Fighting Postpartum Blues
Legend has it that a woman’s happiest time in her life is when she is transformed into a mother. Nine exhilarating months of brain and body connections culminating in the most intimate bonding relationship you will ever have. Upon giving birth and finally hearing, seeing and holding your nine-month creation in your arms, you are immediately flooded with joyful emotions. Shortly after your child is released from your warm womb, your mood is affected once again as estrogen and progesterone hormones plunge dramatically to pre-pregnancy levels and you enter the period of postpartum [Latin: post birth].
By the time you are discharged from the structure of the hospital and helpful nurses—and are instantly thrusted back into your unstructured domain—hormonal havoc has arrived. During pregnancy, your metabolism and hormone levels surge; however, postpartum, your body’s biochemistry quickly returns to its pre-pregnancy state. Researchers believe that the depth and speed of fluctuating estrogen and progesterone levels experienced postpartum, are contributing factors to depression and commonly trigger the neurobiological condition of “baby blues” and the more serious disorder known as “postpartum depression.”
The postpartum period begins immediately after delivery and ends when your body closely recovers to its pre-pregnancy state. This period lasts an average of six to eight weeks. Defined by the Mayo Clinic, the baby blues commonly include mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. Postpartum depression is more severe and can include feelings of sadness, exhaustion, thoughts/plans of suicide and the inability to care for or bond with your newborn. Occasionally, thyroid hormone levels may decrease after delivery which can contribute to depression, decreased interest in things, irritability, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, sleep problems and weight gain. The American Psychological Association reports 1 in 7 new mothers experience postpartum depression.
“Certainly, there’s lots of joy and it’s a time of great happiness, but it’s really difficult the first few weeks, the vast majority of women find both the birth and the transition to motherhood to be challenging,” says Samantha Meltzer-Brody, M.D., Associate Professor and Director of the Perinatal Psychiatry Program, UNC Center for Women’s Mood Disorders. In order for you to rebuild your strength so you may care for yourself and may better nurture others, pay attention to rest, nutrition and mental health. These three areas are essential for regaining your strength, healing and restoring your body’s ability to regulate your hormones.
- Sleep when the baby sleeps. Cat naps throughout the day can be restorative.
- Keep the baby’s bassinet near your bed for night feedings.
- Create and stay consistent to a sleep schedule for yourself with supportive assistance from the adults in your life.
- Choose dark leafy greens, whole grains, and other fruits and vegetables to help your body replenish vitamins and minerals.
- Boost your vitamin B to manage stress levels—eat shellfish, liver, fish, crab, tofu, fortified cereals, red meat, low fat dairy, cheese and eggs.
- Fight depression with one Brazil nut per day to help raise selenium.
Mental Well Being
- Exercise every day—even 5-10 minute spurts are effective.
- Go outside and get 30 minutes of daylight.
- Laugh hard and often.
- Keep your appearance up.
- Stick to a daily routine.
- Listen to music, sing out loud.
The baby blues and postpartum depression share many symptoms. Homeopathic remedies may be effective; however, they do not replace the essential evaluation, assessment and follow-up of a qualified care provider.
This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.