Featured Image: @thejonescru
Article By: Stella Nadene (StellaNadene.com)
After the birth of my first daughter, the word ‘postpartum depression’ came into play way too early. My mom is the person that said it. I wanted her to take it back immediately and never repeat it. It was a dirty word to me. See, we had tried for four years to have my daughter. We went through all the tests for infertility with seemingly nothing wrong. Then dealt with about 12 rounds of insemination only to have a ruptured cyst with nearly a month out of work from the medications.
I finally was diagnosed by a different doctor with endometriosis when he did a laparoscopy. 2 cycles later I was pregnant. It had taken four whole years what it took a couple of weeks for most people, including my sisters. So this birth was supposed to be perfect. The baby was supposed to be perfect. And me taking care of her was supposed to be perfect. She was a miracle to us, and I didn’t want anything tarnishing that image for me. So when we picked up my step-daughter from the airport, despite the fact that her mom had already told my husband she’d been sick, I was furious. And then when she was squished on the other side of the baby carrier in the back seat with me and coughed all over the baby, I lost it.
That’s when my mom first said ‘postpartum depression.’ And it was only three days after our miracle had been born. The truth was that I was so exhausted I couldn’t see straight. I’ve never been good at getting up in the morning. Let alone running on an average of 4 hours of sleep a night. But I was a trooper; I was going to get through it. I had read every book about ‘what to expect’ that I could get my hands on. I was taking my vitamins.
And yet, I couldn’t get my daughter to sleep when she needed to—when I needed to. And I didn’t realize she wasn’t correctly latching on to breastfeed. So it hurt like hell. I slowly began to feel like I was losing it. Part of our relief finally came when our pediatrician told us to put the baby down at six pm. We thought he was nuts, but at that point, she wouldn’t even go down without lying ON TOP of me at night! I was having horrible thoughts at that time, going into panic attacks at the idea that I may lose control one day and ‘accidentally’ drop her when going down the stairs in our home.
The fact is, many, many women go through this. I wasn’t alone, but I felt like it. I felt like I was going crazy. And every perfect image I’d had in my head about having a baby was long gone. I felt like I had zero support, and I was expected to return to work and feign normalcy when I felt anything but ordinary. Many years later, I’ve become a certified wellness coach, and have learned so much about nutrition and general wellness, including during and after pregnancy. And as the saying goes, ‘I wish I’d known then…’
So preventing post-partum depression obviously should’ve been the first step. When I was pregnant with my second daughter, we lived in a different state, and I regularly went to the natural foods store because it was closest. They have an enormous vitamin section and the girl one day told me that vitamin B6 plus magnesium was the combination to take to help avoid postpartum depression. I consumed that combination, in addition to fish oil. And I can’t tell you how much a difference that made in my level of sadness and hopelessness once my second was born.
If you’re way past the ‘prevention’ stage though, there are several ways to deal with postpartum depression if you’re already on the battlefield of it. Here are the seven tips I recommend:
Get as much sleep as possible! I used to purposely not take a nap when the baby did because before I’d always felt like crap when I napped during the day before being pregnant. Let me tell you something—NOTHING is the same once you have a baby, so if you feel the same—get over it!! Your body needs that rest so much you can’t even imagine! Your body is trying to heal from childbirth, regain it’s original form, likely produce food for your baby, and deal with being conscious for night-time feedings.
Please understand that sleep has GOT to be a priority! Even if you pump and let the partner take a feeding a few times a week, he/she can manage this. His/her body has not dealt with what yours has for 9+ months, and that’s the LEAST they can do to help out.
Getting enough calories is also vital, but not just calories you need to eat the “right kind” of calories. Added sugars are going to send your blood sugar and hormones into a tailspin. High blood sugar does not help when you’re already trying to maintain a balance.
And if you’re little one is colicky at all, it’s likely caused by what you’re eating if you’re breastfeeding. Eliminate added sugars, and any other foods you suspect you may be sensitive to, and see how you feel. Some great add-ins are fatty wild-caught fish (like salmon and tuna), organic or grass-fed meats, and a ton of veggies. Protein is going to be very important. That’s the building blocks for your hormones, and right now, you need all those blocks to regain your hormonal balance.
Ok, yes, you’re taking your prenatal vitamins, but guess what—most vitamins don’t include things like calcium (or very little of it) and essential things like omega 3’s. Omega 3’s have been shown to help with mental wellness. They balance out all the omega 6s we get on the Standard American Diet. Through subpar oils that are used in all packaged food.
Krill oil is an excellent option for this. The Viva Naturals Krill Oil is a customer favorite on Amazon and highly recommended, click here to purchase it. Adding more B vitamins plus magnesium will also help. But the main thing is to pay attention to is how you feel. Naturally check with your doc before you add a ton of stuff, especially if you have any allergies.
Any form of exercise will be your friend, but walking will especially help. It gets your blood flowing, which gets all those vitamins and nutrients to all body parts but also boosts your mood. Walking has been shown to improve post-partum depression symptoms. As well as anxiety while helping your body shed that extra baby weight.
My recommendation is to start out slow and work your way up to farther distances and speeds. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, head to the mall, there’re miles of free walkway right there in the indoors. (Plus the motion and white noise of lights and people talking will help the baby sleep, or stay entertained until hungry again.)
5. Find Support
Find a friend to talk to or a local Mommy group. This one was one of my most significant challenges. I couldn’t fathom talking to someone about my horrible thoughts. Although once I did, I felt like it set me free. And you know what? The friend I spoke to told me she had felt the SAME WAY. It was so liberating to finally get that off my chest and see that I wasn’t alone. Just having that support, and somebody to talk to about it, made me feel a thousand percent better. You are honestly NOT alone.
So many women go through this and feel like they’ll be seen as a monster if they admit what’s been going on. Or what’s been going through their head. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Getting some support is going to help you emotionally deal with this. Plus, other moms that have been through it already may have some more pointers for what helped them.
6. Find Other Ways to Relax
Yoga and meditation during my postpartum depression would have also helped me tremendously in that period. Just getting to stretch, and be mindful, and at the moment, would have helped me slow down to see things more clearly. Yoga is a great way to get your former body back as well. What I love about yoga is that you can do a gentle routine to get you started.
Just make sure you read up on inversions if you’re still bleeding. The old-school yoga instructors say not to do any inversions if you’re bleeding or menstruating. Some newer schools of thought say it’s ok, but since I had endometriosis (caused by a backflow of blood). I avoid it if I’m on my period.
5. Strength Workouts
This strategy is probably best used after you’ve implemented the first 6. Hear me out on why I recommend this. Sometimes when you can’t sleep or haven’t slept good for an extended period, something weird happens to your body. It learns these patterns, and then many people end up with insomnia.
At that point, you need some significant resets to happen to get your body back where it should be. Strength workouts depend on building muscle in your body and require deep sleep to recover from the exercise. I learned this after having significant issues with insomnia caused by hormonal imbalance. But even if you’re not in the insomniac club, strength will still be your friend. You know how those little monkeys are growing like crazy? Yeah, you’re going to need your power to keep lifting them, and chasing them around in your happier years to come!
Don’t give up on this, and don’t give in to it. Work on these seven tips, and especially find some unanimous support. You’re likely the hub and manager of the household. Remember that nothing will run well if the center isn’t running well! And always remember that you’re not alone in this battle!