Bright light is being found to play an increasing role in treating women’s health issues. It can regulate the menstrual cycle, alleviate symptoms of PMS, and help with depression during and after pregnancy.
A study has shown that bright artificial light in the winter months – similar to SAD treatment - can reverse the symptoms of PMS. Another study, where women used a lightbox for 30 minutes a day in the last week of their cycles, showed improvements in both mood and physical symptoms in 89% of the cycles. Significant reductions have also been shown in premenstrual depression, leading to the suggestion that bright light may offer an alternative to the pharmacological treatment of premenstrual disorders.
Perinatal depression - depression in the few weeks before and after giving birth - affects 10% to 20% of childbearing women. It has enormous consequences for the wellbeing of mother and child. It is a complex problem because many normal treatments for depression would damage the mother, the baby, or affect lactation.
Bright light therapy is an attractive alternative as an antidepressant, being low-cost, home-based, and carrying virtually no side effects. An open trial of morning light therapy for treatment of antepartum depression – depression in the last stage of pregnancy – showed an improvement in depression rating of 49% after only three weeks. The lights used were 10,000 lux, equivalent to
It has been shown that sunshine can influence the menstrual cycle, prompting increased ovarian activity in the summer months. Studies have also found that exposure to bright light can influence reproductive hormones and increase ovulation rate, as well as being used to regularise menstrual cycle length.
The link to fertility is yet to be tested, but researchers have suggested that being able to influence the frequency and time of ovulation may better facilitate the rhythm method of birth control, and even be a promising method to overcome infertility.