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9 Natural Treatments for Postpartum Depression

Over 20 percent of all mothers suffer from postpartum depression. These natural methods are proven to reduce postpartum depression symptoms and prevent them in many women. Use these tips to ensure you stay healthy and happy after the delivery of your baby.
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 Postpartum depression: Many mothers face this after-delivery complication, but few women want to admit it. However, according to Psychology Today, between 15-20 percent of mothers get PPD, and it is estimated that many more mothers may actually get PPD but donot report it to their health care provider.

PPD is a normal part of delivery, as hormone levels drop and a mother’s responsibilities increase. If you are dealing with depression after the delivery of your child, or if you are expecting a baby, the guidelines in this article can help you prevent postpartum depression and help you deal with it effectively and quickly to avoid further complications.

Signs of Postpartum Depression

While many women feel like postpartum depression is simple “baby blues,” there is much more to it than that. Postpartum depression is a serious condition that can interfere with daily life and affect all aspects of your life. Every expectant and new mother should know the signs of postpartum depression and the steps they can take to avoid it and cure it.

In some cases, postpartum depression can lead to an even worse condition- known as postpartum psychosis. If you have any of the signs of postpartum psychosis, contact a medical professional right away.

However, the risk of developing postpartum psychosis is extremely rare. According to Dr. James Kappenman, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Sanford Health, only about .2 percent of all women ever suffer from postpartum psychosis.

Signs of Postpartum Depression
  • Depressed feelings all day on most days
  • Extreme changes in appetite or weight
  • Constant restlessness or lethargy
  • Sudden insomnia or urge to always sleep
  • Loss of energy
  • Inability to think and process
  • Lack of care about daily activities
  • Thoughts of suicide or what it would be like to “go away”
  • Lack of joy
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby or other family members

Signs of Postpartum Psychosis
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Hallucinations
  • Extreme confusion or disorientation
  • Paranoia

If you feel any of the above signs and signals, you are probably suffering from some sort of postpartum depression. Consult with a medical professional right away if you notice any of above signs that last for longer than two weeks.

According to the Mayo Clinic, postpartum psychosis is most likely to occur about two weeks after delivery. Postpartum depression, on the other hand, can occur any time after delivery, sometimes up to a year after the baby is born.

What Causes Postpartum Depression

According to Drs Laura J. Miller and Elizabeth M. LaRusso, authors of the paper “Preventing Postpartum Depression,” there are few known causes for postpartum depression. However, there are certain similarities between most women who suffer from the condition. These factors include:

  • Sudden hormonal changes
  • Genetic vulnerabilities
  • Insufficient social support
  • Stressors
  • Nutrient-insufficient diet
  • Reduction in physical activity
  • Changes in sleep habits

The Mayo Clinic lists three changes that can lead to the development of postpartum depression. These changes include:

Physical changes: After delivery, a woman’s estrogen and progesterone levels drop suddenly. This could trigger a depressive episode. Thyroid hormones also drop after delivery, which can lead to feelings of low energy and depression. Other changes in the body, like the loss of blood volume, lowered immune system, and changes to the metabolism can contribute to a depressive episode.

Emotional changes: Caring for a newborn is difficult. On top of basic newborn care, many new mothers are also suffering from a lack of sleep, which can lead to irritability and make minor problems seem like insurmountable obstacles. Hormone changes can also lead to an increase in mood swings, creating the ideal hormonal and emotional cocktail for feelings that can lead to depression.

Lifestyle changes: A woman’s lifestyle may also contribute to how depressed she feels after delivery. For example, financial stress, lack of support from family, demands from the baby and other children, or difficulty breastfeeding or caring for the baby in other ways could cause a mother to feel overwhelmed and depressed.

PPD Risk Factors

According to Dr. James Kappenman, there are several risk factors involved that indicate whether a women is more likely to suffer from postpartum depression. These factors are not definite indicators that depression will occur, but they do show increased likelihood for developing postpartum depression.

Early or Late Pregnancy

Women who have babies in their teens or early twenties, and women who have babies late in life are at higher risk for postpartum depression. Some medical professionals believe that the increased difficulties of mothering in these stages could lead to an increased chance for depression- particularly if the woman has a smaller support circle after delivery.

Prior Depressive Episodes

If you have suffered from postpartum depression, or another form of depression, in the past, you are at a higher risk for developing postpartum depression. It is unknown, however, what exactly what makes these episodes occur.

