How to Manage Post Partum Depression with Food
Postpartum depression is a very serious mood disorder that develops in women after their delivery. The severity of the disorder depends on the emotional, psychological history, social, financial and physical status of the woman suffering from it.
In some women, the intensity of the condition gets to a point where it is difficult for the affected woman to take care of her newborn and/ or her own body. The solace is that all women experience this after delivering their child and every mother is allowed to process it at the pace she wants.
Here, we outline how to overcome postpartum depression and how to deal with postpartum depression the right way: a healthy lifestyle, movement and the best nutrition.
First, let’s look at the causes that trigger postpartum depression.
1. Hormonal and Physiological Changes
A pregnant woman’s body changes multiple times over the 9 months but nothing prepares the body for the physical trauma that delivery time brings. Hormones are all over the place, and the body has just undergone a severely painful incident, rendering the body very vulnerable.
Most women feel out of control of their body and bodily movements during this time. During pregnancy, the estrogen and progesterone levels are higher than usual. Within hours of giving birth, these hormone levels drop back to their previous state.
This sudden fluctuation triggers the mood disorder. Low thyroid hormone levels after pregnancy are also major influencers in this disorder.
2. Erratic Sleep
New moms all over the world, cannot sleep properly after the birth of a child. It is impossible to sleep especially when you don't know the patterns of the new human you have just produced!
You are overly protective of this new life, a new extension of your own body and you are constantly on alert. This leads you to have a poor quality of sleep, which is linked to depression flare-ups.
3. Erratic Eating Habits
Just like sleep, eating habits also go for a toss after the birth of the child. You focus on the child’s health more than on yours. Not having adequate food, erratic meal timings, staying hungry for a long time really takes a toll on mental health.
Remember the stomach and your brain are directly connected! If you’re not eating properly, your brain will not function optimally.
4. Psychological History
Psychological issues, genetic or acquired majorly determine the severity of the symptoms of postpartum depression in women.
If you have high anxiety and depression diagnosed before pregnancy or have a family history, you are more likely to have a severe bout of depression post-delivery, added on to the other immediate issues.
There is no shame in seeking help for this. Depression is like any other disorder that can be managed by going to a qualified professional and seeking help and therapy.
You have undergone a life-changing event, you are allowed to take stock of it and process it in your time, at your pace, with a professional.
5. Family and Society
Women in a patriarchal environment tend to suffer more and find their postpartum depression symptoms increase manifold when they are expected to do everything by themselves, without proper adequate familial support.
Taking care of the baby is a full-time role and you have to do it, while your body is healing from a major traumatic birthing event. During this time, familial support of all kinds, mental, physical and financial, is important and one should not be afraid to demand it.
At this point, you as a mother have to understand that raising a child takes a village and you are well within your rights to demand for help and delegate work so that the pressure is off you.
Your body needs time to heal, you need to nourish it back to health. If you are not able to take care of yourself, your baby’s health suffers. So while you make your baby the priority, remember, you both are deeply connected. What happens to you will affect the baby’s growth and development.
The Way Forward
Postpartum depression treatment starts with recognising it, not feeling ashamed about it and taking action.
Ask for help
Whether it is physical, emotional or financial support, do not hesitate to ask people around you for help. Schedule an appointment with a therapist and attend meetings, especially in those times when you feel you have nothing to say.
These times are crucial for your therapist to help you deal with the emotions in a healthy manner. Ask your friends and family to help you with the daily tasks as much as possible.
Delegate small tasks that don't require your attention as much to other people and there is no need to feel guilty or obliged for their help. Keep talking to your partner, your friends and your family about the daily ongoing, your feelings so that they know how to help you.
Often women keep mum about their problems for a variety of reasons making it very difficult for their partners and family to understand their problems and stay on the same page.
Do not crash diet
Society lays a lot of pressure on women to look a certain way and behave as if whatever they’ve been through doesn't matter, especially after pregnancy. It is, however, natural to want a body that is healthy and fit - but there’s a lot of pressure to shed the weight gained as fast as possible.
This leads you to scout for diets that promise fast results. Crash dieting usually involves deleting entire food groups from your diet which is a very wrong thing because after what you've been through, your body needs a lot of nutrients from all food groups to heal.
