Post Natal Depression

Post Natal Depression vs Maternity Blues

We could write ten pages on this subject. Let’s keep it to one, and if you’d like more information, please call us. The single most important thing to do if you are feeling blue or depressed is to reach out and seek help and support. Like all things in life, there is a spectrum of dysphoria or unhappiness that can kick in after the birth of your baby, and finding out where you sit along the spectrum can be difficult, which is why it is good to talk it over with health professionals, such as your midwife, naturopath, or GP.

 

At one end of the spectrum is Maternity Blues or Baby Blues. These are also known as the three-day baby blues and is a transient condition experienced by most women (50-80%) on the third, or up to the tenth day following the birth. Transient means they only last a couple of days at the most. This is normal, but still extremely distressing, as you may feel hopeless, anxious, overwhelmed, vulnerable, flat, tearful, emotional or unemotional! The best remedies here are time, support, knowledge (this is normal and will pass), and the Bach Flowers Elm and Walnut.

 

At the other end of the spectrum is Postpartum Psychosis. One woman in every 500-1000 may experience this. It occurs 2-3 weeks following birth and is a serious medical condition and medical treatment must be sought. Typical symptoms are paranoia, delusions, mania, and hallucinations.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) happens to approximately 7% of women, and is the result of a particularly traumatic birth experience. For more information go to www.tabs.org.nz.

Postnatal Depression (PND) is worse than maternity blues. It lasts longer and is more severe. Approximately 10-20% of women may experience this. It is important that this is diagnosed and support is sought early. The longer it goes undiagnosed and unmanaged, the worse it is for both mother and baby. 

Common symptoms of PND

  • Depression, lack of joy
  • Anxiety and panic attacks

  • Sadness, tearfulness, frequent crying

  • Feeling utterly overwhelmed for long periods of time

  • Feeling unable to cope or concentrate

 What causes Post Natal Depression?

  • Hormonal factors: Women experience a massive hormonal shift following birth, oestrogen and progesterone levels drop dramatically and suddenly, prolactin levels increase, and cortisol and serotonin levels may be disrupted. Adrenal and thyroid health is of key importance.
  • Nutritional and Biochemical Factors: Low levels of zinc, essential fatty acids, and B vitamins are all associated with increased risk of PND. Iron levels are also important. Elevated copper can also negatively impact on mood and energy following birth. Adequate protein is essential for healthy neurotransmitter production. Increase egg yolks (runny), brewer’s yeast, seaweeds, wheat-germ, nuts and dark green leafy vegetables.

  • Personal Circumstances: many personal circumstances relating to individual health can increase the risk of PND (eg. History of depression or anxiety, low thyroid function, lack of financial support, history of alcoholism etc).

  • Birth Factors: Women who have had some form of technological intervention during the birth are 24% more likely to develop PND. Those who have had an emergency caesarian section are six times more likely than other women to develop PND. Additionally, early hospital discharge following the birth can negatively impact.

  • Cultural and Social factors: There are many social and cultural factors that can contribute to PND, which are to do with the way that motherhood is socially valued (not much), and the lack of support for new mothers.

 

Natural remedies to support Post Natal Depression

A woman with true PND should always consult her health practitioner for an individual consultation. This extends also to seeking natural health care, it is better to have an individualized prescription than something generic off the shelf. Your PND may be very different to someone else’s, and the herbs and remedies that will suit you may not be the best thing for someone else. These are some common herbs and nutrients we use for PND:  

  • Personalized Herbal Prescription - Common herbs used are: Chaste Tree, Withiania, St John's Wort, Lemon Balm, Lavender

  • B Complex Vitamins

  • Zinc

  • Bach Flowers including Pine, Larch, Walnut, Elm, Aspen, Sweet Chestnut, Hornbeam, Gentian, Star of Bethlehem, White Chestnut.

 

Other ways to support yourself or your partner with Post Natal Depression:

  •  Good self care is first and foremost, this means adequate rest, sleep, water, support, good food, and good supplements.
  • Spend some time outside, do some gentle exercise, see friends, have a laugh, do what brings you joy. 

  • Seek professional help where needed, there are plenty of good support groups and good counsellors and therapists. www.postnataldistress.org.nz

  • Find other mothers to talk with and share your highs and lows with.

  • A little bit of nurture goes a long way; massages, essential oils, baths, foot rubs and treats.