The gift of childbirth is one of God's greatest miracles. Nothing is like the journey through pregnancy and up through the moment of bringing your newborn into this world. A lot of emotions come with an experience like childbirth, and as such, all encompassing feelings are quite normal. In the weeks after giving birth, a lot will change as you and your family adjust to life with a newborn.
However, a number of women across the country experience postpartum depression during this time. Here is what you should know:
Differentiating: Depression vs "Baby Blues"
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, it's important to differentiate between what many refer to as the "baby blues" and postpartum depression. As the source explained, nearly 80 percent of women experience natural tiredness, worry and anxiety after giving birth, though these feelings generally fade within a week or two. This fatigue and even sense of overwhelm is quite normal when bringing the miracle of a child into this world, especially for first-time mothers.
When these thoughts start to become overbearing and last longer than a few weeks, the condition is postpartum depression, also known as PPD. Feelings of deep anxiety and sadness that get in the way of caring for a child or even for yourself often require attention and help.
About 10 percent of new mothers will experience PPD and nearly half of those women will have already begun to experience symptoms during the childbearing months, Baby Center explained. Symptoms include feelings of hopelessness, guilt or a sense of giving up, problems sleeping and loss of interest in things once enjoyed. Extreme exhaustion and feelings of sluggishness are other symptoms as is the inability to concentrate. Some women may stop calling friends or family, become overly irritable or experience severe worry about the newborn.
When any of these symptoms appear every day for more than 14 days, a woman is most likely going through PPD, according to Baby Center.
Identifying Causes and Prevention
Though the real cause behind PPD is not fully known, many doctors and researchers agree that changes in hormones during pregnancy play a leading role, Family Doctor explained. Changing and adjusting hormone levels can lead to chemical changes within the brain, which may lead to the severe feelings of sadness and hopelessness. External stressors, severe premenstrual syndrome and pre-existing symptoms of depression can all lead to PPD, as well.
There are a few key nutrients to keep in mind in order to promote feelings of strong health and happiness before, during and after pregnancy, according our Hallelujah Diet experts. These steps include maintaining an adequate vitamin D level (40-80 ng/ml), getting adequate omega 3 fats - especially DHA - during your final trimester of pregnancy and afterwards, and taking supplemental iodine to help balance hormones. These nutrients play a role in how you handle the postpartum hormone shifts. For best results combine these nutrients with nutritious, healthy foods.
This is where a primarily raw, plant-based diet can play a key role. Consider these plant-based foods that are best during pregnancy as recommended by Hallelujah Diet. Following a diet like this, with the proper supplements, can help you stay energized throughout the pregnancy. Staying active and adopting practices to decrease stress and worry can also be beneficial. The Family Doctor advised refraining from alcohol and caffeine after your baby is born, as well.
Though available resources and conversation are changing things, many women still do not get the treatment they need to properly diagnose and treat PPD. According to the American Physiological Association, in some cases, women face this time alone, and the depression ends up going away on its own in a few months. Stigma and cultural expectations have a lot to do with women not seeking treatment, and as a result, so many new mothers go undiagnosed each year.
New research has shown that therapy rather than medication may be better suited as the first form of treatment for women living with PPD, the American Physiological Association reported. Each person's experience is different, however, and as such, each new mother will find the method that works best for her. A plant-based diet along with adequate vitamin D, DHA and iodine is great place to start.
Taking Care of Yourself
As a new mother, one of the most important things you can do is put yourself and your health first. This is essential for you to be able to take care of your newborn child. As the Baby Center emphasized, meeting your basic needs is crucial during the first few days and weeks of motherhood. Eating right and getting enough sleep is key, as is relying on others for help. It's important to push all stigmas aside and talk about your feelings with those you love and feel closest with. If you feel comfortable, having a conversation with your doctor or midwife could prove beneficial in your recovery and first few days as a new mom. Asking for support is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it's just the opposite.
Motherhood is a special and miraculous time in your life, and being able to enjoy it to the fullest is the greatest gift of all.