(KYMA, KECY/ CBS) - This Mother's Day, a New York mom is raising awareness about perinatal depression, which can occur during pregnancy or in the weeks and months after childbirth.
Cloe Alvarado just celebrated her son Milo's first birthday. "He's just a cute happy boy, I couldn't have asked for anything more," she says. But her journey to motherhood was anything but easy. Alvarado experienced 2 miscarriages, and when she got pregnant with Milo, she was diagnosed with perinatal depression.
Alvarado took part in a clinical trial at Northwell Health testing a treatment called "bright light therapy." For 30 minutes every morning, Alvarado exposed herself to a light nicknamed "sun in a box" to help reset her circadian rhythm. "That sleep and wake cycle is disrupted in women who are depressed in pregnancy and it's by retraining, resetting the clock to where it should be that it is to relieve the symptoms of depression," says Dr. Kristina Deligiannidis, an associate professor at The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research.
Dr. Deligiannidis says having a variety of treatment options for perinatal depression is critical. "Some women, they may want to engage in individual or group talk therapies. Other women may choose antidepressants. We want to provide also noninvasive treatments that are very low risk for both mom and for her baby."
Alvarado says she noticed a "huge difference" with the light therapy. "It really gets you to wake up, it's like going outside and going for a walk because you're shocked by like the sunlight." Combined with antidepressants and traditional therapy, Alvarado says the difference was night and day. "I can't even recognize the person I was when I was pregnant," she says. Alvarado says better sleep helped her function better, so she could focus on her mental health and on being a mom.
Four hospitals are conducting the light therapy study and the National Institutes of Health is sponsoring the trial.