For as long as I can remember, I've been SO excited to become a mom and every aspect that came along with it. However, I have to admit that postpartum depression is something I have always worried about. Truthfully, I still am worried about it and I know I'm not alone!
Postpartum depression is described as the depression suffered by a mother following childbirth, typically arising from the combination of hormonal changes, psychological adjustment to motherhood, and fatigue. A more mild and short-lived form is typically called "baby blues", which is apparently very common. In fact, 80 percent of new mamas experience the baby blues, according to the National Institute of Health.
Prior to my pregnancy, I was struggling with some serious hormonal issues. To make a long story short: when I decided to stop taking the pill after ten years, I suffered majorly with the negative side effects of coming off the synthetic hormones...weight gain, irregular periods, anxiety, panic attacks, depressed thoughts - just overall not feeling like myself (if you want to learn more about Post Birth Control Syndrome, read our other blog here). After finally speaking with the right doctor and testing my hormones properly, I found out that I was not ovulating (the one thing a young woman does NOT want to hear) and that my levels of estrogen and progesterone were very, very low. I was extremely worried about my fertility.
Luckily by some miracle (and a lot of effort on my part through diet & lifestyle), I was still able to conceive and meet my beautiful boy 9 months later. And let me tell you, I LOVED pregnancy! Those pregnancy hormones were an absolute DREAM for me. I had stable moods, amazing energy, mental sharpness, etc. I felt incredible.
As I'm writing this, I'm 3 months postpartum. Although I'm feeling great at the moment, I'm worried the old hormonal havoc will return as my body goes back to "normal". During this time following childbirth, there is already a great deal of hormone fluctuation going on... so I can't help but question if my hormonal past makes me more susceptible to PPD? I'm not sure.
I do know that baby blues are common.... but as a health coach, I'm all about being as proactive as possible in regards to my health. If postpartum depression is still part of my journey then so be it, but until then, I'm doing all I can to SUPPORT MY BODY during this time of crazy hormone fluctuation.
So, here's what I've been up to:
1: PLACENTA ENCAPSULATION.
I know most people find this gross, but the placenta contains all nutrients, oxygen, hormones that supported the baby during pregnancy. While there may not be enough evidence to support the claims that placenta ingestion can help with postpartum depression, there are numerous women out there who swore by taking it. I take them like I do with all my other vitamins - you'd never know it was placenta! And I felt great while taking them, so it was well worth it for me.
2: SLEEP, SLEEP, SLEEP
I'm sure you've heard this a million times before: "sleep when the baby sleeps". Really though, sleep deprivation is NO JOKE. Your body and brain quite literally repairs itself while you're catching Zzz's.
You can hire help if you have to (and if your budget allows)! My husband was away for big chunks of time during the first month after bringing our son home, so we hired a postpartum doula to come in a few times overnight so that I could get a full nights sleep. I never in a million years thought I needed that kind of support, and it made a WORLD'S difference for me. Plus, some of them will tidy up your house, do your laundry, and make you a meal... all while you're sleeping away :)
3: RED RASPBERRY LEAF TEA
Oh yes. At least 1-2 cups for me every day ON REPEAT. Red raspberry tea is high in magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, and lots of other vitamins/minerals. It's been known to regulate hormone fluctuation, which is prevalent during the postpartum period.
4: SAYING YES TO HELP
I've heard the saying "It takes a village" so many times before. But now, I really understand what it means.
Someone wants to bring over food? Say yes. Vacuum your house? Say yes. Mow your lawn? Say yes. Watch the baby so you can shower & nap? Say yes, yes, yes.
Take advantage of all it before life returns back to "normal". All of this support helped me to feel way less stressed, to take care of myself a bit, and to ease the transition into what life is like with a baby. We're talking mental and physical benefits, people!
When I think about all the changes my body went through over the 10 months of pregnancy (and the recuperation afterwards!), I immediately think about how much it'll need some extra TLC. So, I'm continuing to take my prenatal vitamins, probiotic, and fish oil for a boost in micronutrients, and to support my gut & my brain health. Both of which are intricately connected with your hormones.
6: SOCIALIZING ONCE A WEEK... OUTSIDE OF THE HOUSE
When I asked my midwife what her #1 recommendation was to beating postpartum depression, she said to go see friends 1x a week outside of the house. I was floored.
Did you know that hanging with your gal pals helps your body produce serotonin and oxytocin (the happy hormones)?! That's EASY and FUN.
Truth be told, this one has been difficult for me since my husband and I relocated for 6 months. Including it in this blog will help to hold me accountable!
This one should be a given.....although I've personally found it hard to do with the sleepless nights, lack of time to shop and cook, and a crying baby in my arms. But do your best! My husband actually ordered prepared frozen meals (Ice Age Meals) that were healthy, clean, and easy to pop in the oven. And whenever someone offered to bring food over or cook for me, I ALWAYS said YES.
Similar to what I mentioned above with the supplements...it's important to understand that your body is recuperating from a crazy, intense experience where it gave your child it's all. Now it needs all the loving nourishment to heal. The book "The First Forty Days" has great recipes postpartum recipes for the fourth trimester (the first 3 months postpartum).
8: GETTING OUTSIDE AND GETTING MOVING (SLOWLY)
My son was born at the end of August, so the month of September was spectacular walking weather. Sometimes I was so tired that I would walk with my eyes closed (haha), but it still felt wonderful. On a hormone level, walking is great for lowering insulin (which is beneficial to keep your blood sugar stable) and cortisol (stress hormone). The hormones in our bodies are intricately connected with one another and they are always cross-talking, so it's best to keep these two particularly important hormones in balance.
Still looking for more tips? Here are some other natural remedies on how to help with the baby blues.
Something to note: I am not a medical professional. Everything I have shared here today is personal lifestyle aspects that have been helpful in MY LIFE. Nothing should be interpreted as medical advice. Always consult your doctor.