July 6, 2013

Remedies for Postpartum Depression

Since writing my first post about my postpartum depression (PPD) just a two days ago, I've received SO many responses of encouragement, love and prayer from SO many of you!  An incredibly high number of YOU have experienced it, which makes me feel both comforted (I'm not alone) and sad for you.

I was originally going to start off with a post about what it feels like and how to identify PPD.  However, I'm a little overwhelmed with the amount of information to gather for that post.  It can feel like a lot of different things and it can feel different from one woman to another.  So I'm going to start by writing today about the  natural remedies that have helped me in the last two weeks.

However, I will briefly share the best description I've found to date about determining between normal "baby blues" and abnormal (but common) PPD:  In her post "Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression," Dr. Shoshana Bennett writes, "First, the Blues are considered to be normal. They don't feel good, but they are mild and transient. Most moms - 50 to 80% - experience some ups and downs, weepiness, vulnerability, forgetfulness, and stress when their babies are born. The Blues should be gone by about two weeks after delivery. If they continue, even if the symptoms are mild, this is now called PPD... if the symptoms are severe enough to get in the way of normal functioning, even if they occur during the first two weeks postpartum, it is considered to be PPD. So, if you're experiencing symptoms such as a loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping at night when the baby sleeps, hopelessness, poor concentration, anxiety, anger, deep sadness, low self esteem, overwhelm, or lack of energy (that rest doesn't take care of), don't wait. Get help right away."

Thank you, Dr. Bennett! With that said, I'll come back later with a detailed post about what it feels like.

For now, I want to talk about a few things that have helped me manage my case of PPD.  I say manage because I have yet to find something that has made my depression go away and not come back. However, the good news is that if you do have PPD, unless you have a very severe case I believe, you can continue to live a fairly normal life, with some lifestyle modifications.  The other good news is that these lifestyle modifications will probably help you whether you have PPD or not, and if you continue with them in the coming months and years, you'll probably live a happier, healthier, fuller life.

There are LOTS AND LOTS of remedies that can help, and what works for one woman may not work for another, so what I've been doing is just trying everything I can and adding in one thing at a time. Great self-care is the name of the game and many small measures can contribute to a greater sense of peace, contentment and well-being.

I started by paying a visit to my Ob doctor, chiropractor and a counselor.  My Ob doctor offered medicine, but I made it clear that I wanted that to be a last resort for me.  Antidepressant medicines are both addictive and create dependency (see this article) and I will go to great lengths to avoid them if at all possible.  Please understand, I'm not boo-hoo-ing them for everyone.  I DO believe that there are severe cases for which antidepressant medicines are appropriate, and I believe every woman has to make this decision  herself with the guidance of her family and her practitioner.  However, my personal preference is to avoid them if at all possible.  That said, the nurse practitioner I saw recommended a natural progesterone cream called Pro-Gest by Emerita purchasable at Whole Foods and other natural grocers.  I will have to post later and let you know if I see any results with this.  I haven't been using it long enough or consistently enough to see a difference.

My chiropractor adjusted me & got me into alignment - aaah.  I see her once every week or two and that has helped me feel physically better in a BIG way.  I have her to thank for a huge contribution to my general well-being. She also checked me for homeopathic remedies and prescribed two to help with focus and brain function.  Lastly she used kinesiology to help me resolve some emotional issues. All three of these things made an immediate, significant and lasting difference in how I felt!

The counselor helped me to identify a source of stress in my life.  She also helped me find the words to articulate this source of stress to my husband and identify for myself why letting go of this source of stress was causing me anxiety.  The source of stress (for me) happened to be my part time job tutoring, which I was dragging both my boys with me to and from twice a week.  Through my conversation with the counselor and some personal reflection, I identified what my primary focuses needed to be during this season of my life (my God, my family, my self-care, my writing and a few hours a week in my Mary Kay business) and clear away from my schedule all that isn't related to those things.

Next, I received some essential oils samples and learned how to use them. DoTerra is a fantastic brand as well as Young Living.  Essential oils take less than 30 seconds to penetrate the skin to take effect and I frequently reach for lavender to apply to my wrists, arches and balls of my feet, and back of my neck.  It has an immediately calming effect.  I've also used a lavender diffuser in my bedroom or the kids' rooms, which calms everyone down.

Another remedy that comes to mind is St. John's Wort vitamin supplement. It's a great natural aid to fight depression, but I have not tried this one, because it can interfere with breastfeeding, and nursing Gianni is really important to me.

I'm also learning how important it is to get up and shower and dress early in the day, even if I'm going to be home all day, and especially if it's hot.  When I'm clean and looking good, I feel good.  As women, we're just wired that way.  So pop in a half hour video for the older kids and put the baby in a bouncer seat and hit the shower.  Do your hair, slap on a little mascara and lip gloss (seriously, that's all it takes to change your whole look) and wear something that makes you feel good.  While you're at it, make sure you have a properly fitting nursing bra.  Yes, I know, you may end up buying another one in two months when you're breasts change sizes yet again.  But what it will do for your sense of personal confidence and well-being is worth every penny.

By far, however, the single most effective thing I've found that has helped me to have an "up" day is starting the day with exercise 3 to 4 times a week.  Here's why:  First of all, it gets me out of my pajamas, out of the house and with other people, laughing, moving and dancing to music that I like.  (I exercise at Jazzercise, which is an hour of aerobic dance in a class-setting... it's a blast!)  It's certainly important to have a day or two a week when you can sleep in, rest, and lounge around in your pj's all morning, but getting out to exercise will give you a break from the kids while they're in child-care and you're working out.  Even if jogging outside is your thing, they will be occupied in the jogging stroller while you cruise down the street with good music in your ears.  A little "me" time does wonders for my mood on the days I make a point to get to the dance studio.  Secondly, it gets me sweating and drinking water, which cleanses the system of toxins.  Third, it raises endorphin levels, which lifts my mood. Not to mention, it raises my metabolism for the following 24-48 hours, which just plain feels good!  The science behind it is all in this article, if you're curious.

A daily routine consisting of a work-out in the morning and a shower sometime before early afternoon has really helped me manage my mood and keep depression at bay. Incorporating into that routine plenty of protein and water and making sure I keep up with vitamins and supplements also makes a HUGE difference in how I feel. (I take a prenatal vitamin, an immune system booster and a calcium/magnesium supplement.) I'm also working on minimizing processed sugars and starches (white sugars) from my diet and using LESS sugar and wheat pastas instead. This is challenging, because when I feel down, I eat and I usually reach for the chocolate cookies instead of almonds or carrots. Anyway, a healthy diet will do wonders for your emotional stability.

The good news is that there are many many options for you to try.  The bad news is that each one of these things takes time (several weeks sometimes) to begin to keep depression at bay, if they are going to.  So find a schedule and routine you can handle, settle into it, and take it one day at a time.  Give yourself time to work it out.

I'm going to write another post entirely about spiritual warfare, and my relationship with each member of my family.  I think understanding these inter-related elements of PPD is KEY, but there's a lot to say and it deserves its own post.

If you've had PPD, would you share (in the comments section so all can read) what helped you?  I know there are remedies that I haven't mentioned here and I'd love for this to be a resource for scores of women!

Thanks again to everyone who has written and sent encouragement and helped to spread the word.  Please "like" and link to this subject so women you know can benefit from this knowledge too! :-D