What is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression(1) or depression after child birth is a common medical condition which affects around 1 out of 7 women after giving birth. Baby birth can trigger a jumble of strong emotions, from enthusiasm and joy to fear and stress(2). It can happen to any mother. The postpartum depression symptoms may start in the first couple of weeks after child birth.
The common symptoms may include,
- Difficulty bonding with baby
- Intense irritability and anger
- Overwhelming fatigue
- Feeling of guilt or worthlessness
- Severe mood swings
- Sleeping difficulty
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks
- An extreme lack of energy
- Difficulty in making decision or reduced concentration
- Appetite problems
Causes of postpartum depression
The following reasons can be some of the possibility of postpartum depression.
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy(3) or post delivery – During pregnancy the progesterone and oestrogen hormones are higher than usual. This may come to normal condition after delivery. This hormonal change may lead to depression.
- Women may with a history of mental health issues in the family.
- The stress from pregnancy, illness, social isolation, financial constraints, or,health problems in the new born baby.
- Physical aspects such as sleep deprivation(4), poor diet, drug abuse or alcohol intake, low thyroid hormone levels are all some factors which leads to depression.
Here are some natural ways to treat postpartum depression and without medications.
A new mother definitely be too tired,at this period the mother should try to set a reasonable bed time. Because lack of quality sleep reduces the ability to function and affects the mood. Sleep when the baby sleeps, if you are not getting sleep, try something to help you to get good sleep. Try relaxing exercises(5), turn off anxiety and worries, drink chamomile tea, turn off the T.V, and turn on some light music. Supportive adults can offer help with baby or household care and create more time to take rest. Never use supplements without the guidance of healthcare providers.Supplements are not good for the baby and the mother.
Eating nutrient rich foods can make huge difference in the body’s ability to normalize hormones. At the time of stress, pressure, change, and depression, the body uses excess nutrients.Eating nutrient dense foods helps combat postpartum depression. Green leafy vegetables, whole grains, and fruits are rich in vitamins and minerals. Vitamin B helps in stress management, selenium fights depression, protein helps body restore after depletion. Small amount of protein during the day helps keep the body’s blood sugar level even and thus stabilizes mood. Also limit caffeine(6) intake, consuming too much caffeine can suppress serotonin levels. A breastfeeding mother should not consume more than 300 mg of caffeine a day.
Take quiet breaks
Screaming, crying and demanding mother all throughout the day are all normal behavior of a new born baby. It’s quite natural for a mother feels to take a little break now and then. Spent a little bit of time away from baby. Breath fresh air and spend 15 minutes time in sunlight exposure, these little things helps relax yourself and maintain the much-needed vitamin D requirements. Also try to do something enjoyable, it maybe a hobby or some form of entertainment.
Inadequate nutrition or poor-quality diet may be one reason for postpartum depression. This depression results in many different health issues. These are the nutrients mainly connected with postpartum depression which includes, vitamin D, vitamin B, zinc, selenium(7), iron and essential fatty acids. Nutrient rich foods are also important for healing, recovery and to support breastfeeding. Take carbohydrate foods such as brown rice, oats, quinoa, whole grains, fruits and vegetables to sustain energy and to promote healing. Add protein rich foods such as grass-feb beef, eggs, sea foods, nuts, beans, yogurt, seeds and poultry to rebuild tissues and muscles in the body.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Consuming fatty fish or other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids may help lower the risk of developing postpartum depression. Salmon, herring, albacore, mackerel, tuna, lake trout, and sardines are natural omega-3 fatty acid supplements to treat the symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acid fish or other oily fish both are helping in improving cardiovascular health. The same is also important for a fetus’s neurological growth(8) and development.
Physical activity during and after pregnancy improves physiological and psychological health and protects from postpartum depression. Regular exercise is important to recover from postpartum depression, anxiety and stress. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology suggest that every postpartum woman must engage themselves in 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. Also, research found that walking with a baby stroller lowers depressive symptoms in new mothers. Exercise,yoga, walking, jogging all these physical activities develops sweat and release those happy endorphins and make the person feel that she accomplished something for the day. This helps to lose extra weight and removes the symptoms of postpartum depression.
Ask for help
Communicate to the people who are very close to you and make them understand that you need help. It is actually beneficial with parenting skills, improves baby’s sleep, and soothes fretting and crying. Some of them in the family may likes to spend time with the baby,get their help, if you like to sleep then take good rest, or make a habit getting dressed and leave the house for some time. Go for a movie, or meet your close friends and spend sometime with them.
A clinical trial had been conducted to find out the effect of lavender essential oil on prevention of stress,anxiety and postpartum depression in women. 140 were admitted to the gynecological unit and they were randomly divided into two groups aromatherapy and non-aromatherapy groups. Aroma therapy group has been given 3 drops of lavender essential oil every 8 hour with for 4 weeks. The aromatherapy group of women assessed after 2 weeks, 1 and 3 months and it concluded that inhaling the scent of lavender essential oil for 4 weeks can prevent anxiety, stress and depression after childbirth.
Massage therapy is considered so important with regard to the specific biological condition after child birth and the subsequent drop in hormone levels. Massage therapy is well known for pain relief, stress reduction, hormone regulation, better sleep, relaxation, improved breastfeeding(9), and reduces swelling. Massage therapy after delivery has been shown to be very effective for a faster recovery and better health.Find a best massage therapist who are trained to work with postpartum women.Regular massage relaxes muscles, increases blood circulation, lowers stress hormones, brings complete relaxation and stress relief. Body pain is very common during and after pregnancy. Massage is an effective universal approach that relaxes muscles and relieves pain without medication.
Performing any type of breathing exercise everyday can be extremely helpful to reduce stress and tension. Close the eyes,take a deep breath and when exhale, release any held tension in the mind, eyes, shoulders and forehead. Use the mind to follow the breath in and breath out. Imagine the breath moves through the nose, travelling lungs and all around the body. Imagine all your thoughts as a balloon, release the thread of the balloon in the air. Let your thoughts, concerns, worry, anticipation go off. Simply comeback to the breathing exercise. Practice some yoga asana and incredible poses such as pigeon, fish and forward bends. Try any one of the mentioned poses,this helps relax yourself, reduces stress, tension, or emotions.
Follow a healthy life style
Include nutrient rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, sprouts in the diet, avoid taking alcohol, practice physical activity such as walking(10) and other exercises, take adequate rest, spend time with family and friends, listen some good music and dance. These are some of the small things which can help you feel better.