Published Sep 21, 2002 in the North Island Weekender
Shelley, age 30, came to me with Postpartum depression.
She was a first time mom with a six-month old baby and overwhelmed by the experience. She had difficulty with breast feeding to start but finally got the hang of it. She is sleep deprived and unable to find time for herself.
Her husband works out of town so she is finding that she is experiencing not only depression, but anxiety. She feels guilty because she is beginning to resent the needs of the baby and is experiencing lack of interest in the baby, worrying about hurting the baby and lack of concern for herself.
These are the reasons she is now seeking professional help. She wants to avoid antidepressants because she is breast feeding and is concerned about possible risks to the baby.
The majority of women with newborns often experience what is commonly referred to as the “baby blues” which dissipate a few weeks after the baby is born. Postpartum mood disorders are a much more serious form of baby blues that can last for years if left untreated.
Symptoms can include: moodiness, sadness, difficulty sleeping, irritability, appetite changes and concentration problems.
The fix for this mild form is normally lots of rest and more support from the partner and family.
In the case of Shelley, she needed aggressive naturopathic care to get results in order to avoid the use of anti-depressants.
I reviewed the following strategy with her and made her commit to visits with me every two weeks to make sure was progressing well.
1. Secure a good support network. I encouraged her to see a counselor and talked to her about asking for more help from her partner and her close family. She had been afraid to open up about her feelings with her loved ones. I suggested that a counselor could help her with this if she was not feeling safe.
2. Sleep: come up with a strategy where she could get better quality and uninterrupted sleep. This included using homeopathic Rubimeds that help not only with anxiety and depression but also sleep. These remedies are safe with breast feeding.
3. Adrenal support: Pregnancy, delivery and breast feeding play havoc with the stress pathways in the body including the adrenal and thyroid glands. Adrenal support is addressed using the wonderful adaptogenic herb, Siberian Ginseng which is safe during breast feeding. I will have the mother take this herb for months to help with energy, stamina and well being. During pregnancy, moms will feel great because they are benefiting from the babies adrenal function but when they give birth this stops abruptly, contributing to post partum depression.
4. Optimize the thyroid: TSH, T4 and T3 blood tests help me make sure the thyroid is getting the support it needs and I will treat the thyroid before many MD’s will, using effective herbal remedies to start.
5. Covering the basics: Preconception care and prenatal care that I cover with moms before they get pregnant and deliver really helps prevent post partum depression. Basic nutrients help most cases of depression.
6. Hormone balancing: Some women benefit from temporary progesterone supplementation to feel better but this can impact breast feeding so professional assessment is warranted.
Some risk factors for developing postpartum depression can be: having a prior history, stressful events during pregnancy or birth, and women with marital difficulties or general lack of social support.
Dr. Ingrid Pincott N.D. Naturopathic Physician, has been practicing since 1985 and can be reached at 250-286-3655 or www.DrPincott.com
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