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Postpartum Depression by Dr. Amber McKinnon ND

posted Feb 11, 2011, 12:54 PM by Tascheleia Marangoni
The miracle that is childbirth is laden with joy, triumph and love, this is the romantic idea that speaks truth but does not tell the whole story, as with most things in life there must be balance. This new life created and welcomed brings with it new love and joys as well as new responsibility and adjustments. Many believe that our difficulties play a large role in helping us enjoy our triumphs. In postpartum depression this balance is tipped making it difficult to find the beauty in motherhood.

The postpartum period is a time of huge change and extreme demands which tax every part of a woman; her physical body, relationships, sex life, spirituality, career life, finances, social life and emotions. This is a time in a women’s life when everything changes, it is not like any other major event in her life, it is bigger than a new home, a new job, a new partner or marriage; none of these events impact every single aspect of a women’s life. Having a baby does. Physically a woman’s body is shifting back to accommodating one set of organs once again. Her hormones are in flux as her body recovers from pregnancy and birth and shifts to accommodate a seemingly ever increasing demand for breast milk. During all this physical change, women are sleep deprived as they are adjusting to their new baby’s sleeping and feeding patterns. Romantic relationships are altered as a relationship of two now involves three and sexual relations often require more planning. This time in a woman’s life often also brings about re-evaluation of spiritual meanings and convictions as they reflect on their pregnancy and birth of their child. Between these thoughts are thoughts of adjusting to life as a mother and how they feel about taking time away from their career and how this will affect their family financially and otherwise. Women alter their social life, finding more child friendly activities and often are introduced to a new social network. There are new questions and concerns about the baby and motherhood, the question on every woman’s mind is “is this normal?” Finally, her emotions dealing with all these changes in combination with the new hormone soup circulating her body, all have huge effects on how a woman feels.

Does all of this leave you feeling overwhelmed? The point I am trying to make, is that it is natural for any woman to feel overwhelmed at this time in her life. This is a time when balance must be actively sought out. So, what does it mean if you feel that this has landed you in a position that you are concerned about postpartum depression? It means that your body is demanding help. Let me also elaborate on what this does NOT mean. It does not mean that you have done something wrong or that you are inadequate in anyway. It does not mean that you are unfit to be a mother. It does not mean that you will feel this way forever. It simply means that you need to care for yourself. Every woman during this time needs help; it is no different for you. What does “help” mean? It means ANYTHING you feel you need. This is where your social network comes in large or small, family or friends, your network need only be supportive and loving. Do not hesitate to ask for help! If you feel you do not have a social network, please join a mother’s group or support group (see the resources section of the PPDA website). In today’s society people are feeling more and more disconnected, the birth of a child traditionally brought communities together, so that all could marvel in the miracle of new life. Unfortunately, this seems to be slipping as our lives become busier and busier. This does not mean that this is the way it should be, there are movements to bring the group back for women, PDDA is just one example of this. Help also means talking to a primary care physician an MD or ND (Naturopathic Doctor). If you think you may be suffering from postpartum depression it is very important you tell your doctor, they are there to help you. Know that your psychological health is just as important as any other system in your body; would you ignore a broken bone? If you are not comfortable with your doctor, find one you are comfortable with, I suggest you ask your friends about their MD or ND, or consider bringing a friend or your husband in with you for this conversation with your physician.

From a naturopathic perspective one must address the root cause of the postpartum depression; this will vary from individual to individual. There are specific areas that need to be addressed with any woman suffering with post partum depression; for example, proper nutrition is essential. We have all heard the adage you are what you eat, this is quite literally true; our food is broken down, absorbed and used to create new building blocks for our body. During pregnancy and breast feeding the mother is not only providing this support for her own body but also for that of her growing child; studies have shown links between particular nutritional deficiencies and postpartum depression. During this time of high stress, substances that add to the body burden such as alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine and refined sugars should be avoided as they will only further contribute to the body’s stress. Also imperative is mental/ emotional support, this can come in a variety of forms from herbal supplements to acupuncture, counseling, or physical therapies to help release issues a mother is holding in her body. One of the beautiful things about naturopathic medicine is that we have so many different ways to address most any health concern; it offers a real benefit in being able to individually tailor treatments to a patients specific needs. I would recommend that a mother struggling with postpartum depression be seen by a team of health professionals who are all in communication with each other, so that her issues can be addressed from more than one perspective. Ultimately, the message here is that all women need help during the postpartum period, if you know or believe you may have postpartum depression this is essential, this is not a time to ignore your needs. Know that you are not alone, you can make a change and that there is help.