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Welcome to Healthy Tips! Every other month we will post useful health care tips for women here on our website. These will cover topics of interest to women of all ages. We hope you find the information helpful.

Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Partners for Women's HealthWinter, with its cold, short days and long, dark nights can be depressing. Many of us are able to cope by keeping active with winter sports or enjoying indoor craft projects. But for some people, the short days trigger a form of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.  Following is some information on SAD and how to ease its symptoms if you are affected.

What is seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

Seasonal affective disorder is also known as seasonal depression. It is a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience symptoms of depression as fall and winter approach.

What triggers SAD? 

It is believed that less daylight during the fall and winter can cause depression in some people. Other factors contributing to SAD may include genetics, age, and chemical imbalance. Neurochemicals help regulate our mood and ability to function. Melatonin is a hormone that our brains produce during the hours of darkness. It helps regulate sleep, body temperature and the release of hormones. As with any hormone, the amount produced is important. People with SAD produce too much melatonin. This excess throws off their internal body clock leading to symptoms of depression. If you have had episodes of depression that clearly have an onset in fall or winter followed by symptoms going away in the spring or summer, you may have SAD.

What are symptoms of SAD?

Symptoms include:
  • Feeling depressed
  • Irritability
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of energy
  • Social withdrawal
  • Oversleeping (feeling like you want to hibernate)
  • Loss of interest in activities you normally enjoy
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates such as pastas, rice, bread and cereal
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating and processing information

How is SAD treated?

There are a number of options. Medications or light therapy (phototherapy) are usually the first step.

What is light therapy

Light therapy literally involves using exposure to light as a way of sending new signals to the brain and lifting depression. A doctor or therapist experienced in light therapy can provide light therapy in their office, or can advise you on purchasing the right equipment and conducting light therapy at home. The type of light, strength of the light, distance from the light, and duration of time spent in front of the light are all important, so light therapy needs professional guidance.

Patients with milder forms of SAD have experienced light therapy by simply increasing their exposure to sunlight--sitting by a window, spending more time outside, for example.

What about medication?

Antidepressants have proven effective in treating SAD. Sometimes these are used in combination with light therapy. Increasing Vitamin D levels has also had some success. Your doctor can advise after a thorough review of your symptoms.

Other Treatments

Behavioral changes and finding the right social support can also be effective. People experiencing SAD have benefited from:

  • Counseling to help them identify signs of depression and ways to cope with negative thoughts
  • Stress management
  • Joining weight control/nutrition groups for adjustments to their diets that will enhance energy levels
  • Counseling to help them improve their social skills and networking and thus increase their interaction with others
  • Finding wintertime activities that they enjoy
  • Education on sleep management.

If you have the “winter blues”talk to your doctor. With the right treatment, every season can be enjoyed.


For more information about Partners for Women’s Health call (603) 778-0557.


Obstetrical Tips

Winter Fitness

Exercising offers many benefits to pregnant women. Not only will it help prevent excess weight gain, it will also boost your energy, help you sleep better, and support your immune system.

Exercising in winter can be more challenging, but there are still plenty of options. You may not be hitting the slopes or the skating rink but outdoors or indoors, you can find a workout that works for you.

As with any exercise program, consult with your doctor before starting one.


  • Cross-country skiing on a level, easy course is a great all-over workout. Cross-country also allows you to ski at your own pace.
  • Snow-shoeing also provides a good workout, and again, allows you to go at your own pace. You can also choose terrain that you are comfortable with.
  • Walking is always good, but you need to be careful of icy roadsides and walkways.


  • If outdoor walking is not feasible, head to the mall. Many malls have indoor walking routes and quite a few also have walking clubs so you can exercise with friends.
  • Swimming in an indoor pool, or a moderate class of aquacise is great exercise.
  • Yoga provides excellent toning while building strength, stamina and flexibility. A number of yoga instructors also offer classes designed for moms-to-be.

As with any fitness program, the most successful ones are comprised of activities you enjoy, and are usually a mix. Try swimming one day, walking the next, and maybe snowshoeing on the weekend. This way, you do not get bored and you use different sets of muscles.

When exercising, be sure not to get overheated. If exercising causes cramping, excessive exhaustion or rapid heart rate, stop and consult with your doctor before resuming any exercise program.

Staying strong, fit and healthy will help make your pregnancy easier, and ensure a healthy baby.



For more information about Partners for Women’s Health, call (603) 778-0557.



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Tel 603-778-0557
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