This post is dedicated to postpartum moms who feel like they have the baby blues or postpartum depression. We will explore the immense life changes, the symptoms of PPD, and find helpful ways to improve your mood with food, placenta medicine, herbs, supplements, meditations, and radical self-care.
Either watch the video, read the blog or listen on Soundcloud!
Watch on Youtube:
Listen on SoundCloud:
Let's start by acknowledging that birth is a powerful and forever life-changing event! After nurturing and carrying a small human inside of you, then birthing it into the world, you might feel open, raw, and vulnerable. Some feel wounded. It's like you've been turned inside out. And now it's time to piece yourself and your world back together again. The only thing is the pieces are different, and your body is different, your identity, your role, your emotions are all upgraded, and coded with the symbols and marks of a mother. You are trying to fit all this around a baby. We want things to be new and special, and we want things to be how they were before, which, of course, is impossible. So, for some moms, many moms, postpartum depression starts to become a real challenge. And unfortunately, PPD is pervasive. With as many as 10-15% of women reporting symptoms to their care providers. We all know that the number is higher than that.
So, How are you feeling? If you're feeling the weight of postpartum depression, please know that you're not alone even though you are feeling lonely. Now more than ever, it's time for radical self-care. Taking care of yourself as your body recovers from birth, just as much as you care for your baby. Your whole self needs care your body, mind, spirit, emotions, and soul all need tenderness and attention.
The Fourth Trimester
Birth is not the end of the pregnancy journey. Sure your baby isn't kicking your bladder anymore, but you're still entrenched in a major life transition filled with hormonal shifts and sleeplessness. Postpartum women change more hormonally in the first 72 hours after birth than they do in their entire pregnancy. It is easy to see how hard your body and mind are working to find a new normal.
The months after pregnancy are often called the 4th trimester. And there's no hard and fast rule as to when this 4th trimester ends. We often treat the 6 week mark as the end of the postpartum phase, but in reality, it can extend to even a year before you feel back to yourself. For postpartum depression, you may feel fine initially but begin to see symptoms months after birth. Don't write the signs of postpartum depression off just because your baby isn't a newborn anymore. Recognizing postpartum depression symptoms and reaching out for help are the first steps of moving through this process. I suspect you know you have the blues or depression, or you would not be reading this blog. But I'm going to go over the symptoms anyways.
Symptoms of the Baby Blues vs. Postpartum Depression
In an ideal world, you were well prepared for our birth, postpartum, and breastfeeding experience and expected some level of "baby blues." After every birth, the blues are so common and are especially heightened after a difficult birth or traumatic birth. The baby blues tend to pass fairly quickly, or at least they are not debilitating for too long. When you have the blues, you might feel:
Mood swings and weepiness or lose the ability to sleep, eat, or focus well.
This doesn't necessarily mean you have postpartum depression. I'm not saying it's a picnic in the park, but the symptoms are temporary, and this post's suggestions will put you on the right track.
However, when the symptoms begin to escalate, last longer, and interfere with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks, then your mental health care becomes a priority! Seek care from your health professional.
Symptoms usually develop within the first few weeks after giving birth, but may begin earlier ― during pregnancy ― or later — up to a year after birth. Untreated, postpartum depression may last for many months or longer.
Postpartum Depression Symptoms May Include:
- Depressed mood or severe mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
- Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Intense irritability and anger
- Fear that you're not a good mother
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt, or inadequacy
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
There is the next level of SEVERE depression called Postpartum Psychosis.
With postpartum psychosis — a rare condition that typically develops within the first week after delivery. Signs and symptoms may include:
- Confusion and disorientation
- Obsessive thoughts about your baby
- Hallucinations and delusions
- Sleep disturbances
- Excessive energy and agitation
- Attempts to harm yourself or your baby
Postpartum psychosis may lead to life-threatening thoughts or behaviors and requires immediate medical treatment.
Postpartum Depression in New Fathers
Of course, new dads can experience postpartum depression, too. They may feel many the same symptoms of stress, overwhelmed, sadness, fatigue, anxiety, or have changes in their usual eating and sleeping patterns.
Young men or men with a history of depression who are experiencing relationship problems or struggling financially are most susceptible, and it can have the same negative effect on relationships and child development as postpartum depression in mothers can. Especially because they have the most temptation and ability to leave the situation. I think this is why so many men run. Not because they are bad men, they are afraid, depressed, and ill-equipped, so they run, drink, or fight with their partners.
Self Care for Postpartum Depression
There are lots of things you, your family, postpartum doula, and community can do to help you. We all know it's hard enough to take care of your daily needs. So let's keep this simple.
- I made a video called 25 Simple Ways to Improve Your Mood. I suggest watching that video next!
- I have lots of postpartum and breastfeeding blogs and videos to support you!
