postpartum pyschosis

Acupuncture for Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

A Question & Answer with Holly Crafts Colasanti, The Motherhood Center's Pregnancy and Postpartum Acupuncturist

Acupuncture has been used to address illnesses for over three thousand years. But the western world has only recently discovered and used acupuncture as a tool to promote and restore a healthy self-care routine; and for many great reasons, acupuncture has evolved into being known as one of the best alternative medicinal treatments in the world.

Since its creation, ancient Chinese acupuncture has revolved around Qi, an internal energy force that can regulate your body’s balance and energy. When factors like a stressful commute or family fight disrupt your body’s Qi, it is said to create anxiety, disease, and pain offsetting the body’s median.

In today’s society, our bodies are in a constant fight or flight response. Acupuncture can help relieve that tension and anxiety our bodies feel,

says Holly Crafts Colasanti, a New York City Acupuncturist and mother of two. Here, at The Motherhood Center, we believe acupuncture can be a wonderful addition to any new or expecting mother’s self-care routine. Below is our interview with Holly Crafts, TMC’s perinatal acupuncturist:

What type of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders does acupuncture help manage?

Acupuncture helps manage several symptoms, but the most common are: anxiety; depression; OCD/ruminative thinking; PTSD; panic disorders and general stress.

From a scientific perspective, how does acupuncture work?

Depending on which body points are targeted and where the needles are inserted, acupuncture can,

  1.   cause the nervous system to produce painkilling chemicals, or neurotransmitters;

  2. jump-start the body’s natural ability to heal itself by resetting the nervous system from its fight or flight activation to rest and digest setting;

  3. and/or stimulate the part of the brain that releases feel-good hormones and controls emotions, including depression and anxiety.

Is acupuncture safe for women while pregnant?

Yes, it is absolutely safe for pregnant women!

If so, does it also treat the baby- as well as the mother?

There’s an old saying in Chinese medicine,

treat the mother, treat the child,

which is to suggest that what is beneficial for the mom, is also beneficial for the baby. Because, acupuncture can promote relaxation by lowering blood pressure, mitigating the release of stress hormones, and promoting healthy circulation in mothers, the same can also benefit the baby. Any good habit you adapt into your lifestyle, like sleeping, exercising, eating nutrient dense foods or getting acupuncture, is just as good for the child as it is for the mother!  

How often should a woman receive acupuncture treatment in order to see health improvements?

Although it depends on the individual, and her health history, generally, the mother should seek treatment for 4-6 weeks in order to see health improvements. This is a great way to create a healthy lifestyle habit and incorporate acupuncture into one’s overall healthy self-care routine.

Besides addressing PMADS, how else is acupuncture helpful?

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can be an invaluable part of post-labor recovery, helping with lactation promotion; stress management; pain relief; promotion of healthy digestion; improved quality of sleep; addiction, and withdrawal side effects; general immunity, including seasonal allergies; skin issues, in both mother and child; healing of tissues (incision/tearing), post-surgical and wound recovery; improving blood production; and recalibrating hormones as the body transitions from pregnancy through labor and delivery.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can also be extremely essential in: the 1st year postpartum by… reducing anxiety, helping promote calm and positive moods; improving the quality of sleep; supporting healthy thyroid & pituitary function to balance hormones; promoting a healthy appetite and digestion; easing body aches and muscle spasms, before they become chronic pain patterns (like the nursing hunch and the “baby back” low back pain); and reducing overall stress.

What is the difference between Chinese acupuncture and western acupuncture?

The essential difference between Western acupuncture or “dry needling” vs Chinese acupuncture, is that the latter is part of a larger philosophy of health, including herbal medicine, manual therapy and lifestyle modifications.

Western acupuncture, including dry needling, can be practiced by non-licensed practitioners (ie. a chiropractor or physical therapist), though this is without the training and experience of a lengthy master’s acupuncture program.

Do they both treat perinatal mood and anxiety disorders?

No, western acupuncture (dry needling) only treats musculoskeletal pain.

Does acupuncture hurt?

Acupuncture needles are solid and so thin that they can be tied into a knot.

The most common response to the first needle is ‘that’s it?!’

Beyond the initial pinch of insertion, there might be warmth, heaviness or a tingling sensation. There could also be a deep and dull, weighted feeling, or ache. However, most commonly, people are surprised by the sensation, expecting it to feel like a shot, but it often doesn’t feel like anything!

If I am pregnant, can my baby feel the needles?

Needles are only inserted right below the skin to the superficial layer of the muscles. As far as we know, your baby can only feel the calming effect of your nervous system response.

How long is a typical session, and do I have to go every week to see improvements?

A typical session lasts between 20-45 minutes. It is recommended to go every week; however, it is not necessary.

Will the more I go the better I feel?

Yes, acupuncture is similar to exercise in that it has a cumulative effect.

Can my toddler get acupuncture with me? Is it safe?

