Acupuncture for post natal depression

Post natal depression affects 10-15% of all new mothers[i] and typically occurs within the first 6 weeks after birth. Categorised by symptoms such as extreme sadness and lowness, an inability to cope, hopelessness and fatigue, this can be a severely debilitating situation for the whole family. It is often further complicated by the feeling of guilt and sense of burden that comes with new motherhood and the above symptoms. It can occur after the birth of a first child or after further pregnancies.

Western science is uncertain of the cause of post natal depression and treatment is often a combination of prescribed anti-depressants and talking therapies. Chinese medicine views post natal depression from a more physiological angle, noticing that the body and mind are going into a form of shut down more closely resembling shock after the draining experience of pregnancy and birth. The acupuncturist will be detailed in examining how smoothly the pregnancy progressed, how easy the birth was and how much blood was lost during. Treatment is based on nourishing and rebuilding the strength for the patient experiencing these symptoms and working strongly through later stages of pregnancy for those  worried about repetition of what happened after their last child.

Several studies have seen encouraging results for the use of acupuncture in post natal depression[ii],[iii] and is also a safe adjunct to other the other treatments above at the same time.


“Jane had recently given birth to her second baby when she was encouraged to come in by her husband. It was clear from the outset that she was struggling and it was almost impossible for her to talk about how she was feeling. Instead the consultation focussed on how Chinese medicine views post natal depression and how we go about solving it. Jane was more than happy to relay the physical details of the pregnancy and the birth. Both were hard. Struggling with nausea and fatigue throughout she had struggled to function while looking after her first child. The birth was smooth but she lost a lot of blood and continued to bleed for several weeks. Through this time she continued to feel lower and lower and more disconnected from everything. By the time Jane left her first appointment, there was noticeable improvement. The idea that this was a physical condition lifted somewhat the weight of guilt she was feeling. She received acupuncture and herbs over the next weeks weeks and made steady improvement. Both her physical strength and emotional came back hand in hand until she was back to herself again. 

On her 3rd pregnancy Jane came in during the last trimester as a preventative measure. This pregnancy had been smoother so far but she wanted to make sure she was doing everything she could. The birth was easy and the subsequent weeks she was in perfect form. There is no way to rate of validate this form of preventative approach but she was certainly glad that she came back in. “



[i] Onset Timing, Thoughts of Self-harm, and Diagnoses in Postpartum Women With Screen-Positive Depression Findings JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;70(5):490-498.

[ii] Randomized non-invasive sham-controlled pilot trial of electroacupuncture for postpartum depression  – Journal of Affective Disorders 15 December 2012, Vol.142(1):115–121,

[iii] Complementary therapies as adjuncts in the treatment of postpartum depression – journal of midwifery and women’s health vol49, 2 2004 96-104

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