Postpartum depression, otherwise known as baby blues, is more common than you may realize. Many new mothers are overwhelmed with the responsibility of being a parent, even when it is baby number 2, 3, 4 and so on. Each new child, brings a new set of responsibilities, and each child is often very different than the last. During the postpartum period, hormones fluctuate all over the place, as they work their way back to “normal.” The demands of nursing, little sleep and additional children & family responsibilities, can sometimes make life feel completely overwhelming.
Up to 1:7 women may experience some level of postpartum depression, that is about 10-15% who will be diagnosed with Major Postpartum Depression. Likely many more women will experience on-going ups and downs during the postpartum period. You will learn why shorty. (Hint: it has to do with hormones).
Postpartum Depression: Get the Help You Deserve
Here is a great article, a colleague wrote in dealing with her own experience of postpartum depression. Here are a few things to be reassured about, when it comes to the baby blues:
- Get help! Fortunately, as awareness increases, midwives, ob-gyns and primary care doctors are beginning to bring depression testing into the standard care of practice. All moms, whether they exhibit signs of depression or not, should be screened in the postpartum period. Screening should also happen multiple times. It’s not just ok to have your baby cared for, you need to be cared for as well. Find out more information on postpartum depression here.
- You may also want to consider other ways you can get help: help cleaning the house, help with meals, help with other children. There are tons of mom’s groups and support groups out there. All you have to do is put into the search engine: your town/city and what you are searching for. Or better yet, ask another mom friend!
- Mother guilt: you are not to blame! We all have it, mother guilt, but I promise you it has nothing to do with you. Falling progesterone levels after birth make for an unfortunate set-up of feeling emotionally down. On top of its role as a female hormone, in the brain, progesterone is converted to GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that allows you to “feel good:” calm and relaxed. With falling levels of progesterone after the birth, you can expect to have less GABA available too. As if pregnancy and the birth weren’t hard enough, now you have to deal with your body having less of that feel good hormone it had gotten used to over the last 10 months.
Why Do You Have Postpartum Depression?
That is a great question. And for each mama, it is going to be a little different. First, you should get some blood work done to rule out other causes or concomitant causes.
You may just be surprised. Some common underlying factors that can cause depression-like symptoms:
- Iron deficiency: get a CBC (complete blood count) AND a ferritin (iron storage). Many women don’t quite have anemia yet, but have low levels of stored iron, and this may absolutely affect how you feel.
- Postpartum Thyroiditis: over 5% of women may be affected by this. If you already have a thyroid condition, you may want to make sure your thyroid remains under great control. Make sure to get your TSH, Free T4 and Free T3 checked. With postpartum thyroiditis, the thyroid may swing between hypthyroid and hyperthyroid, causing large fluctuations in symptoms.
- Low Vitamin D may also affect mood. You can get this done on a blood draw as well.
How is your digestion?
- The body makes and secretes 90% of serotonin in the gut. What is your digestive function like? Do you have gas or bloating? Do you have indigestion, constipation or diarrhea? Your digestion may be affecting your emotional/mental health. There is a lot of research out there connecting the gut and brain. Here is the bottom line: when your gut is in tip top shape, your overall health is much better. Your digestive system is the foundation of your house (physical body). If you have symptoms there, you can expect to have symptoms in other parts of your body.
- Leaky gut, a condition where foods are not appropriately broken down and absorbed, can lead to a whole host of symptoms including brain fog, fatigue, skin issues, joint and musculoskeletal pain, as well as mental and emotional difficulties.
Your Baby Blues May be Helped by These Recommendations
Nutrients and lifestyle factors to consider if you struggle with depression (this is on top of getting the right help!):
- B-vitamins: many of which support a healthy nervous system and adrenals often become depleted by pregnancy because the baby is requiring these same nutrients. Getting on a good methylated B-complex may help relieve some of the stress you feel in the postpartum period and help support a more balanced state.
- Omega 3 fats: There still isn’t clear evidence on this, but some research suggests that a higher omega 6:omega 3 ratio is associated with increased depression. Studies that have used omega-3 fats to help prevent postpartum depression are not conclusive, however, there is some research to suggest that depression itself (non postpartum) is helped my omega-3 fats. Either way, it is good to work with someone to assess your diet and your omega 6:omega 3 ratio to make sure you have a healthy, balanced fat intake. Fat is the building block of hormones and your brain.
- Magnesium: this nutrient also needs to be replenished on a daily basis. Many people are deficient in Magnesium, it is critical in 100’s of reactions, and the nutrient is depleted in our food supply because of overused soils. 300mg daily of Magnesium citrate is a great relaxing mineral to have in your daily plan.
- Probiotics, and specifically yogurt may help your mood (and your gut!)
- Your WHOLE DIET should be optimized for nutrition. Please seek out a whole foods nutritionist or holistic doctor who works with diet. Foods such as donuts, cookies, crackers, bagels, coffee, sugar and so on will NOT help your mood, even though they may give you some “temporary fix.”
- Exercise: improves mood, improves sleep. Exercise is a great endorphin and can be compared with many anti-depressants in efficacy. Carving out 30 minutes daily is crucial. Don’t let your mind tell you this is too hard to do. Your mood will thank you for it!
- Self-care. You need some alone, self-care, time. This DOES NOT include: folding the sheets, washing the clothing, getting meals ready, vacuuming the house, etc. You need some time for a hot bath or hot shower, hot cup of herbal tea (chamomile, peppermint, lemon balm), or to curl up with a good book. Even if you can only get 10-15 minutes a day, you will be grateful you did!
Look, you don’t have to suffer alone, and you shouldn’t! You and your baby deserve the best care. If you or someone you know suffers from postpartum depression, find the help you need to get yourself set on a supported and healthier path.
Here’s to reclaiming your health,