- Share these resources with the helpful people in your life, so they know what you need and how they can support you.
Food To Improve Your Mood
You are doing your best by putting one foot in front of the other to get through the day. And good nutrition and hydration are the first to suffer. Our body tells us all the time that it can't give what it does not have. Make nutrition is a top priority after having a baby:
Keep lots of fresh produce on hand, as well as foods high in "good fats" and protein. Think dark leafy greens, hard-boiled eggs, avocados, nuts, jerky, crackers and cheese, chicken legs, protein bars. I have a blog post with easy one-handed snacks that are great for postpartum and breastfeeding moms.
Drink a gallon of water every day! Fill a gallon jug of water and pour from it, so you can see how much you're actually drinking.
Consuming Your Placenta for Postpartum Depression
This idea is a little controversial for some, but it really doesn't have to be. I have an extensive blog post about all the different ways to honor the placenta after birth and how to prepare the placenta safely. In brief, we humans are the only mammals that don't have to consume our placentas to bring in our milk. However, those who consume their placentas, their milk comes in quicker; they tend to have more milk, bleed less, recover quicker and have less postpartum depression.
There are lots of ways to consume the placenta. A small piece of the placenta is washed off and given to a hemorrhaging mother immediately after birth. In this case, she swallows it quickly, like a pill. My favorite way to offer the placenta is in placenta smoothies.
By far, the most popular way is to encapsulate the placenta. When you do this, the placenta is treated more like an herb or supplement than a food. The placenta is washed, steamed, cut into strips, and dehydrated. Then the dried strips are powdered, sometimes blended with other powdered herbs, and packaged into capsules. These can be taken daily, like a supplement. It's super important to talk to whoever processed your placenta because there are definite do and don'ts that you must follow. Many midwives, apprentices, childbirth educators, and doulas offer this as a service.
Herbs for Postpartum Depression
Of course, as an herbalist, I want to share my favorite herbs with you. These herbs are perfect for postpartum and breastfeeding moms because they supply vitamins and minerals your body so desperately needs. They support you during hormonal shifts, and they improve your ability to cope with pain, stress, anxiety, depression.
Nettles, Red Raspberry Leaf, and Lemon Balm are go-to's for nourishment, and Ashwagandha is a favorite adaptogen. All of these herbs are found in Women's Balance tea. Making tea is an act of self-care and self-love. I made a video that helps you transform the simple into the sacred. And if you are depressed, you need little holy moments to brighten your day. Feeling connected to the elements of the earth, air, fire, and water is deeply satisfying and grounding.
Let's praise Motherwort for its ability to help mothers manage their anger, frustration, and depression. Motherwort does all this without making you feel out of sorts. Motherwort is one of the primary herbs in Nurtured Mother Afterbirth Cramp Relief and Blues Support.
Teas and tinctures are also great for new moms who are just learning about herbs because they are quick and simple to make and take.
Postpartum Herb Baths are so lovely! They do require a little help from a loved one to prepare. But they are so worth it. Lots of women suffer from perineal and breast pain after giving birth. Their bodies are sore, and they need physical and emotional comfort. The bath offers a safe place for you to bond with your baby and physically feel better.
Meditations That Lift The Fog of Depression
You know, I want to say this as a fellow woman on the path of life. If you are experiencing postpartum depression now, you will more than likely experience perimenopausal and postmenopausal depression too. I don't want to be doom and gloom, but we need to anticipate that. We are deeply emotional and empathetic women, which is our strength. When we shift our perspective and access our resources that help us move through our intense emotions. So learning all the tools now will help you later. I know some of you are young moms, and some of you are in your 30's and 40's. What helps you now will help you in the future that is closer than you think!
Taking a few moments to learn to meditate and clear your mind can help tremendously and valuable life skills. Journaling and going outside can help focus, yet breathing exercises help you find your center and ease your frazzled nerves. I have recorded several guided meditations that I'll link below. Some are on Youtube and others on SoundCloud.
Qigong is a form of moving meditation that is very simple and can shift your mood almost instantly. You are invited to join our Friday class on zoom 10 am central time.
Now is not the time to Isolate!
It's important to not isolate your self when you're depressed. This is incredibly challenging because you want to hide away from the world, and as of this writing, we are in a COVID pandemic, and we are practicing social distancing. I really do hope that you will allow your community, however big or small, to step in and be there for you. Have "Mom dates." Meet up, childcare trades, to take time to have adult conversations. You need it!
Like our Birth Song Botanicals Facebook Page
Follow Birth Song Botanicals Co. on Instagram
Read our Birth Song Botanicals Blog
Watch Birth Song Botanicals on Youtube
Listen to Birth Song Botanicals on SoundCloud
Be inspired by Birth Song Botanicals on Pinterest