Healing is more important than looking ‘good’. Have healthy foods, snack smart, have foods and drinks that nourish your body, eat small meals to avoid postpartum acidity and digestion disorders.
Gut health during this time is very fragile and you need to take care of it to function properly. Drink a lot of water and try to sleep for 8 hours every day.
So, what are the foods you can eat to help you with your postpartum depression? First of all, a healthy, balanced diet full of vitamins, minerals and clean foods are necessary to manage your post-delivery mental and physical health.
Have more of the following foods - nutrient-rich whole foods are among the best postpartum remedies.
1. Omega 3:
Low dietary intake and/or tissue levels of n-3 (omega-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are associated with postpartum depression. Low tissue levels of n-3 PUFAs - in particular, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are said to trigger depression coupled with other existing problems.
Having a good intake of Omega 3 will help you feel better and sleep better - the two most important processes in healing from postpartum depression.
Natural resources: Add chia seeds and flax seeds
Trace element magnesium is known to influence the nervous system through its actions on the release and metabolism of neurotransmitters. An adequate amount of intake ensures the relaxation of tight muscles, maintenance of blood pressure and bone health.
Natural resources: Banana, figs, chickpeas and nuts.
Melatonin is a regulatory circadian hormone that has hypnotic, sedative, anxiolytic and possibly antidepressant effects on women suffering from postpartum depression. It helps in regulating the speed of your biological clock, increases immune health and is a powerful anti-inflammatory element.
Natural resources: Almonds, A2 milk, Basmati rice, tart cherries, fenugreek seeds, sunflower seeds and lentils.
4. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine):
The Vitamin B group has for long been very important in the management of depression physiologically. B6 is a cofactor in the production of serotonin, the happy hormone via tryptophan.
The active metabolite of folate present in this is required for many important signal transfer pathways between the brain and the body.
Natural resources: Eggs, carrots, sweet potatoes, banana and avocado
Zinc is a trace element that has the second-highest concentration of all transition metals in the brain, and its deficiency is associated with behavioural disturbances.
An adequate regular dosage of zinc helps reduce anxiety and depression.
Natural resources: Nuts and seeds, whole grains and lentils.
Postpartum Diet With Nutrition By Lovneet (NBL)
We have specialised diet programs for new mothers at our practice. At NBL, we educate and empower you to take charge of your health with simple lifestyle changes that are doable and sustainable.
Our postnatal/lactation plans aid in physical and mental recovery, promote lactation and help you get fitter and leaner and keep your mood elevated. We commit to providing you with natural remedies for postpartum depression.
We give the right postnatal fortification with nutrition with postpartum food that makes you feel more energised, less moody and less stressed. We help moms get the right fuel when they are awake, so they have a more restful sleep.
There is a misconception that eating a lot after birth makes you put on weight - this is untrue. Eating the wrong foods will make you gain weight, but eating plenty of nutrient-dense postnatal foods will keep you fit, make you feel better and you will get back to your old self!
We provide postpartum depression remedies that put YOU first:
- Personalised diet charts
- No-deprivation meal plans filled with foods you enjoy
- Scientific advice
- Constant support and regular follow-ups
You can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a consultation.
What are the causes of postpartum?
There is no single cause or trigger for PPD. Physical and emotional changes, hormonal changes, upside-down sleep patterns, erratic eating patterns all contribute to it.
What foods help postpartum?
Foods rich in magnesium, melatonin, Vitamin B6, Omega-3s and zinc can ease postpartum depression.
What are the risk factors/triggers for postpartum depression?
There is no single cause or trigger for PPD. Physical changes and emotional changes arising from a disturbed sleep pattern and overwhelm are factors, along with the hormonal changes the body is going through.
Some mothers may be more at risk, such as women with bipolar disorder, a history of depression, family history with PPD, difficulty in breastfeeding, the birth of twins or multiple births.
Is postpartum depression common?
Yes - you are not alone. It affects almost every single new mother.
How long after the baby is born can postpartum depression develop?
It usually happens in the first year following the birth of the baby and can set in as soon as 2-3 days after delivery.