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Natural Antidepressants

By Drs. Rick and Jan Hanson

(page 2 of 2)

So a smart first step is often to try some or all of these research-proven natural antidepressants:

  • A good multivitamin/multimineral supplement that entails four to six pills a day - Deficiencies in many nutrients will lower your mood, and bearing and rearing children is inherently depleting, so you have to keep refilling your tank.

  • B-vitamin complex - One a day. Make sure it contains 800 micrograms of folic acid.

  • B-12 - Take one a day sublingually (under the tongue)

  • Omega-3 essential fatty acids (the "good fats" in fish oil) - Make sure they are "molecularly distilled" and take enough to get 500 mg/day of DHA (see the label)

  • Calcium and Magnesium - Each day, take 1000 to 1500 milligrams of calcium and 400 milligrams of magnesium.

  • Taurine - This amino acid helps soothe frazzled nerves (among other good things), but it is drained out of your body during both pregnancy and breastfeeding. Take 500 milligrams a day.

Basically, every mother should take the nutrients above each day. Additionally, you could try:

  • 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) - The body builds serotonin - a key neurotransmitter regulating mood - from the amino acid, tryptophan, and the next-to-last step is 5-HTP. You can get this supplement in any health food store, and it has good research support for mild depression in adults. Different people benefit from different dosages and timing. Experiment with 25 - 150 mg./day, taken in the morning or evening or spread throughout the day. Start with a low dose, don't go past 200 mg./day unless you're working with a licensed health professional familiar with 5-HTP, and cut back if you start feeling drowsy or get nightmares.

You should also consider three, simple, standard medical lab tests:

  • Iron - Probably at least one in ten mothers has a mood-related anemia

  • Thyroid - This "master hormone" is frequently disturbed during pregnancy, a major source of postpartum depression and anxiety.

  • Homocysteine - Besides being a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, high levels of this substance indicate a need for more B-vitamins, particularly B-12 and folic acid.

Honestly, this package of foundational mental health combined with serious nutritional support will lift most mothers' mood within a few weeks. And if it's just not enough, definitely talk with your physician about what else you might do. With everything that's known these days, there's just no reason for your baseline mood to be bad. Stick with it, don't let anyone talk you out of being good to yourself (including your own thoughts!), and YOU WILL FEEL BETTER.

* * *

Rick Hanson, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, Jan Hanson, M.S., L.Ac., is an acupuncturist/nutritionist, and they are raising a daughter and son, ages 16 and 19. With Ricki Pollycove, M.D., they are the first and second authors of Mother Nurture: A Motherís Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships, published by Penguin. You can see their website at or email them with questions or comments at; unfortunately, a personal reply may not always be possible.

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