The body is a funny thing. Drinking a cup of joe in the morning gives your body the tingle of energy to start your day. On the opposite end, scarfing down a meal of chicken and waffles with a side of biscuits and gravy although tasty, can weigh your body down making you feel sluggish and tired.
When it comes to the foods you put in your body, there is a delicate balance of the nutrients in your diet and the way your body feels. This is especially true when it comes to nutrition and its effect on postpartum depression.
What is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression is often discussed in relation to childbirth and can range in severity, in the forms of:
- Baby Blues
- Severe Postpartum Depression
“Baby blues,” the mild form of postpartum depression, typically occurs within 10 days after childbirth, peaking at day three to five. Although onset is quick, baby blues often fades after two to three days.
Baby blues’ symptoms are most commonly expressed as anxiety, depressed mood, crying spells, irritability, sleep or appetite irregularity, or lack of emotional connection towards the baby.
Severe postpartum depression may show up anywhere from one month after birth or can even take as long as several months to appear.
Symptoms of postpartum depression can be enhanced levels of baby blues symptoms in addition to loss of interest in activities, thoughts of suicide or infanticide, feelings of guilt and worthlessness, panic attacks, hallucinations, or nightmares.
Besides the severity of symptoms, another key difference between baby blues and postpartum depression is the duration of the symptoms.
If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms lasting for at least two weeks causing a significant effect on the mother’s ability to function, a visit to the doctor is highly recommended. When left untreated, postpartum depression can last anywhere from six months to over a year.
Why Does Postpartum Depression Happen?
While postpartum depression has not been linked to one solitary catalyst, there are several factors that can exacerbate the symptoms of postpartum depression in women who have recently given birth.
The body goes through enormous changes during pregnancy, like:
- Physical growth
- Emotional adjustments
- Mental changes
These modifications all occur as the body adapts to and creates an environment suited to grow a healthy baby. Not only that, but the amount of nutrients and supplements you need during pregnancy are often different from your normal everyday nutritional intake as well.
The changes in your body are just the icing on the cake. The actual act of giving birth is one of the most difficult and exhaustive things the female body can go through.
After nine months of bodily changes and creating this environment for your baby, the act of childbirth depletes the body of blood, energy, and nutrients in a matter of minutes. When you think of it that way, we can’t blame our bodies or our minds for going a bit haywire.
What Can I Do If I Have Postpartum Depression?
One thing you should know is that feelings of baby blues or postpartum depression is not a reflection of the mother. According to statistics, 40-85 percent of women experience baby blues and 10-15 percent of women will develop postpartum depression.
This sudden change in mood and mentality is common and can stem from a variety of factors. It is not because you don’t love your baby enough or are an inadequate mother.
The first few months after childbirth are essential to the growth of your baby, but also in the rebuilding of your body and strength. This is an incredibly wonderful (and sometimes, terrifying) period, but the best thing you can do to stay present and happy during this time is to take care of yourself. One way to do that? Focus on healing your body through nutrition.
One way to combat symptoms of postpartum depression is to maintain optimum nutrition and health. While nutrition is not proven to be the cure-all to postpartum depression, with the right nutrients in your diet, you can heal and restore your body and mind, lessening the symptoms (or even the possibility) of postpartum depression.
Nutrition and its Effect on Postpartum Depression
If the right nutrients, vitamins, and minerals can rebuild your strength, then it makes sense that a lack of nutrients or an improper diet can have an effect on your mood, or more specifically, postpartum depression.
Pay special attention to a lack in the following nutrients as they can add to symptoms of postpartum depression.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids (EPA & DHA)
Omega-3 fatty acids protect the nervous system in the body and promote healthy early development in infants. These fatty oils have also been known to affect your mood and learning capabilities.
Research studies have shown levels of EPA and DHA, key omega-3 fatty acids, are lower in patients who suffer from depression, meaning these fatty acids should be incorporated into your postpartum diet to reduce the likelihood of postpartum depression.
Omega-3 fatty acids are most commonly found in fish such as wild salmon, herring and mackerel. If you’re looking for plant-based omega-3 oils, which contains ALA (our bodies convert, but not perfectly, ALA into EPA + DHA), try flaxseed, hemp, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
Vitamin D, colloquially called the ‘sunshine vitamin’, is produced when the body is exposed to the sun or when consuming foods or minerals high in vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential in the early development of your newborn’s bones and teeth.
While direct correlation between vitamin D deficiencies and postpartum depression onset is not 100% backed, one study showed African-American mothers with low levels of vitamin D were associated with higher postpartum depression symptoms.
Vitamin D is best produced by going outside into the sun. Foods like cod liver oil, herring, mackerel, and cheddar cheese also contain vitamin D, but the most effective way to get proper amounts of D vitamins if you can’t go outside is to take supplements.
In fact, supplementing is the most valid and necessary way to get vitamin D if you live in cloudy climates, similar to the Pacific Northwest in the US.
In a research study, the results looking at B vitamins and depression discovered elderly persons with depression had low levels of B12 and in adults and adolescents, a lack in B9 vitamins was often the case.
In general, it is said that B vitamin levels are especially decreased during pregnancy, in people with high stress, and people who consume high amounts of sugar.
To maintain optimal nutrition to battle postpartum depression, incorporate foods high in B12 like liver, beef, pork, and eggs and B9-rich foods such as legumes, asparagus, citrus, eggs, broccoli, and brussels sprouts.
Probiotics & Your Gut
While many people have heard of serotonin, aka the neurotransmitter known to emit feelings of happiness, many people do not know that serotonin is not only produced in your brain, but in your gut. In fact, 90% of your body’s serotonin is produced in your gut. Talk about giving a new meaning to “your gut feeling.”
This one fact alone shows just how important your gut health is, especially when it comes to nutrition and postpartum depression. If your gut isn’t functioning properly, your serotonin levels can drop, leaving you with feelings of depression and anxiety.
Taking probiotic supplements (like our Majka Lactation Protein Powder) or increasing foods with digestive properties can regulate your digestive system and boost serotonin levels. Digestive foods like yogurt, kombucha, chia seeds, papaya, and dark leafy greens can help support a healthy gut. Whole foods that can lift serotonin levels are eggs, pineapples, and tofu are also recommended.
Although trace minerals can be found in everyday foods, a new mom’s body is under significant stress, which could make her more susceptible to trace mineral depletion. It has been shown that postpartum depression symptoms are impacted when the body is deficient in trace minerals.
So, many mamas turn to supplements to ensure that their trace mineral levels are regular. Maintaining nourishment through trace minerals can not only help improve a mom’s mood, but can also support lactation levels and the body's healing process post-birth.
The Majka Nourishing Protein Powder can be used as a daily supplement, and contains a handful of trace minerals, including:
Make it Easy on Yourself
The best way to maintain optimal nutrition to fight postpartum depression is to find a nutritional supplement that can fill in any nutritional gaps. After childbirth, so much of your focus is on the baby. Oftentimes, we forget about ourselves.
Make things easy for yourself and implement a healthy, nutritious supplement, like the Majka Nourishing Protein Powder, into your daily routine and set a solid nutritional foundation. By doing this, you can heal your body, allowing you to feel better and take better care of your precious baby.