An Alternative To Anti-Depressants?
The principal investigator, C. Neill Epperson, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, says 13 percent of pregnant women meet the criteria for major depressive disorder during pregnancy, but treatment options are limited because of concern about how anti-depressant medications might affect the unborn baby.
"Untreated maternal psychiatric illness can compromise fetal health,"
Epperson says. "Although most antidepressants do not cause major birth
defects, they may adversely affect neonatal adaptation, growth and
In this study, 10 pregnant women diagnosed with depression were randomly assigned to a five-week clinical trial with either a 7,000 lux light box or a 500 lux light box. The 500 lux level is within the upper range of normal room light. The women sat in front of the light for one hour within 10 minutes after rising.
A small difference was observed after five weeks, but a significant beneficial effect was seen after 10 weeks of light therapy.
"The relative dearth of studies that focus on the neurodevelopmental impact
of in utero exposure to other antidepressant therapies, taken with the
encouraging nature of these findings, underscores the need for a full-scale
clinical trial to determine whether light therapy can be added as a
treatment for depressed pregnant women," Epperson says.