I had a rough pregnancy, and a painful, two day labor that eventually led to me pushing for fifteen minutes and giving life to one of the most handsome faces this world has to offer. As my son was laid on my chest, I felt exhausted and shocked, not in love and happy like you’ll hear about when every other women on this planet gives their account of child birth. I loved and cared about my son, but I felt more numb and tired then anything. I didn’t know what I was doing, I barely slept, I felt awkward and exposed; essentially, I was miserable. I would later be diagnosed with postpartum depression. A mental illness, that, in its essence, shook me to core, and completely reshaped who I am as a person. The life that I had loved, the passion that I awoke to greet the sun with everyday, was gone. Siphoned out of me by an invisible, mysterious force that was gone as quickly as it had appeared. I didn’t recognize the woman staring back at me in the mirror, I didn’t know why I got out of bed every morning. My life, as I knew it, was over.
I quit breastfeeding at seven months, which sent my hormones into overdrive. While before I was anxious, moody, and a little under the weather-I quickly bottomed out within days of weening my son, and came to the decision that it was time to get help. After making a few phone calls, I was squeezed into an emergency appointment slot at my doctors office with a nurse practitioner. It was there that I received my “official diagnosis” of PPD, and got prescribed Zoloft by the nurse.
The day I started taking Zoloft, I knew it wasn’t right for me. Within an hour of my first dose, I was pacing, irritable, and my anxiety was through the roof. I couldn’t sleep, and ended up spending the night having panic attacks. Not the best thing for an already sleep deprived mom. I called my doctors office the next day, and described my symptoms to them. They reassured me that I could safely stop taking the medicine, so I did just that. I was relieved, happy to know that I wasn’t going to have to spend another night on the medicine induced anxiety from hell train, but also realized that I was back to square one. I had just been diagnosed with this mental illness, and I had no way to treat it. I had already made up my mind the day I went to the doctors that I wasn’t going to continue living the way I had for the past seven months; it wasn’t fair to my son, and it wasn’t fair to me. So what was I going to do?
I did the only thing I could think of, and hopped on Google. I started researching “alternative treatments” and “natural ways to cure Postpartum Depression.” I researched for hours, and days, and after committing everything to memory that I had read, started to implement them into my life. Over time, I started to get better. My anxiety decreased, I started bonding more with my son, and the future seemed finally seemed to have a more positive outlook. That was ten months ago, and while I’m not completely out of the tunnel that I was thrown into when I became a mother, I get closer to the woman I want to become everyday. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking medication for PPD. I would have happily continued to take the Zoloft if it had been something that would have helped me. Women treat their PP in different ways. Some do it with medication, some with therapy, some with both; sometimes, all three! Whichever way you decide to get help, the most important thing is: you got help! That is the biggest step you can take in overcoming this illness. I’ll share with you what helped me, and, hopefully you can get closer to the woman you would like to be, too.
You can scour any article on the internet about the effects that exercise has on depression. There has been countless research done on the positive benefits it has for the brain, your mood, and overall health! When you exercise, more oxygen gets to your brain. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins. They are responsible for that “runners high” that you get, that causes you to have a positive outlook on life. When I was dipping my toe and testing the waters out before fully jumping into natural treatment for pp, exercise is one of the first things I tried. I had to drag myself to the gym for the first week, but I always felt much better leaving then I did going in. During my workout, I had something to focus on. I had a goal to complete, that was going to make me, and better me. I had a chance to clear my head, burn off some steam, and also get a little much needed break from my son. Even if you only do a light workout, such as going on a fifteen minute walk around the block with your child in his stroller, you’re going to be doing your body (and your brain!) a lot of good.
Natural Bioidentical Progesterone Cream
I’m not a doctor, so please do not take this as an “expert opinion.” That being said, one of my saving graces during my battle with PP has been my trusty Progesterone cream. Proscribed by me to one of the two Naturopaths that I saw for my depress and anxiety, it has worked as a natural antidepressant by gently balancing my hormones. It has been suggested by certain research that PP is caused by a hormone imbalance; something is off, and your body is trying to tell you. It has also been suggested that PP is tied to high copper, which progesterone also helps to regulate. Progesterone cream can be bought at your local grocery or health food stores, and is available under many different brands. Try to select one that is as pure and natural as possible, without a ton of additives and preservatives.
Practice self care!
I cannot stress this enough! As mothers, we’re burdened with the a multitude of daily tasks and the running of several different peoples lives. We feel obligated to get as much done as we can, and feel guilty when we cannot do it. We feel as though we don’t measure up; that we are not good enough. You know what I say? Bollocks! You are superwoman! And even superwoman needs to take a break. Otherwise, how are you supposed to perform your best, if you are run down, sick, and tired? Make sure you are getting enough sleep. Sleep is detrimental for to you’re overall mental and physical well being. A good multivitamin, and fish oil supplement are essential. Omega 3 fatty acids are ninjas on a mission when it comes down to depression, and a good multivitamin will help combat any deficiencies you may have from when your tiny human was still siphoning his nutritional needs right out of you. Water is important. Fatigue is always worsened when you’re dehydrated.
A change of diet
Scientists are discovering that your second brain is located in your gut, and it is there where all of your emotions are made. This is where “you are what you eat” comes into play. If you’re loading your plate with things full of sugar, refined carbs, and bad fat-you’re going to feel like crap. Sugar attacks your store of Magnesium. Magnesium is responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. When you are low on it, it can make you feel tired, anxious, and depressed. Sugar, refined carbs, and bad fat also contribute to inflammation-which research is pointing to as a possible contributing factor to depression. Gluten is also something to consider taking out of your diet, as it causes leaky gut. Leaky gut is essentially where there are “holes” in the lining of your stomach, and when you eat, food particles can pass through those holes and cause your body to have an autoimmune reaction to said food. This in turn leads to anxiety, depression, the whole nine yards. Make sure you are incorporating a diet full of good fats, super grains, and fresh fruits and veggies into your protocol for natural treatment of PP. Calming foods-such as turkey, which has tryptophan in it-would also be a good thing to look in to.
Essential oils, yoga, and therapy
Two essential oils I have personally used as a part of my healing are Frankincense, and Lemon peel. Frankincense has been used to help heal brain injuries, and Lemon Peel has uplifting properties. There is a slew of different essential oils you can try, such as Petitgrain, which is a natural depressant, and Vetiver, which is used to help focus. Bergamont can help calm and relax you, and Clary sage also has antidepressant properties. Yoga has been an effective tool in helping with anxiety by means of clearing the mind, and relaxation. Much like exercise, it gives you a purpose, and also helps you focus. There are different poses that are aimed at targeting the root cause of a persons depression and or anxiety.
Besides Progesterone Cream, my other saving grace these past ten months, has been the phrase “me too.” “Me too” is one of the most compassionate things you can say to a person sometimes. It has the power to say in a simple way “I’ve been there, you’re not alone, I get it.” Knowing that you aren’t the only one who has demons that they are battling, can be a huge factor in the healing process. Whether you talk to a close friend, join a support group, or go to a professional therapist, talking about your thoughts and feelings with an unbiased individual, does the mind and soul a deal of good.
I wish you all the best on your road to recovery. While it may seem right now that things will never get better, that this your new reality; it isn’t, and it WILL get better. Just follow the treatment plan that is right for you, be it medication, alternative methods, or a little bit of both. Whatever works for you is the right way! Also, I encourage you to go to postpartumprogress.org-it is an excellent site filled with knowledgeable information on PPD, stories of encouragement from other women who have gone through this and survived, and a list of different support groups and specialists in your area. Good luck and good vibes!