC. In addition to coaching expectant parents toward a Christ-centered childbirth experience, she also specializes in prenatal and postpartum wellness coaching. To learn more about Jennifer, go to www.EdensPromiseLLC.com.

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