Postpartum Depression and Anxiety are huge topics these days. I am in Facebook groups that have thousands of members, all of which are dealing with and healing from varying levels of PPD/PPA.
After my second son was born, I experienced Postpartum Anxiety. It was rather unspoken, and actually quite scary. My husband knew I was “off” for some time. We chalked it up to sleep deprivation, me dealing with a lot of change very quickly, and our son’s premature birth and NICU stay. I tried counseling for a few visits and never went the medical intervention route.
Luckily, I finally confided in one of my dear friends who is incredibly versed in holistic health and she helped me figure out what my body was asking for from a nutritional and hormonal perspective. I knew something was going on in my body– more than normal postpartum hormones.
Know this. If you are feeling off after pregnancy, you are not alone. The immediate drop in progesterone and estrogen in a mama’s bloodstream cause emotions that many of us have never felt. When these hormones drop our entire endocrine system is disrupted, our natural serotonin levels can be affected, and sometimes our body has difficulty finding homeostasis again. All of the emotional chaos is “normal” for a bit after pregnancy, when it persists more than a few months you may have more of an issue.
I am also NEVER suggesting you forgo medical advice, I am just a mama sharing my story.
The things that helped me the most were simple changes and additions and just knowing in my heart that these small changes would help me feel like me again. The funny thing about motherhood is that when you have a “mental health” challenge, it is easy to feel you are a complete fuck up, your kids are suffering, and your husband hates you. It is how the mind works, and the thoughts keep the “funk” going when you are in a rut.
Be Gentle With Yourself
During the postpartum period, and when healing from any sort of issue, it is a step by step process. There will be ups and downs, nothing is instant. After a mom has been pregnant for 9 months; it takes time for physical recovery, adjustment to the “new normal”, hormonal rebalance, and emotional balance. It is not going to happen overnight. There will be good days and bad days. The better we get and the better we feel, more than likely the good days will outnumber the bad.
All of the tools I am sharing in this blog today are things that I am still doing throughout this pregnancy (which has been completely different and much easier than my last), and I will definitely take it beyond the postpartum period.
Ways to Support Recovery
- Keep Self-Care Routines– This is something that I can not stress enough. If you are a mama who needs a shower every day to feel human, take one. Even if it means getting up 20 min early so your husband can entertain the baby. Don’t feel guilty if you must shower with the baby in a bouncer, crying for a few minutes. I am not one who can dry shampoo for 10 days and be okay with it. A shower, washed hair, and shaved legs make me feel like a better person, so I make sure it happens. Also, resting when baby rests is important, especially in those first few weeks. Sleep deprivation is real and the cumulation of lost sleep can cause damage. I have a difficult time napping, however sometimes just resting for 10-20 minutes quietly can really recharge my batteries.
- Get Outside– Luckily, we live in Florida where the weather is pleasant more days than not and we have easy access to nature. Fresh air, sunshine, and the sounds and smells of nature are incredibly mood boosting. My husband and I work from home, so sometimes we don’t feel the need to get out. However, making the effort to get out for a little bit each day is always on my schedule. As the newborn grows a bit, story-times or other mom & baby activities are great for mental health. Social support is often instrumental in feeling “normal” again.
- Good Nutrition– Diet is another thing that is incredibly important for health and wellness. Meal planning before baby is a good way to go. If that didn’t happen prior to birth, meal delivery services, Instant Pot meals, or even enlisting family and friends can take the pressure off. You can even grocery shop online these days and quickly drive by for pick up. Processed foods, sugar, and many grains really affect my anxiety levels. My friend said to me– “what if you can no longer say I am Lucy with anxiety and instead realize that I am Lucy and this feeling is how I interact with certain foods?” After eliminating the offenders from my diet, it is easy to feel that “interaction” when reintroducing the culprits.
- Supplements– Taking good quality supplements have been vital to my health and well-being. It is nearly impossible to get all we need from diet alone. I know I have written this and said it SOOO many times in my life– our soil quality is poor, it is difficult to find good quality meats due to factory farming, there are a lot of pollutants, and our food travels many miles to reach our grocery store and finally our plate. All of these affect the vitamin and mineral content of the food we consume. I will share supplements that are valuable for PPA/PPD and why.
Two time Nobel Laureate, Dr. Linus Pauling, said: “You could trace every disease and every ailment to a mineral deficiency.” Approximately 99% of the human body is comprised of minerals, yet minerals are generally overlooked when nutrition is considered. Chromium is especially important for the postpartum period. Having an adequate balance keeps the insulin levels balanced and allows the body to use glucose as it is designed to, keeping stress from our major organs and maintaining our energy levels. Adequate magnesium intake is also important for mental health, and supplementing can calm the nervous system quite rapidly. I buy my mineral
Again I’ll suggest a probiotic. I have written many times about gut health. A short synopsis is that our gut is our second brain and serotonin and dopamine levels start in the gut. For me, I noticed a rapid change in my mental health after starting a good probiotic. My shakiness and racing thoughts calmed way down. Life 9 has a lot of the good mental-health strains of bacteria and is specifically encapsulated so that you actually receive the bacteria in the GI tract. I have tried many other probiotics. However, what I didn’t know is that many brands can’t actually survive the digestive juices to populate the gut adequately. Game. Changer.
Vitamin D3– The symptoms of a Vitamin D3 deficiency are vast. A quick google search will show you very quickly how bad you can feel with a lack of this essential vitamin. One of the first symptoms listed is depression/anxiety coupled with decreased endurance and exhaustion. It is also difficult to heal from wounds with this deficiency. I use Vitamin D3 throughout my pregnancy and beyond.
5. Uplifting Music & Books– A drive to the beach in my minivan with a good playlist is often my best therapy. Sounds like the epitome of motherhood, lol. I keep my phone stocked with good music & audios because when I am feeling down, flooding myself with positivity will help break the mental cycle of depression or anxiety.
My favorites are:
The Gifts of Imperfection or anything by Brene Brown
Buddhism for Mothers by Sarah Napthali is a book I found early in my motherhood journey. Even though I am not Buddhist, she had wonderful insight into living present-centered and releasing anger, worry, or fear.
Everyday Blessings by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn
The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins
Atomic Habits by James Clear
6. Journaling and Affirmations– These are tools I often use to change my mindset. When I am overwhelmed, anxious, or feeling down writing what I am feeling helps release the negativity and become aware of how my mind is circling around certain ideas. Affirmations of how I want to feel are also helpful. I will write them on post-its and put them on mirrors, on my computer screen or somewhere I look many times per day. I have even been known to make an affirmation the screen saver on my phone. What else do I look at more often than my phone?
“Be Gentle With Yourself, You are Doing the Best You Can”
“I am Doing an Amazing Job”
“I am honest with my partner”
“I am surrounded by love, and so is my baby”
There are many steps and tools to utilize during the postpartum period. Just know that if you are not improving while taking steps to nurture and recuperate, you may need to seek medical attention, and that is okay. Especially if you are feeling the impulse to hurt yourself or your baby.
I hope this information was helpful in any way and I am always here if you want to reach out. Understand how to get your supplements here for 24% off. You can find me through email, or on IG @integratedmama or facebook.com/integratedmama.