As the psychedelic renaissance progresses, the wonders of psilocybin therapy continue to be observed inside and outside the clinical setting. Indeed, leading research institutions, such as Johns Hopkins, NYU, and The Imperial College of London, have performed groundbreaking clinical trials demonstrating the efficacy of psilocybin in treating everything from end-of-life anxiety to treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Outside the research setting, many people are exploring psychedelic medicine by their own volition, including mothers struggling with postpartum depression (PPD). 

Not only are current treatments for PPD lacking, so are the policies and access to resources to effectively treat it. With the US being the only country without federally mandated maternity leave, and maternal depression on the rise globally, the resurgence of psychedelic therapy presents the opportunity to improve the standard of care for mothers and their children across the globe. This guide will explore the intersection of psilocybin therapy for postpartum depression by drawing on existing clinical literature. Additionally, it will highlight how compassionate use of these medicines can shift corporate policies to prioritize mental health.

magic mushroom postpartum depression psilocybin therapy newborn baby PPD

Psilocybin Therapy for Postpartum Depression

 

The avenues in which psilocybin may assist in treating postpartum depression is yet to be formally documented. However, considering that PPD is a variant of depression, there are a few things that could be said with confidence:

 

First, the neurological components associated with depressive disorders that are influenced positively by psilocybin would be influenced similarly in cases of PPD. According to Dr. Robin Carharrt Harris, Head of Psychedelic Research at Imperial College of London, the disintegration of brain networks (followed by subsequent reintegration) may be the mechanism in which depressive states are lifted following a psilocybin trip. In other words, if depression is seen as habitual, routine, self-defeating thought patterns, the ability of psychedelic drugs to disrupt said thought patterns might explain their therapeutic potential. In fact, Harris attributes such mechanisms to psychedelic’s therapeutic potential in treating substance use disorder as well. Thus, it can be assumed that therapeutic progress would arise similarly in those with PPD.

Second, the ancedotal experiences of mothers with PPD who used psilocybin to treat their depression suggests huge therapeutic value. For example, ABC7 reporting from early 2020 contains a compelling firsthand account of a D.C. Mom turned activist who had “amazing results” in the first few days of using psilocybin. Likewise, a 2019 Vice article tells the story of a mother from Denmark who underwent positive changes following her first psilocybin microdose. “I started to feel warm and happy inside. That very first day, I sang songs for my daughter. We played together and she smiled at me. I was overjoyed that I was even able to take the experience in.” In both accounts, the mothers appreciated having psilocybin as an alternative to antidepressant medication.

magic mushroom postpartum depression psilocybin therapy newborn baby PPD

We Need to Improve the Standard of Care for Mothers in Distress

 

The emerging psychedelic medicine field is highlighting the need for new and improved clinical mental health treatments. Indeed, psilocybin may be the missing link for neglected demographics failed by traditional antidepressants, including mothers in distress. However, the psychedelic medicine industry is not limited to strictly clinical solutions. We owe it to the mothers of our communities to advocate for better corporate policies regarding maternity leave. Moreover, psilocybin therapy may improve a mother’s recovery time during maternity leave. Psilocybin therapy would not only help mothers navigate this new chapter in their lives, but it may allow them to get back to work faster, more productively, and without depressive symptoms.   

88% of American women do not get paid for a single day or hour after giving birth. This is especially disheartening considering the CDC reports 1 in 8 women experience symptoms of postpartum depression nationally. Equally disheartening is the fact that the US is the only country that doesn’t have federally mandated maternity leave. Through this regulatory lens, the standard of care for mothers suffering from PPD is almost completely disregarded.

Not only is this remarkably unfair to mothers, but it is detrimental to our nation’s economic well being. It is more draining on the economy and our collective future not to have paid leave and look out for working mothers during this crucial time. The sheer losses in productivity and spending power alone is estimated to be in the trillions of dollars.

A national paid leave policy would create economic growth. US Senator Kirsten Gillebrand calls it the most significant untapped economic opportunity we can take advantage of in the nation today. Indeed, providing adequate mental healthcare and support services for new others stands to benefit the entire world at large. After all, children are the future and psychedelic research has only further emphasized the incredible impact early life experience has on the human experience.

magic mushroom postpartum depression psilocybin therapy newborn baby PPD

How Psilocybin Could Improve the Standard of Care for Mothers

Psilocybin therapy yields a new era of corporate social responsibility (CSR) opportunities. Emerging psychedelic medicine companies have the opportunity to establish guaranteed maternity leave for their employees. Additionally, these companies ought to advocate for policy changes pertaining to guaranteed/improved maternity leave conditions, such that mothers in need can seek psychedelic therapy if they need it. Companies ought to consider partnering with PL+US, MomsRising, A Better Balance, and other parental leave advocacy groups. The combination of offering new psilocybin-based PPD treatments with these partnerships would communicate to the world this industry’s empathy – something that is desperately needed right now. 

Unfortunately, national systematic policy change will not happen overnight. However, psilocybin also lends itself to another maternity leave application – the promise of quicker recovery. To be very clear, maternity leave is not an issue of new mothers not wanting to work, but rather not being able to work. The miracle of having a child creates obstacles in which parents, for some period of time, have to prioritize their newborn (or newborns) over the demands of work. The clinical mental health crisis that comes with PPD may make this process inevitably longer. However, new and improved pharmacologic interventions, such as psilocybin, may shorten this period of time.

As displayed by aforementioned accounts from mothers with PPD who used psilocybin, the results were felt within a few days of dosing. The sad reality is that this is not the case for traditional antidepressant medication. According to a 2010 Pharmaceuticals study, “the average time for onset of antidepressant action is 13 days, but when considering full response criteria, this period goes up to 20 days.” Even so, psilocybin may yield not just faster results, but more effective results in treatment of PPD. Through this lens, allocating time and resources into researching psilocybin as a treatment to PPD may eventually combat the economic and productivity losses associated with our current maternity leave disposition.

magic mushroom postpartum depression psilocybin therapy newborn baby PPD

Psilocybin for PPD creates a better world for our youth

As discussed, psilocybin therapy shows great potential in treating PPD and improving the conditions that suffering mothers are subjected to. It’s worth noting that returning to work with a healthy mindset after having a kid may combat a mother’s risk of developing more generalized depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder. Indeed, psilocybin lends itself to many avenues of helping new mothers.

It’s also worth noting, however, that this would in turn benefit the children. Mothers take on financial, social, and emotional obstacles in raising their children. The parenting experience itself is an already difficult task. Starting this journey with an innate neurological sense of hopelessness and fatigue only exacerbates these obstacles. During a child’s formative years, they learn to understand the world – what world are we leaving our children to wrap their heads around? One in which clinical mental health crises are ignored? Normalized? Treated only with a handful of moderately effective pharmaceuticals? A world in which employers have no obligation to care about a new parent’s wellbeing? A world that prioritizes profit over community?

magic mushroom postpartum depression psilocybin therapy newborn baby PPD

Establishing the Ethical Imperative With Psychedelic Medicine

We cannot be a “business as usual” industry. If psychedelic medicine is about helping others, we need to embrace that mission in a holistic fashion – and this means helping mothers, families, communities, and society at large. If psychedelics can treat addiction, end-of-life anxiety, and depression, why can’t they treat our lack of empathy? Love, compassion and empathy are hallmarks of the psychedelic and human experience. It is essential this industry uses them to establish the ethical imperative moving forward.