Unexpected Hiccups

Changes in how the baby is born, when it was delivered, or difficulties with post-delivery infant care (breastfeeding, sleep schedules, health problems with the baby, or unexpected pain after delivery) can potentially trigger depressive episodes and postpartum depression. Medications: According to a recent study, women who took medications that dropped estrogen and progesterone levels in the body were more likely to develop postpartum depression after pregnancy. However, the study did not look at whether low hormone levels in general lead to depression, or if the medications themselves caused the increased likelihood of depressive symptoms.

First Baby

New mothers are more likely to suffer from postpartum depression. The stress of constant care can be hard on some mothers, leading to feelings of depression an inadequacy.

Postpartum Depression or “Baby Blues?”

Many mothers struggle with identifying the difference in everyday baby blues or postpartum depression. Some mothers may feel like they are “bad mothers” for feeling any kind of depression after delivery. Postpartum depression is common, and it can lead to serious problems if left untreated.

Use the following guide from Psychology Today to identify whether your baby blues are actually more serious postpartum depression:

Duration: Baby blues should not last longer than 2 weeks after delivery. Normal baby blues symptoms include feeling weepy, stressed, irritable, forgetful, and vulnerable.

Severity: If your symptoms are interfering with normal, day-to-day activities, then this is PPD. Baby blues should be mild enough to allow you to shake them off and continue with everyday life.

Types of issues: Baby blues are not severe, and are usually easy to shake off. Signs of depression are more serious. They include sleep problems, feelings of incompetence or failure, a desire to run away or thoughts of suicide, and a difficulty bonding with your baby.

In any case, Psychology Today states that any symptoms that last beyond two weeks are considered PPD. According to the magazine, about 25 percent of women with PPD are still depressed after one year. Early identification and treatment can help new mothers face their new role with joy and get back to feelings of normality sooner.

Consult with your healthcare provider if you feel any PPD symptoms or even feelings of baby blues longer than two weeks after delivery.

Getting Help for Postpartum Depression

Any woman who feels any question about whether or not she is depressed will benefit from speaking with a health professional. A health professional qualified in helping postpartum depression will be able to give you the most help. Even if you do not believe that you actually are depressed, speaking with someone cannot hurt and will most likely help.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are three normal medical treatment steps for a women suffering from PPD. These treatments include:

Counseling

A therapists or counselor specializing in postpartum depression will be able to help women dealing with PPD feel better about their situation and face the future with joy. Speaking to someone who can offer reassuring facts and support is extremely helpful in fighting off PPD.

Hormone Therapy

Since the sudden drop in hormones is suspected as the main cause for PPD, supplementing with hormones may help counteract the effects of hormone changes after delivery that may lead to PPD. However, research on this topic has not shown this method to be extremely effective, and there are side effects to extended hormone treatments.

Antidepressants

Some women may benefit from taking antidepressants. However, many antidepressants are not safe to take while breastfeeding. Consult with your doctor about the risks and potential benefits of antidepressants, and discuss with your doctor any medications that may not be safe for use while breastfeeding.

Preventing the Onset of PPD

In some cases, it may be possible to prevent the onset of postpartum depression. According to Drs. Laura J. Miller and Elizabeth M. LaRusso, there are several strategies that a women can employ to prevent the onset of PPD: 

Preventing PPD 
  • Employ stress management techniques
  • Stay active
  • Get plenty of sunshine
  • Get social support
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Breastfeed
  • Protect your sleep
  • Have planned pregnancies
  • Protect your mental health with supplements

Stress Management

A new baby is a stressful time for mothers. Suddenly, they are on-call 24/7 for the needs of a tiny, helpless person. This job never ends, which can lead to huge amounts of stress. Mothers are also dealing with changes in hormones and other changes in the body which trigger the stress response. Stress management techniques can be extremely helpful in preventing postpartum depression. When a mother knows what she is getting into and how to deal with it, she is less likely to feel overwhelmed.

Staying Active

It can be tempting for a new mother to stay cooped up in the house with her baby. However, staying active and involved in day-to-day activities can be helpful in retaining a normal mental state. After the 6-week rest period (or whatever is recommended by your doctor), a mother can resume exercising. Daily exercise of about 30-minutes per day will raise serotonin levels in the body and create endorphins, which fight depression.

Sunshine

Just getting outdoors and soaking in some sun is good for both mother and baby. Sunlight products vitamin D, which boosts the immune system and also provides other benefits. Getting out in the light fights depression and helps restore mental clarity. For infants, sun exposure helps prevent jaundice from developing, and can help cure it when it does occur.

Getting Support

An effective support system is essential for a woman after giving birth. Not only are hormones crazy and the task of caring for an infant overwhelming, a woman needs the support of friends and family while she recovers physically from labor and delivery (both cesarean and vaginal deliveries). A woman who knows she can rely on friends or family to help care for the baby (even if it is just long enough for her to take a shower), will have less chance of seeing depressive symptoms. Just knowing that someone is there if she needs them is essential to the mental health of a new mother.

