Natural Approaches to Postpartum Depression
Sep 30, 2020 09:45AM
By Anna Marie Imbordino
Photo by Pixel-Shot - stock.adobe.com
The birth of a child is a momentous occasion for many families. Parents wait in excitement for the birth of their baby, ready to experience the happiness and contentment of snuggles with their new bundle of joy. But for some parents, that new adventure takes a negative turn as upon that birth, they soon realize the physical, emotional and financial burden of caring for a newborn. Referred to as the “baby blues”, this period of expectation readjustment is very normal and only often lasts a handful of weeks after birth. But for some, these symptoms can become debilitating, continuing for months or years past the birth, making it hard for those parents to take care of themselves and their children.
A highly under-discussed parenting topic, postpartum depression affects one in seven mothers and one in 10 fathers, and has been identified in parents of every culture, age, income level and ethnicity. It may occur any time after childbirth, but often shows symptoms within one to three weeks of the birth. For most parents suffering from postpartum depression, symptoms include severe mood swings, sadness, anxiety, withdrawal from social situations and difficulty bonding with their baby. In its most severe forms, postpartum depression can cause psychosis, compulsive behaviors and even thoughts of harming themselves or their baby.
The medical community is not exactly sure what causes postpartum depression, but recent studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Journal of Affective Disorders indicate a connection of hormone imbalance, vitamin or nutritional deficiency and preexisting mental health conditions with higher instances of postpartum depression in parents.
Postpartum depression does not improve easily without treatment. Struggling parents typically require multiple treatment modalities addressing both the physical and mental symptoms, in order to see improvement. This provides a problem for many health-conscious parents that wish to avoid pharmaceutical medications due to breastfeeding or personal health concerns. However, contrary to popular belief, there are many highly effective natural remedies for those experiencing postpartum depression.
Hormone Balancing Diet:
Proper nutrition has been shown to dramatically improve postpartum depression symptoms. Those experiencing symptoms can improve hormone regulation by eating consistently protein-rich meals, cutting down on refined and high-glycemic index carbohydrates, eating more healthy fats, increasing fluid intake and monitoring intake of phytoestrogens like soy.
There are many herbal therapies that mimic the effects of commonly used pharmaceuticals for postpartum depression. Common anxiety and mood relieving herbs such as St. John’s wort, chamomile, ginseng and cannabidiol (CBD) can help decrease symptoms. Herbal sleep aids like valerian and melatonin can also be helpful in maintaining a sleep schedule through the ups and downs of night feedings. It is important for breastfeeding mothers to seek medical advice before starting an herbal therapy.
For mothers especially, pregnancy can deplete the body of important nutrients, contributing to hormone and mood disorders. Omega-3 fatty acids have been getting attention among researchers as an effective treatment for postpartum depression, as well as vitamin D and light therapy. These lipid-soluble compounds have both hormone-balancing and serotonin-enhancing effects. Mothers are encouraged to take a reputable postnatal multivitamin for at least six months after the birth of their baby. Vitamin deficiencies, including riboflavin B2 and iron deficiency, have been linked to increased symptoms of postpartum depression.
Low-Intensity Group Exercise:
Regular, low-intensity exercise has been shown to improve symptoms of postpartum depression while also helping balance hormone levels in the body. Activities like yoga or Pilates classes, walking with friends, swimming and ballroom dancing allow parents to stay physically active while also enjoying the benefits of social time with adults.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:
Cognitive behavioral therapy is another way to improve symptoms of postpartum depression. Through talking about their symptoms and experiences with parenthood with a trained professional, parents can discover more positive ways to respond to daily situations and triggers. They can also work with their therapist to set goals and stay accountable to other lifestyle and nutritional changes that may be needed.
Anna Marie Imbordino is an award-winning writer, publicist and environmentalist based in Chicago and Charleston, SC. Connect on social media by following @CHiBuzzMarketing.