Spring has officially arrived, and with it, signs of new birth everywhere. But for many new moms, those signs of new birth can look a little blue. Vinyak Shanbhag, M.D., the Medical Director of the Postpartum Depression Program at St. Joseph’s Hospital notes that “many women – as many as 50-80%, suffer from the ‘baby blues’, a mild depression that immediately follows childbirth and typically subsides within ten to fourteen days of delivery”. According to the National Institute of Health, 1 in 10 women find that they are caught in the midst of feelings of sadness, fear and confusion that don’t go away. Symptoms of postpartum depression can begin during pregnancy, immediately after delivery, or even gradually over the following year.
While treatment via counseling, support groups and medication are recommended by traditional physicians across the board, there have been an increased number of alternative methodologies to help women who suffer from postpartum depression, including nutritional and naturopathic means of combating the condition. Need a place to start? Here are a few resources out there to help.
Adjusting to Mommyhood
Mission Hospital, a branch of St. Joseph’s Hospital, offers a Postpartum Depression Support Group for new mothers who are experiencing the oft-unexpected feelings of anxiety, isolation, and depression following birth. The support group focuses on teaching positive coping skills, addresses strategies for successfully overcoming the new challenges of motherhood, and, according to Dr. Vinyak Shanbhag, “offers new moms the chance to interact with others who are willing to share their experiences – a powerful healing tool”. The group meets Tuesdays from 10-11am in the Mission Wellness Center. Babies are welcome! For more information, call (949) 364-1770.
Personalized Medical Plans
Post-childbirth, estrogen and progesterone levels drop dramatically. This sudden change, stacked up against less sleep, caring for a newborn, and that little bit of extra body weight, and no wonder most new moms feel a little out of whack. While feeling depressed post delivery might seem embarrassing, seeking help from your doctor is a great place to start. The staff at St. Joseph’s recommends a personalized plan to get you back on track. Though there is often a stigma attached to taking anti-depressants, traditional doctors often recommend a low dose accompanying a larger treatment plan.
An Apple a Day
While there haven’t been any clinical studies that show a particular eating plan easing the symptoms of depression, studies have shown that a deficiency in certain vitamins, carbohydrates, and types of fatty acids lead to our bodies working overtime to maintain the status quo- and can often lead to illness. By eating foods rich in antioxidants, (apricots, kiwi, blueberries, vegetable oils, strawberries, etc.) we can boost our immune systems and prep them for long days, and potentially sleepless nights. Even eating protein rich foods like beans, fish, and yogurt can help you feel alert, and make it easier to concentrate. So you can keep running after that little miss or mister – without feeling foggy or sluggish.
According to Ayurveda, one of the oldest health systems in existence, “preparation for parenthood should start even before conceiving the baby”. Branka Petric, M.D., practices Ayurveda at the Olive Tree Wellness Center in Irvine, and instead of medication or psychotherapy, she recommends new moms to “post-partum yoga and light strolls with the baby. Listen to your body: if your body demands rest, take rest”. Other tips? “A few drops of lavender oil on your pillow is helpful for relaxation, (and) drinking herbal teas, like tulsi or chamomile during the day can help lower stress levels and assist in getting you back to sleep” in the wee hours of the morning. For more information, call (949) 413-2573.
Walk It Off
In 2008, Pennsylvania State University found that in over 230 cases of pregnancy, “depression and body image satisfaction were main determinants of later depression in pregnancy and postpartum”. In a culture as fixated on body image, thinness, and diet as much as we are, it is no wonder that women who struggle to get back into their pre-baby bodies also found it difficult to combat depression when unable to find time to exercise. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most, if not all days of the week for women who are not suffering from any medical complications. Research has shown that exercise lowers fatigue levels; and the increase in endorphins isn’t terrible either.
Sometimes, all it takes to get you out of the blues is a little personal care. Fuzzy socks? Check. Baseball cap to cover that ponytail you didn’t have time to wash? Check. Get an emergency sitter to come by when you need to get out of the house for ten minutes. Or an hour. Take a hot shower. Have a Grey’s Anatomy marathon with a couple of boxes of Kleenex by your side. Most importantly: let yourself off the hook. Being a parent is hard. Sometimes all we need is to lower our expectations and pare down the to-do list. Is it dire? No? Save it for tomorrow.