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Identifying and Treating Postpartum Depression

naturopathicPostpartum depression (PPD) is defined as a variable mood, anxiety, and feelings of despair and deep sadness that occur in a new mother from several days to several months after childbirth. PPD can last for months, or longer, and if untreated can affect the way a mother is able to function in her daily life, bond with her new baby, and in some cases adequately care for her baby.

Symptoms of PPD are often discounted as fatigue, lack of sleep, or being ‘normally’ overwhelmed with a new child. Women with PPD often struggle silently without proper treatment, care, or recognition of their condition. PPD can be treated with pharmaceuticals when necessary; however, there are other natural agents that are extremely effective.

PPD often occurs with the initial drop in estrogen and progesterone within a few days of childbirth. There is a possible hormonal connection to PPD, but the physiological causes are not clearly understood. The difficult issue with PPD is that symptoms are entangled with some common variations in emotion and mood that occur with a new child, and it can be hard for the individual or friends and family to recognize as abnormal mood variation.

Treating a new mother prophylactically for an anticipated alteration in hormone levels, and for stress and anxiety can decrease PPD. Having a support system in place for new mothers to discuss their challenges adjusting to a new baby is important as well.

Signs of PPD are as follows:

  • Depressed mood
  • Severe mood swings
  • Excessive crying Difficulty bonding w/ baby
  • Withdrawal from family
  • Loss or excess appetite Insomnia or excess sleep
  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • Reduced interest or pleasure Intense irritability and anger
  • Fear she’s a poor mother
  • Feeling worthless, shame Feeling guilt or inadequacy
  • Unclear thinking
  • Severe anxiety Panic attacks
  • Thoughts of self-harm
  • Thoughts of harming baby

All new mothers should be supplementing with the following: encapsulated placenta pills (to help balance hormones) and Health Concerns Postpartum herbal combination, both of which significantly reduce PPD; prenatal multi-nutrient; fish oil blend; vitamin D; and B12/B6 injections weekly as often as possible, all which can help manage fatigue, stress, anxiety, and support a healthy mood; and joining a new mothers support group within a month of childbirth. The Coachella Valley has two great resources:  About Families, a local non-profit aimed at supporting new families, and Healthy Beginnings at Desert Regional Medical Center. About Families holds monthly support groups, breast feeding clinics run by lactation specialists, and resources for services such as placenta encapsulation and postpartum doula care.PPD can be one or more of the above- listed symptoms. Feeling excessive anxiety as the only notable symptom can be PPD,  and it can often be more subtle and hard to recognize. Putting a system of emotional, nutritional, and herbal support in place immediately following childbirth can mitigate symptoms and decrease necessary pharmaceutical treatment.

The single most important element for early treatment of PPD is joining a support group to listen to and share the experiences of new motherhood. If the above are not treating what seems like excessive variations in mood, anxiety, and abnormal personal behavior, pharmaceutical intervention can be enormously helpful to a new mother and her baby to have a healthy start together. It should never be considered shameful to begin medications where mental health, family wellness, and infant babies are concerned.

Dr. Shannon Sinsheimer is state licensed naturopathic doctor with a focus on fertility, family wellness, and pre-conception health. She can be reached at Optimal Health Center (760) 568.2598. About Families, Inc. www.coachellavalleyprenatalclass.com; Healthy Beginnings www.desertregional.com/our-services/womens-infants-center/healthy-beginnings

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