Healthy Diet

Nutrition is essential after a woman gives birth. She needs nutrients to recover physically, and pass on nutrients to her baby. A diet full of nutrient-rich foods can help fight off depression in women. It is easy for a woman to simply eat whatever is around after the birth of her baby (particularly sugary foods that add quick energy bursts), but to fight PPD, it is essential that you eat the right kinds of foods. Ask for friends and family to provide meals, if you are unable to cook for yourself. Add these foods to your diet after delivery:

Foods that Fight PPD
  • Dark, leafy greens
  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Meat (particularly from bone broth, liver, and other organ meats)
  • Fresh fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains

Nutrient-Lacking Foods
  • Sugar Processed foods
  • Empty carbs
  • Sugary drinks
  • Coffee
  • Pre-packaged meals

Breastfeeding

According to a study of over 9,000 women conducted by the National Institute of health, women who breastfed for longer showed fewer signs of postpartum depression. These women also had higher levels of oxytocin in their blood, which is released during breastfeeding. Oxytocin is known as the “love” hormone, and helps regulate feelings of stress. In one study, women who were breastfeeding had lower blood pressure when talking about stressful situations. Breastfeeding, while beneficial, can be a source of stress in the weeks following delivery. Many mothers struggle with breastfeeding. If you find you are having trouble breastfeeding, due to pain, engorgement, latch issues, or for any other reason, speak with a nursing consultant as soon as possible. Stopping breastfeeding early could increase your risk of facing PPD. Breastfeeding also has other benefits for a mother, including lowering her chances of getting female-specific cancers like ovarian cancer and breast cancer.

Protecting Sleep

Sleep is important to new mothers. Many mothers feel they don’t have time to sleep when their baby is an infant. A baby with a flopped night-day schedule may also contribute to sleepless nights for a mother. However, it is essential that a mother get enough sleep to heal and provide the level of care necessary for her baby. A variety of strategies could help a mother get enough sleep at night:

  • Scheduled daytime feedings (2-3 hours between feedings)
  • Shortened daytime naps (shorter than 2 hours at a time)
  • Co-sleeping
  • Dad or another caregiver offering expressed breast milk to the baby for one nighttime feeding
  • Sleeping when the baby sleeps

Planned Pregnancies

Studies show that mothers who plan their pregnancies are less likely to face feelings of depression. When possible, a woman should try to plan her pregnancy and avoid unexpected pregnancies by using some form of birth control.

Helpful Supplements

A variety of supplements can help fight signs of depression after delivery. The following supplements are safe for a breastfeeding mother to consume. However, you should always consult with a health professional before taking any supplement- herbal or otherwise.

St. John’s Wort: This herb is known for its depressive-fighting effects. According to a 2003 study conducted on nursing mothers by the University of Toronto, supplementing with St. John’s Wort showed no adverse effects on nursing infants.

Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 is necessary for the efficient production of serotonin in the body, according to a 1995 study conducted by the Uppsala University PET Centre in Sweden. Folate: A 1997 study conducted by Harvard Medical School showed that individuals lacking in folate were more likely to also show signs of depression.

Ginkgo Biloba: Ginkgo biloba has been used in combination with St. John’s Wort to treat depression, according to the book “Natural Therapeutic Pocket Guide.” According to Health 24.com, breastfeeding women can take ginkgo biloba safely.

L-Phenylalanine: According to a 1979 study published in Arch Psychiatr Nervenkr, supplementing with DL-phenylalanine was as effective as the antidepressant medication imipramine without any side effects. However, there have been no studies looking at the safety of l-phenylalanine for breastfeeding women. If you are facing signs of depression, consult with your healthcare provider before adding any l-phenylalanine supplements to your diet. l-phenylalanine is a naturally-occurring amino acid present in many foods (like eggs and dairy products), but larger doses might be potentially harmful to a nursing infant.

Preventing Postpartum Depression Naturally

Many women suffer from some form of PPD after the birth of their baby. Up to 25 percent of women deal with some aspects of PPD. However, if you follow the steps outlined above, you will find that your chances of getting PPD drop, and if you still face depression, your severity and length will be reduced. The birth of your baby should be a joyful time. Don’t allow depression to take that joy away from you.

Sources


http://info.theclinics.com/institutions/pdf/Psychiatric_Clinics_sample_article.pdf

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/postpartum-depression/DS00546/DSECTION=causes

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mommy-mental-health/200902/baby-blues-or-postpartum-depression

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