11 Non-Medicinal Ways to Battle Postpartum Depression
With approximately one in eight women affected by PPD, the condition is very serious and not to be taken lightly. There are many non-medicinal options that have proven beneficial to new mothers. Always consult your doctor before starting any new regime.
If you thought proper, controlled breathing would only help you get through labor, think again. There are several breathing techniques that can actually be used in everyday life to help bring you to a more peaceful emotional place. “When a person can reach a relaxed state, through controlled breathing, the heart rate decreases, breathing calms and slows down, muscles loosen, and blood pressure stabilizes,” says Karen Kleiman, founder and director of The Postpartum Stress Center and author of several books on postpartum depression.
Getting into a fitness routine won’t just help you shed that leftover baby weight, it will also help clear your mind. In her book, Dropping the Baby and Other Scary Thoughts, for release in November 2010, Kleiman and co-author Amy Wenzel write, “Exercise can also help women feel better by melting away the adrenalin produced by anxiety, relieving muscle tension, and encourage better sleep. Exercise is known to promote well-being by releasing endorphins, the chemicals in our brains that are associated with feeling good.”
Sometimes just knowing that you’re not alone in your feelings can provide a little lift to your spirit. Postpartum Support International understands the need for communication and friendship during such a difficult time and offers a number of valuable resources ranging from lists of local help centers to education for the families, friends and healthcare providers of women affected by PPD.
Bright Light Therapy
“Bright light therapy is another good intervention for women,” says Kleiman. “Studies have shown that the rate of production of serotonin, (a chemical that is associated with mood improvement) is directly related to the duration of bright sunlight. These lights usually cost around $200 for a portable light box that can be used at home. Experts agree that this is a good option for pregnant and postpartum women, due to the fact that it is easily accessible, extremely well-tolerated, and safe while breastfeeding.”
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been proven to be highly effective in treating PPD. This form of therapy is a joint effort between the therapist and the patient, in which the therapist listens, teaches and encourages as the patient conveys their concerns and learns coping techniques that they then implement in their everyday lives. Often times there is “homework” involved in CBT, with therapists assigning reading and the practice of techniques between each session to make therapy as successful as possible.
“Acupuncture is often used, especially for anxiety,” says Dr. Shoshana Bennett, a clinical psychologist who authored the book
Postpartum Depression For Dummies. “There is some indication that it can help with depression as well and many of my clients have told me that they just get a general feeling of peace when they have acupuncture.”
Often new moms are so concerned with making sure the baby is well-fed, she forgets to feed herself. “Basic nutrition, such as nibbling protein throughout the day to help keep the blood sugar even can keep the moods more stable,” says Dr. Bennett. “Nutrients like calcium and magnesium will hopefully be in your prenatal vitamin if one is nursing. Folic acid is also very important, as well as the B vitamins. Staying very well hydrated can also help to ease anxiety.”
“Omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil with EPA and DHA are very, very important for mom’s mental health,” says Dr. Bennett. “The baby has been taking the omega-3 from mom’s pregnant body, usually depleting her if she’s not taking an extra amount. The baby needs it for IQ, skin, hair and cardiovascular health. Pregnant and nursing mothers need an extra amount. They should be careful that the supplement they take is stellar. If they’re deficient in omega-3 they can be depressed no matter what else they are doing.”
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
It may sound like a wacky science experiment, but Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is among the newer treatments in relieving symptoms of depression. The Mayo Clinic acknowledges that because it is a relatively new course of action, future studies are needed to prove its effectiveness and long-term side effects. Dr. Bennett explains what the procedure involves: “Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is using short pulses of magnetic fields to stimulate the cells in the brain that we think are in charge of controlling mood. What we’ve seen has been pretty astounding. This is nothing anyone swallows and it’s non-invasive, and nursing mothers are using it.”
Blue Light Blocking
While caring for their newborns in the middle of the night, mothers are often exposed to ordinary light, cutting off their current of the sleep hormone melatonin. This causes sleep disturbances and therefore puts the new mom at a higher risk for depression. The people behind LowBlueLights.com, a company Dr. Bennett worked with during their research stage, have found that blocking blue light actually permits the flow of melatonin even when someone is exposed to light. “By putting on blue-blocking glasses when she (the mother) gets up, her melatonin flow will continue and she will be able to take care of her baby without disrupting her internal clock,” reads the website. “This avoids the risk of postpartum depression.” Blue-blocking light bulbs are also available and are suggested for use in the bathroom and your child’s nursery. To reap the full benefits, they suggest wearing the blue-blocking glasses for several hours before bedtime to achieve the most melatonin production possible.
It’s time to put your partner’s hands to good use, or insist on some mommy time at a local spa. A research done by the Touch Research Institutes showed that pregnant women who were diagnosed as being depressed benefitted greatly from twice-weekly massages from their partner given during a 12-week period. Their depression was reduced at the end of the cycle and they felt less depressed postpartum and had decreased cortisol levels.
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