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Anti-Depressants and TTC: Is It Time to Go Off Your Meds?

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a blog by Beth and Tami of Pulling Down the Moon, Mar. 9, 2010

This month, a study released in the Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology revealed acupuncture may be useful in treating depression in pregnant women. Depressed pregnant women have a higher incidence of postpartum depression and their children have been shown to have poorer cognitive and emotional development. Additionally, there may also be a link between depression and lower birth weight in babies. These are some of the reasons why appropriate mental health treatment cannot be overlooked during the TTC period.

We are often asked about holistic therapies that might help women get off their anti-depressants while they are trying to conceive or once they achieve pregnancy. Many patients express concern about birth defects or that medications will potentially inhibit their ability to conceive or carry to term. On the male side, patients have read studies that suggest SSRI anti-depressants can decrease erectile function and ejaculation and may cause a major increase in genetic damage to sperm. For those couples experiencing anxiety over the anti-depressant meds/TTC dilemma, this new study offers patients a compelling option.

If you are thinking about quitting your anti-depressants and are interested in moving toward acupuncture to help treat your symptoms of anxiety or depression, we recommend you follow this basic primer:

Treating Depression With Acupuncture While You're TTC

    1. Talk to Your Doctor

    First -- and most importantly -- make sure you speak to your doctor or mental health provider regarding your interest in quitting medication and moving toward holistic options. Your doctor may have very specific reasons why you need to stay on your medication so make sure you listen to his or her recommendations.

    2. Do Your Homework in Finding a Practitioner

    If you are given the green light by your health care provider to go off your meds, do your research and find an acupuncturist who has extensive experience in treating both infertility and depression and one who is willing to have a regular dialogue with your doctor on your progress. You might start the process by asking friends, or your doctor for a referral. You can also visit for a listing of licensed providers.

    3. Integrate Your Care

    Our philosophy is, “You can hop on one leg to get to your destination or you can run on two.” Make sure your doctor and your acupuncturist are talking to each other. You should explain to both providers your desire to have an open line of communication regarding your treatment and to help you identify any issues or work through bumps in the road that may surface. We can’t emphasize enough the importance of working as a team through this process and truly integrating your care. Ultimately, we believe, it will help you decide how best to manage your own course of treatment and allow you to feel as though you are getting closer to your final destination of a healthy mind and body in preparation for pregnancy. If your acupuncturist isn’t open to talking to your medical doctor or vice versa, find another provider.

    4. Commit to the Process

    Our experience is that acupuncture and any natural healing takes time. While some patients may see immediate results, others may see gradual improvements over time. Starting and stopping acupuncture or giving up after a week or two should not be an option. Decide whether or not you truly want to use holistic therapies in treating your depression and then commit to a course of treatment specifically planned out for you by both your medical doctor and your acupuncturist. In most cases, your acupuncturist will want to see you at least once if not twice weekly for eight to 12 weeks. Here's more info and FAQ’s regarding acupuncture and fertility.

    5. To Herb or Not to Herb

    If a patient is simultaneously undergoing medical fertility treatment, we do not recommend any herbal supplements be taken as there is not sufficient information to determine how the herbs might interact with fertility medication. On the other hand, if you are not taking fertility medication and your acupuncturist thinks herbs might be an appropriate course of treatment once you are off your anti-depressants, you might want to consider it. Traditional Chinese Medicine and herbs to treat physical and emotional imbalances have been around for centuries and can achieve excellent results when used appropriately and under the supervision of a trained and licensed provider.

    6. Supplement Your Treatment

    It is wise to supplement your acupuncture with other forms of stress and anxiety reducing therapies such as yoga, meditation or a regular support group.

    7. Get Your Partner In Too

    If you have unexplained infertility, recurrent miscarriage or a partner who is also on anti-depressants, get them into acupuncture treatment too!

We believe most people who commit to a regular protocol of acupuncture and holistic therapies will see great results in treating their depression.

Remember, though, individual results may vary and it may not work for you. Don’t feel as though you are a failure if it doesn’t work. Be honest with yourself and ask a loved one for their trusted opinion on your progress. Going back to your anti-depressants might be the best and smartest thing you can do for yourself, your family and your peace of mind. We’re pretty confident, however, that you won’t be sorry you tried and you just might be wowed by the power of traditional/natural healing in the process.

Be present, be positive, be peaceful,
Tami Quinn

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