A New Mother's Fear: Post-Partum Depression


A new mother can’t respond to her child’s cries. She can’t get out of bed. She cries all the time. She wants it all to go away and can’t get anyone to understand that something has happened to her. She’s not herself... she doesn’t know who she is. Does this sound familiar? In 2000, the first public case of post-partum depression hit the news with a mother accused of killing her five children by drowning them in the bathtub. Her depression had declined rapidly into psychosis and the murder of innocent children was the result. Until that time, post-partum depression not only wasn’t taken seriously, it didn’t even have a name. But the truth is that it happens in 10% of all women after giving birth. Symptoms include depressed mood, emotional instability, reduced interest in activities, poor concentration, sleep or appetite changes, and difficulty caring for the newborn. Many people may simply shake their head and say that the woman should shake it off, but untreated it can create symptoms identical to schizophrenia and manic depression and can go on for years.

Although the cause remains unknown, there are risk factors:

* Prior depression or depression during a previous pregnancy. * A history of PPD or premenstrual dysphoric disorder. * The quality of the relationship with the father of the child. Poor social support or a poor marital relationship including an absent partner. * A variety of stresses including medical problems with the child, childcare difficulty, stressful work or work schedule, lengthy absences from the child, perceived difficulties with the infant. * Psychosocial factors including age of the mother, educational background, employment status and early hospital discharge.

Evidence is still lacking to say that there is a hormone issue here as well. The surges and changes in estrogen, progesterone and other hormones in the post-partum period do produce changes in mood and brain chemistry, affecting the thyroid and the adrenal glands. However, two organs that are particularly stressed with pregnancy may hold the key. The liver’s energy can become congested and stagnant throughout pregnancy and the uterus may have difficulty returning to a normal shape, tone and energy level. The mother’s history of diet and activity level may be a strong determining factor in this. For this reason yoga throughout pregnancy and after delivery are great for cleansing the liver and tonifying the uterus.

But if these organs are weakened by the pregnancy, the body will attempt to compensate by relying more strongly on the thyroid and the adrenals. The result can be nervous system exhaustion and depression. This is worse with nighly feedings, erratic schedules and infant adjustment issues such as colic and eczema.

Begin with an exercise program of aerobic activity for at least 30 minutes three times a week. For serious cases, five times a week is a better goal. One study showed that at the end of four months, the exercise alone created a 60% remission rate in symptoms, while those on an antidepressant had slightly less.

The next consideration is diet. Avoiding white flour and white sugar wil help the adrenals conserve energy and adding shrimp and other iodine-rich foods can support the thyroid. Low blood sugar is another factor, so eating often during the day or taking Gymnema or Cataplex GTF can really help to create a balance of cortisol.

Natural solutions include tonics for the uterus, cleansing herbs and restorative formulas for the liver. Nervine tonics are also important combined with thyroid and adrenal support. The first formula is Utrophin PMG by Standard Process. This amazing formula has been created for many years to support restoration and tone of the uterus, including helping to address any structural damage that may have occurred as a result of the difficulty of delivery. Next is Chaste Tree which is essential to help restore hormonal balance to the body.

My favorite nervine herbs to choose from to address these issues are Bacopa, St. John’s Wort, Oat Seed, Gotu Kola, Schisandra, Damiana, Wild Yam, Skullcap Vervain and Withania.

Liver herbs include Milk Thistle, Schisandra, Oregon Grape, Globe Artichoke, Yellow Dock and Dandelion.

Uterine herbs are Squaw Vine, Ladies’ Mantle, False Unicorn Root, Raspberry and Schisandra.

Treating post-partum depression as a serious issue is important for the health and mental well-being of the new mother. It also is important for the new baby to have a mother that can love unconditionally and healthfully. By treating post-partum depression immediately instead of allowing it to devolve into a more serious condition, many families can truly enjoy the beauty of parenthood.