Having a baby is obviously a joyous time in one’s life, but that doesn’t mean the body chemistry always cooperates. Some women will experience severe postpartum depression (and in that case, should seek medical help as soon as symptoms become apparent), while others will deal with a “dumpy” feeling. A woman’s hormones go through an extreme roller coaster ride during pregnancy and in the months after birth. It’s understandable, then, that as the hormones shift from prenatal to postnatal, some mood disorders, sadness, anxiety, or other unpleasant symptoms may occur.
Postpartum depression is a serious health condition that needs immediate care from a qualified medical practitioner. If you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, please tell your doctor right away, as well as family or friends who can support you.
The Postpartum Hormone Shift
Only a week after delivery, estrogen and progesterone levels drop dramatically. These hormones sustained and nourished the pregnancy, but now, the body reels from the shocking change in its hormonal landscape. This can leave moms feeling sad, emotional, moody, or anxious, all of which can be normal postnatal emotions.
Postpartum depression, which is more serious, usually kicks in 2-4 weeks after birth, and comes with these same symptoms, along with more serious ones like feelings of anger, severe mood swings, and thoughts of self harm or harm toward the baby. These are also the result of dramatic hormone changes but should never be overlooked or downplayed just because they’re due to hormones. It’s important to keep lines of communication open with your partner and other caregivers in the days and weeks after birth in order to receive the help and support that you need.
How Can Women Avoid The Baby Blues?
While it’s not entirely possible for any woman to predict how her hormones will respond, supporting the right nutritional pathways in the body can help to lessen severity. Changing hormone levels involve many organs, most notably the liver, which is responsible for breaking down the hormones that your body is done with. New moms should consider eating liver-friendly foods to support this process, as well as nutrients to support neurotransmitters and the nervous system to lessen the severity of symptoms. These foods include:
- Green leafy veggies
- Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage
- Salmon, sardine, and cod
- Coconut oil
- Nuts and seeds
Women should continue taking prenatal vitamins even after birth, since it is suspected that micro-nutrient deficiencies can contribute to postpartum blues or depression. In addition to a high quality prenatal vitamin, supplement with 2000-5000 IU of Vitamin D3, 15-20 mg of zinc, 200 mcg of selenium, 1-2 mg of folate (the active L-5-MTHF form is best), and 2-3 mg of B12 (in methylcobalamin form) daily.
For the very holistically-minded woman, consider getting your placenta encapsulated after birth. Studies have shown that consuming the placenta can help stave off postpartum blues, as well as address a number of other post-birth complications.
Other ways ways that new moms can help to avoid postpartum blues include the following:
Dietary triggers: Avoid consuming gluten, dairy, or sugar in the 4-6 weeks after delivery (or permanently!) as these can cause digestive issues, which can lead to inflammation or impair the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Remember that micronutrient deficiencies can lead to postpartum blues.
Alternative therapy: Consider acupuncture or therapeutic massage to help restore hormone balance to the body and to support the physical recovery in the first weeks and months after birth.This can also be helpful for moms who are struggling to sleep or rest well when they do have time for shuteye.
Exercise: Yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi are all forms of exercise that can help to center the mind and produce calm, which can be effective at combating depression or the blues. Even doing them for 10 minutes a day can be therapeutic.
Sunshine: This one stands in a category all on its own, but time in the sun has been shown to be effective at combating depressive feelings. Postpartum depression can be more common in the winter in locations that aren’t sunny, and in this case, light therapy or Vitamin D therapy can be helpful.
Writer Aimee McNew has a Master’s in Holistic Nutrition Therapy (MNT) and is also a Certified Practitioner of Nutrition Therapy (CNTP). Read her posts on nutrition and wellness at https://www.aimeemcnew.com/.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or sell any product.