Acupuncture is safe for children as young as 1 day old, though the treatments for children only last a few moments. As long as it will be relaxing for you to have your child nearby, and there is adequate staff on hand, it is fine and safe to have your child in the room.

Do you individually treat women depending on their symptoms?

Yes, each treatment is tailored to the unique presentation and current needs of the individual on that day, at that moment. At the same time, there is also similarity in treatments and point selection across the same health concern or condition.

If I am not experiencing a PMAD, should I still receive acupuncture to help address any symptoms?

Absolutely! Acupuncture is one facet of medical based prevention methods! Supporting the body’s hormones to stay in balance, maintaining healthy blood pressure and appropriately responding to stress, will help prevent any myriad conditions.


The Motherhood Center offers a weekly acupuncture group session with Holly Crafts Colasanti for pregnant and postpartum women on Mondays from 3 to 4 PM.

Holly is a licensed acupuncturist and received her master’s degree in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in New York.

The Motherhood Center would like to thank Holly Crafts Colasanti for speaking with us about acupuncture, and allowing us to interview her for this blog post.  

Please find her information and class sign up linked here:


What is PostPartum Psychosis?

Postpartum Psychosis is a rare and severe form of mental illness that occurs after having a baby in approximately 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 deliveries. While these statistics may sound small, its effects are anything but: Women experiencing PPP have lost touch with reality and are in danger of hurting themselves or their children due to this psychiatric illness. This uncommon form of postpartum illness is considered the most severe type and almost invariably requires hospitalization. Read on for facts about how to identify and address it.
 

Risk Factors

The most significant risk factors for Postpartum Psychosis are a personal or family history of bipolar disorder, or a previous psychotic episode. The illness normally begins in the first few days to weeks after childbirth. In some instances, it can begin immediately after delivery. It can become very acute quickly and should be treated as a medical emergency.
 

Symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis

There are a variety of symptoms that women with Postpartum Psychosis can experience:

  • Confusion

  • Delusions or strange beliefs

  • Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)

  • Irritability

  • Hyperactivity

  • Decreased need for or inability to sleep

  • Paranoia and suspiciousness

  • Rapid mood swings

  • Difficulty communicating at times


It is also important to know that many survivors of Postpartum Psychosis never experienced hallucinations containing violent commands. Most women who experience Postpartum Psychosis do not harm themselves or anyone else. However, there is always the risk of danger because psychosis includes delusional thinking and irrational judgment. This is precisely why women with this illness must be quickly assessed, treated, and carefully monitored by trained mental healthcare professionals.
 

Treatment

A woman experiencing Postpartum Psychosis is almost always psychiatrically hospitalized for safety reasons. Treatments during the psychotic episode include medications to reduce psychosis and stabilize moods, as well as psychotherapy for the patient, and psychoeducation for their family and loved ones.

Examples of medications used during an episode of PPP include:

  • Antipsychotics: These medications reduce hallucinations, delusions and paranoia. Examples include quetiapine (Seroquel), risperidone (Risperdal), olanzapine (Zyprexa), and aripiprazole (Abilify).

  • Mood stabilizers: These medications reduce the highs and lows of a bipolar episode. Examples include lithium (Lithobid) and lamotrigine (Lamictal).

  • Anti-anxiety medications: These medications can help decrease acute anxiety and insomnia experienced during psychotic episodes. Examples include clonazepam (Klonapin) and lorazepam (Ativan).

Often, a woman experiencing PPP requires a combination of the above medications.

Postpartum Psychosis can be frightening and shocking for both the woman experiencing it and her loved ones. With the right treatment, women with PPP can recover and fully experience motherhood.
 

There’s more to the story…

In September 2012, at 40 years old, Bangs gave birth to her beautiful daughter Adelaide. A month later, dramatically hormone depleted and sleep deprived, Melissa is admitted to the Providence Psychiatric Facilities in a complete manic state. After nearly a month, she is sent home with a bipolar diagnosis and on lithium. What comes next is an extraordinary journey.

Photo courtesy of: MICHAEL GALLACHER / MISSOULIAN

Photo courtesy of: MICHAEL GALLACHER / MISSOULIAN

 

On her path back to wholeness, one of the things Bangs did was read her entire 100 plus page hospital record. Somewhere, around page 87, there is a nurse’s note that looks as if it were scribbled late at night after a long shift. It reads, “Patient says she will do comedy on this experience.”

The psych team couldn’t have possibly known that Bangs has been a storyteller her entire life and did comedy for a stint, as a student, at the Upright Citizens’ Brigade in New York City. They couldn't have known that transforming details from the most painful experience of her life into a room full of laughter would prove healing for so many.


If you think you have PPD, Call The Motherhood Center - 347-343-4257. We are here to tell you for sure if you have postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety. And more importantly, if you do, we will provide the treatment you need to feel better. With the right treatment, EVERYONE feels better.