Pregnancy can be one of the happiest times in a woman’s life, but after the baby is born, lots of changes occur in a new mom’s body. Postpartum depression is one problem that some women have to deal with.
Postpartum depression, also known as PPD, is a type of depression that occurs in new mothers after delivery. A combination of biological and emotional factors may lead to this problem.
The levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body fluctuate dramatically after delivery. These hormones are linked with neurotransmitters that affect a person’s mood and the chemical fluctuations can increase the risk of postpartum depression.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, postpartum depression occurs in almost 15 percent of births. It can start shortly before or after childbirth. However, it usually begins between a week and a month following delivery.
Major symptoms of postpartum depression include feelings of being overwhelmed, intense anxiety, frequent crying or weeping, irritability or anger, sadness, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, changes in sleeping or eating habits, lack of concentration, and intense worry about the baby or lack of interest in the newborn.
It can also cause physical symptoms, such as headaches, chest pains or hyperventilation.
As prolonged depression may be harmful for the health of the new mother and her child, it is important to consult a doctor immediately if you are experiencing these symptoms.
Here are the top 10 ways to fight and prevent postpartum depression.
1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that is important for mental health.
This vitamin aids in the production of serotonin, the brain hormone associated with mood elevation and happiness. An adequate level of serotonin helps prevent and treat postpartum depression.
During pregnancy, with the demands placed on the body by the fetus, there is increased risk for vitamin D deficiency.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of the American Psychiatry Nurses Association shows a significant relationship over time between low 25(OH)D levels (a measurement of vitamin D) and high Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale scores, indicative of postpartum depression.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Pharmacy Technology suggests a possible correlation between vitamin D levels at midpregnancy and postpartum depression. Women with risk factors for this type of depression should try to maintain normal vitamin D levels. However, further research is needed to determine the benefit of vitamin D supplementation in preventing it.
As the active form of vitamin D is produced by the body as a byproduct of sun exposure, it is important to spend time in the sun, especially during the morning, for 15 to 20 minutes daily.
Vitamin D is also found in certain foods, including some kinds of fish, egg yolks, and fortified dairy and grain products.
Vitamin D supplements may be needed to effectively stimulate a more positive mood and fight symptoms related to depression. Consult your doctor for an appropriate dosage.
2. Foods Rich in Omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids are vital nutrients for a number of cell functions.
These fatty acids are a key component in cell membranes, which aid the proper functioning of serotonin. Serotonin is important for carrying messages to the brain cells to maintain a positive mood.
Omega-3 fatty acids also play a key role in the development and functioning of the central nervous system.
A 2011 study published in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth reports that eating fatty fish or other foods rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy may help lower the risk of developing symptoms commonly seen in postpartum depression.
A 2014 study published in Behavioral Brain Research suggests that fish oil, rich in omega-3, exerts beneficial effect on postpartum depression and decreases the biomarkers related to depression, such as corticosterone and pro-inflammatory cytokines.
To ensure an adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids, eat more flaxseeds, fatty fish like salmon, walnuts and omega-3 fortified eggs. You can also take an omega-3 fatty acid supplement, after consulting your doctor.
New moms diagnosed with postpartum depression need a secure emotional attachment with their newborns. The infants also need this secure attachment with their mothers. This nonverbal emotional bond aids in releasing endorphins that make mothers feel happier and more confident as a mom.
To build this strong emotional bond, breastfeeding is the best option. However, mothers with postpartum depression may be less likely to breastfeed. So, it becomes important for the partner or other family members to help new moms understand the importance of breastfeeding.
A 2012 study published in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine indicates that women who breastfeed their infants reduce their risk of developing postpartum depression, with effects being maintained over the first four months postpartum. Postpartum depression may also decrease the rate of breastfeeding, suggesting a reciprocal relationship between these variables.
A recent 2016 study published in CMAJ Open reports that quality of breastfeeding support is important not only for breastfeeding promotion but also for maternal mental health. Educating front-line caregivers to ensure that breastfeeding women experience positive support can reduce the risk of postpartum depression.
4. Talk Therapy
In talk therapy, a mental health professional (a counselor, therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker) talks with the woman suffering from postpartum depression on a one-to-one basis.
This allows the new mom to share all her fears and emotions in confidence with someone outside her circle of family and friends. Through the therapy, the new mother becomes ready to accept the new responsibility of motherhood in a much better way.
Two types of counseling are found to be very effective in treating postpartum depression. These are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT).
CBT helps people recognize and change negative thoughts and behaviors. This talk therapy is based on the premise that both perceptions and behaviors are intimately linked to mood.
On the other hand, IPT helps people understand and work through problematic personal relationships. This time-limited therapy focuses mainly on addressing the person’s interpersonal connections.
In both these therapies, treatment usually lasts three to four months.
5. Soothing Massages
A soothing, warm massage is one of the best ways to pamper a depressed body.
Massage not only rejuvenates a depressed body but also fills it with renewed energy, which is important as being a mother you have a new responsibility of taking care of your newborn baby.
It even helps get rid of all the negative feelings and thoughts, as well as plays a key role in managing physical pain and the impacts of stress.
Postpartum massage has other benefits too, including hormone regulation, reduced swelling, better sleep and improved breastfeeding. Along with that, attending baby massage under the supervision of your partner or an expert can even help fight postpartum depression. It helps depressed mothers bond better with their newborns.
A 2008 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders indicates that attending baby massage improved maternal depression and mother-infant interactions.
It is important to find a massage therapist who is certified in post-delivery massage therapy.
Another significant way to deal with depression post-delivery is the age-old acupuncture therapy. In this therapy, thin needles are inserted at specific vital pressure points in the body. It helps maintain equilibrium of the various hormones in the body.
It can even give the mother a boost of energy to replenish the energy depleted during childbirth. Also, it helps resolve pain and improve thyroid function.
Acupuncture also appears to be an effective way to reduce depression symptoms during pregnancy.
A 2010 study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology reports that standardized acupuncture protocol could be a viable treatment option for depression during pregnancy.
Another 2012 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that both electro acupuncture and non-invasive sham acupuncture were effective for postpartum depression. However, further studies utilizing larger sample sizes, better recruitment strategies and home-based acupuncture treatment are needed.
When it comes to acupressure, it is important to get it done by an expert only.