What you need to know:
- I battled a particularly bad spell of depression about 15 years ago, but more recently, after the birth of baby number three
While I have treated conditions from anxiety and schizophrenia, to bipolar and depression, today it’s my own journey I’d like to talk about. I battled a particularly bad spell of depression about 15 years ago, but more recently, after the birth of baby number three. As all mothers know, having children is an immense joy, but also very hard work, and rather than the baby blues which are to be expected as post-natal hormones normalise, I became a statistic - one of the 15 percent of new mothers who experiences post-natal depression.
I was told that mild post-natal depression can be helped by getting more sleep, getting out of the house away from the baby and talking about my feelings. But in addition to these psychological components, there were chemical and hormonal factors too.
Some women’s bodies are slow to make progesterone, and post-natal depression is often caused by the sudden fall in progesterone levels just before giving birth. As I’ve seen with my patients, the herb agnus castus can be very useful here by helping to rebalance the hormones and can be safely taken even if you are breast-feeding.
Zinc-deficiency can also result in depression. Before you give birth, you transfer a large supply of zinc to your baby, and if your reserves weren’t that good, it’s likely that you are now deficient. This is especially true if the labour was long and difficult or if you’ve had a caesarean. Rather than boosting my food intake, I chose to take 15mg of zinc twice a day.
The other common deficiency in women with post-natal depression is essential fats. The reason they’re called “essential” is because our bodies cannot make them from any other substance – and this means you can only get them from what you eat (I took up to 3g each of EPA and DHA daily – these are the active components in fish oils).
The other thing that helped me enormously was carrying my baby all the time in a sling (exhausting, but great for oxytocin release (oxytocin in the hormone that is released when you fall in love), breastfeeding on demand (more oxytocin) and walking for an hour in the sun every day (with baby of course!).
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