Postpartum depression is a type of depression that affects some women shortly after childbirth. It is not uncommon for women to experience “blues” or temporary mood health-issues after giving birth. If it goes on for more than a few days, however, it is called postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression shares many symptoms with normal “baby blues,” including crying jags, mood swings, irritability and sadness. However, in postpartum depression, these symptoms are either more severe or longer lasting. Anxiety is also more pronounced in postpartum depression. If you have postpartum depression, you may worry to excess over your baby’s health and well-being. You also may be troubled by intrusive thoughts about harming your baby or yourself.
Postpartum depression typically sets in soon after childbirth and develops gradually. However, it can also come on suddenly, and in some women, the first signs don’t appear until months after they’ve given birth. Because of the possibility of delayed onset, if you have a depressive episode within six months of having a baby, postpartum depression should be considered.
What are the Causes of Postpartum depression?
The rapid-fire hormonal changes that come along with pregnancy and delivery may trigger depression. After childbirth, there is a significant drop in estrogen and progesterone hormone levels. Thyroid levels can also plummet, which leads to fatigue and depression. These hormone dips—along with the changes in immune system functioning, metabolism and blood pressure that new mothers experience—can all play a part in postpartum depression. Women who are more sensitive to these hormone imbalances develop postpartum depression.
Women who have just given birth are also dealing with numerous changes, both physical and emotional. They may still be coping with pain from the pregnancy and delivery. They may have insecurities about their post-pregnancy body. The lifestyle adjustment can be quite difficult for first time moms, who must get used to an entirely new persona. New mothers are often sleep deprived. In addition, they may feel overwhelmed regarding their ability to properly care for their baby. All of these factors can contribute to and set off postpartum depression.
A proper diet will greatly help your brain chemistry. Complex carbohydrates such as organic vegetables and legumes contain seratonin, a deficiency of which can cause depression and insomnia. Cold water fish such as salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel and cod help boost omega 3 consumption. Eating five to six smaller meals instead of three larger ones keeps blood sugar steady. Avoid caffeine, grains and sugar to help normalize your insulin and leptin levels, which are both significant aspect of depression. Sugar causes chronic inflammation, which suppresses a key growth hormone called BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) that promotes healthy brain neurons. BDNF levels are extremely low in depressed people.
Are probiotics the new prozac? According to Dr. Amen, “When you combined published and unpublished studies of antidepressants, the treatments we have today are no better than they were 50 years ago.” New research from the peer reviewed Gastroenterology has found the first evidence that women who eat probiotic yogurt regularly had altered activity in brain regions that regulate emotions and internal body sensations. Taking a probiotic daily can ensure healthy populations of good bacteria. Make sure to eat prebiotic rich food like raddichio, garlic, onions and artichoke.
Magnesium deficiency is not something that can be measured by food recall questionnaires due to the fact that it has virtually disappeared from our water and top soil. Government studies say that 68% of people are magnesium deficient, however I would argue that percentage is actually quite higher. To activate vitamin B6, magnesium is required. So imagine how your mental health is affected by just low B6 and magnesium status. People with gastrointestinal issues, Type-2 diabetics, alcoholics and older adults all struggle with magnesium absorption on top of poor intake. It is involved in serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine production, is a major muscle relaxant and constipation remedy.
Vitamin C is required in high amounts by the adrenal glands, and by the brain to produce the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. Over thousands of studies have found positive benefits of dosages over 500mg, and for anxiety 2-3,000 milligrams may be needed.
A large population-based study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people with higher blood levels of choline had lower levels of anxiety. It is extremely common for women to be choline deficient, and is also why we are seeing an increase in gallbladder issues, non-alcoholic fatty liver and high homocysteine levels.
High quality vitamin A, D, EPA and DHA for proper brain and nerve function. Omega-3 fatty acids which are believed to raise levels of the brain chemical serotonin in a way similar to anti-depressants like Prozac.
People with anxiety often require more b-vitamins. B-vitamins are known as the “anti-stress” vitamins. People with anxiety often have elevated amounts of the anxiety-causing neurotransmitters including norepinephrine and epinephrine, with high estrogen. Niacin in particular helps because nicotinic acid is a cofactor for the COMT enzyme, which helps breakdown excessive amounts of norepinephrine, epinephrine and estrogen.