NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Women who suffer from depression after giving birth can often be helped with antidepressants, and when treatment is successful it usually improves sexual problems.
In the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Dr. Katherine L. Wisner, of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pennsylvania, and colleagues report their assessment of sexual problems in women diagnosed with postpartum depression. The information was drawn from an 8-week study comparing the antidepressants nortriptyline (for example, Sensoval, Aventyl) and sertraline (Zoloft, Lustral) for postpartum depression in 70 women.
At the start of the study, 73 percent of women reported problems in at least three areas of sexual function. By week 8, this number had fallen to 37 percent, and women whose depression resolved were more likely to report fewer concerns about sex drive, sexual arousal, and reaching orgasm than those whose depression did not remit, regardless of which antidepressant they received, according to the researchers.
The investigators point out that for new mothers with depression and sexual problems, prior research has shown that recovery depends not only on relieving the depression but also on the time it takes for tissues around the vagina to recover from the stress of childbirth.
In the current study, however, the decrease in sexual concerns was specifically linked with improvements in depression rather than with the passage of time, according to the article.
The lack of a specific association with either nortriptyline or sertraline suggests that it does not matter how the depression is addressed, only that it is relieved, the authors note.
SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, March 2009.