One in seven women will experience postpartum depression. This may sound like a scary statistic, but the good news is that resources and support for postpartum depression are getting better than ever. There is a lot you can do while pregnant and in the immediate postpartum period to minimize your chances of developing postpartum depression — and to identify the symptoms of postpartum depression if you start to experience it.
Having a new baby, whether it be your first or fourth, is a massive change. Plus, your body is going through huge hormonal shifts after giving birth while you're adjusting to your newest family member. The biggest thing to remember is that it’s always okay to reach out for help. If you find yourself thinking that “it’s not that bad,” this may be the exact sign you need to contact your loved ones for some extra care.
There are many factors that can play into postpartum depression. While we don’t know all of them, a lack of support, stress, and poor nutrition are some of the main components that contribute to postpartum depression. Regardless of how much support you have, asking for or hiring help is so crucial! Motherhood is special, but you don't have to undertake it alone!
Thankfully, nutritional factors in postpartum depression are simple and can be addressed at any time. If you're pregnant and want to be proactive about your mental health, try incorporating some of these essential nutrients in your diet. As always, seek professional help when you feel you may need it.
What to Eat to Fight Postpartum Depression
Also known as the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D is an important mood-boosting nutrient that you obtain from the sun's rays. When you're deficient in Vitamin D, there is the potential to develop various types of depression, including postpartum depression.
Depending on where you live, it can be virtually impossible to get enough time outside to get the amount of Vitamin D you need. Taking a Vitamin D supplement is ideal, especially since Vitamin D is not something you can get in adequate quantities through food. Although it’s always a good idea to get your Vitamin D levels checked, supplementing Vitamin D as a part of your daily routine is a common practice.
- It’s rare to get enough Vitamin D from sunlight unless you spend ample time outside, with skin exposed (and no sunscreen), in warm climates.
- Some Vitamn D-rich foods are mushrooms, liver, egg yolks, and wild salmon.
- Food sources alone typically do not provide adequate amounts of Vitamin D.
- Vitamin D supplements can range from 4,000IU-10,000IU per day.
- Vitamin D may also be recommended for your baby from birth at 400IU per day
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 Fatty Acids are made of DHA and EPA. We must consume these fats, as our bodies don't produce them on their own. DHA specifically has been shown to enhance fetal brain development and is an important supplement in pregnancy. Many prenatal vitamins contain DHA, however you may want to continue supplementing postpartum as DHA is protective against postpartum depression as well. Bonus points for DHA — supplementing this essential nutrient while breastfeeding will benefit both you baby!
- Look for a high DHA supplement that is specific to pregnancy (it will also have a lesser amount of EPA which is important too)
- Including fatty fish in your diet 2-3 times a week is a wonderful practice, but you’ll still need to supplement
- Vegan and vegetarian sources of Omega 3’s are a different form (ALA) and the same brain health benefits have not been found
You most likely had your iron levels checked throughout pregnancy. After birth, iron levels drop dramatically as your blood volume returns to a normal level. This study shows a marked improvement in postpartum depression when mothers were given iron supplements immediately postpartum. Iron is a supplement that should be taken only when you know your numbers from a blood test.
- Iron supplementation immediately postpartum had dramatic effects on postpartum depression.
- Iron supplementation should be considered only when you know your levels from testing.
- Not all iron supplements are hard on the stomach or constipating. Look for a liquid version or in the form of ferrus fumarate
Finally, a note on thyroid health. Studies have shown that women with thyroid imbalances are more likely to experience postpartum depression. If you have a thyroid condition, be sure to work with your healthcare providers to manage it and consider supplementing with thyroid supportive herbs and avoid foods that have adverse effects on the thyroid, such as dairy and gluten. Having a thyroid condition does not mean you will have postpartum depression, but taking extra precautions is recommended.
Postpartum depression can seem like a hopeless disease but know that you have a lot of factors in your control. Eating well and taking good quality supplements will give you the upper hand by nourishing your brain and mental health. You've got this mama!
Looking for the Perfect Postnatal Supplement?
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