With women as diverse in culture, background and age as Princess Diana, Drew Barrymore and Chrissie Teigen sharing their experiences with postpartum depression, this often stigmatized downside of giving birth is becoming more openly discussed. Postpartum depression (PPD) afflicts between 10 and 15 percent of new mothers, with many pf them turning to natural ways to relieve their postpartum depression.
What Postpartum Depression Feels Like
Symptoms range in severity from mild anxiety to sever depression and even psychosis. But just like any other psychiatric disorder, PPD feels different for every women. But there are some commonalities which include:
- A horrible sense of dread: Many women describe a feeling of ominous anxiety, dread and that something isn’t right.
- Feeling physical symptoms of PPD: Some mothers experience physical sensation such as fatigue, brain fog and nausea.
- Disconnect from their baby, motherhood and their thoughts: Although able to carry out the daily tasks of motherhoods, some women experience a severe sense of disconnection for their babies. Some women also report feeling resentful “motherhood” or that their babies feel alien to them but that these thoughts don’t feel like their own.
- Rage and resentment: Often described by women who suffer from PPD as being the “scariest symptom of postpartum depression”, some women feel anger and resentment towards their newborns, and sometimes their partners
- Regret and wanting to run away: Another common experience among new moms is a feeling of regret and wishing there was a way to go back to pre-baby life.
- Feeling guilty: Because of the expectations new mothers have regarding motherhood as well as the expectations of society, a sense of guilt for not feeling bonded, not experiencing gushing love and feeling like a “failure” is almost universal.
- Shame and a need to hide: Similarly, many women also experience shame and the need to hide their feelings, feeling embarrassed, inadequate or selfish
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
Although the medical community isn’t sure of the exact causes of postpartum depression, the traditional view is that there’s no single cause, but that physical and emotional issues may play a role in its development.
Physical changes after childbirth include dramatic drops in estrogen and progesterone which may contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression. Other hormones produced by the thyroid gland may also drop sharply causing fatigue, brain fog and depression. Add to that emotional issues such as sleep deprivation and feeling overwhelmed by the dramatic changes in routine, the theory goes that many women can feel anxious about their ability to care for a new born, struggle with a sense of identity or feel out of control.
What many researchers on pregnancy-related mood disorders rarely take into account are things like metabolic and inflammatory markers which we know are implicated in most of what we call depression. Similarly, research rarely, if ever controls for dietary and environmental factors such lack of nutrition or exposure to endocrine disruptors.
However, in a recent paper published in the Asian Journal of Psychiatry called Homocysteine and serotonin: Association with Postpartum Depression researchers did exactly that. And what they found was revolutionary.
According to their results, one of the main biological markers for postpartum depression was not serotonin but rather higher levels of homocysteine – an amino acid which is a precursor to inflammation as well as neuropsychiatric illness.
Why Homocysteine Is Important
As an amino acid pathway, the methionine-homocysteine pathway plays a vital role in a range of physiological function which include the production of the body’s main methyl-donor called SAMe, as well as the body’s primary antioxidant called glutathione.
Through these two functions, homocysteine is continuously being recycled and supporting things like the production of myelin around nerve sheaths, neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine and supporting nerve cell membranes. But most importantly, it manages oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is the enemy of a new mom looking for a happy and healthy pregnancy and postpartum for both herself and her baby as it has been implicated as an underlying factor in things like miscarriages, diabetes-related congenital malformations, spontaneous abortions, preterm birth, pre-eclampsia, fetal growth restriction and low birth weight.
Similarly, several studies have now also shown that the immune system and its responsiveness to oxidative stress signals may be a major player in developing postpartum depression with factors such as genetics, environmental triggers, and hormones and the complex interplay between them all being implicated in the onset of mood and anxiety disorders such as postpartum depression.
So, what we have now is an opportunity to potentially prevent and resolve a complex neuroendocrine phenomenon through diet, environmental exposure modification, and stress response.
3 Natural Ways to Relieve Postpartum Depression
Micronutrients and fatty acid intake during pregnancy have been shown to alter the epigenetics – or the genetic expression – of the unborn baby as can environmental factors such exposure to endocrine disruptors like BPA and phthalates in plastics. However, we also know that diet, supplements and stress management can be protective.
1. Cannabidiol (CBD)
Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, has been shown to be a powerful anti-inflammatory. CBD has the ability to decrease the activity of the enzyme cyclooxygenase in a similar way as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen and Naproxen by inhibiting the release of prostaglandins, the neurochemicals which causes the body’s inflammatory response. But CBD’s biggest benefit for women suffering from postpartum depression is its ability to reduce immune response and oxidative stress. Researchers found that CBD can fight oxidative stress directly by exerting an immunosuppressive effect on the cells that play a role in inflammation.
2. Diet & Supplements
B-vitamins, especially B6, B9 and B12 have long been implicated as important nutrients for brain health and mood as they are directly involved in the process which recycles homocysteine. Therefore, if a new mother are low in these nutrients, it can promote inflammation and causing her mood to destabilize.
Similarly, eat foods which controls for glycemic fluctuations and avoid refined carbs and grains. Eat more healthy fats especially those high in essential fatty acids to push the body to relearn how to use fats for fuel. And try to include the following in your diet:
- Wild Salmon & Other Oily Fish: Essential fatty acids like omega 3 and DHA are powerful anti-inflammatories and protect against oxidative stress. Oily fish like wild salmon, sardines, trout and mackerel are not only rich sources of these types of fats but also high in the B-vitamins essential to homocysteine recycling, thus helping to keep postpartum depression at bay.
- Organic Eggs: Eggs are packed with protein, vitamin D as well as the all important B-vitamins with a deficiency in these nutrients being linked to depression due to the role they play in mood regulation and oxidative stress.
- Full-fat Greek Yogurt, Milk and Cheese: If you can consume dairy without any issues, add whole dairy products to your diet as they are great sources of vitamin D which is also implicated in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation.
- Grass-fed/Organic Red Meat & Organ Meats: Some of the richest sources of B-vitamins, grass-fed and organic red meat also clocks high levels of omega-3 fatty acids that are important to mental and physical health.
- Supplements: Natural anti-inflammatories like the polyunsaturated fats in evening primrose oil and fish oil, vitamin D, N-acetylcysteine, magnesium, turmeric, and probiotics can help promote a synergy of beneficial effects for naturally treating postpartum depression.
3. Interval Training & Burst exercise
Interval training and burst exercises provide the most bang for your buck in terms of the cardiovascular benefits which enhance mitochondrial health. Mitochondrial health lies at the center of cellular metabolism and plays a critical role in disease development and progression with oxidative stress induces mitochondrial dysfunction and visa versa and contributing to postpartum depression. To get the most benefits out of your exercise, give it your all for 30 seconds, then recover for 90 seconds and do this for 8 intervals 1-3 times per week.
DISCLAIMER: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Consult with a physician if you have a serious medical condition or use prescription medications. A doctor’s advice should always be sought before before embarking on any new treatment.