In the latest issue of Vanity Fair, singer Adele has opened up about her experience with post-natal depression.
“My knowledge of postpartum is that you don’t want to be with your child; you’re worried you might hurt your child; you’re worried you weren’t doing a good job. But I was obsessed with my child. I felt very inadequate; I felt like I’d made the worst decision of my life. It can come in many different forms.”
Adele’s experience isn’t uncommon; post-natal anxiety and depression affects around 85% of women and can occur on the day of giving birth, afterwards or not at all.
“Crying and confusion are experienced by most women and are partly due to the hormone changes experienced during the labour and can also be connected to when the milk comes through,” says Dr Marilyn Glenville
“But for some 15% of women, this despair and tearfulness continues and develops into post-natal depression.”
It’s important to speak to your doctor if you are worried that you’re suffering, and there are some easy, natural steps you can take that can stand you in good stead to beat the baby blues and start enjoying motherhood.
Rest is key
Permanent sleep deprivation is the biggest cause of anxiety and low mood. Instead of catching up on all those chores, try to coordinate your rest periods with your baby. It’s absolutely essential.
“You may need to ask for help with the housework and other chores so that you can have time to rest, sleep, eat properly and also spend time getting to know your baby. It is a good idea to get out the house on your own; it can feel quite overwhelming to suddenly have someone depending on you twenty-four hours a day.
“Giving birth may bring up unresolved emotional issues from the past that needs to be dealt with. Counselling may be very helpful if this has happened”, Dr Glenville suggests.
Say no to sugar
When you’re feeling down, and then add sleep deprivation into the mix, sugar seems the best option.
But it’s important that you are eating little and often, keeping your blood sugar balanced, as it directly affects your mood and energy levels.
“Aim to eat complex and unrefined carbohydrates as part of your main meals – this means choosing brown instead of white, like wholewheat bread, brown rice and wholemeal flour. Don’t forget about breakfast, porridge and oatmeal is a good choice. Do reduce and preferably avoid stimulants including tea, coffee, chocolate, smoking and canned drinks with caffeine”, explains Dr Glenville.
Steer clear of copper
Mineral imbalances or deficiencies can also contribute to post-natal depression and one of the most important nutrients during this difficult time is zinc.
Zinc and copper are antagonists, which means that high levels of copper reduce zinc and vitamin B6. Once you are pregnant, copper levels in the blood tend to rise dramatically and remain high for up to a month after giving birth as it stimulates the uterus. This can cause what feels like depression: extreme fears, anxiety, sleep problems, paranoia and even hallucinations.
“High levels of copper that decrease zinc can be dangerous, especially for a new mum, as she may be already low in this mineral after giving birth.
“Zinc deficiency can cause stretch marks, white spots on fingernails, decreased wound healing, loss of appetite and low mood. Make sure you are taking good multivitamins and minerals, the ones you took during pregnancy are fine but add some extra zinc’ (recommended daily intake is 50mg of zinc a day),” advises Dr Glenville.
Stock up on fatty acids
During pregnancy, it’s common for women to be deprived of essential fatty acids due to the physical demands of the baby.
Add a supplement or fatty acid-rich foods like salmon, nuts and avocado into your diet as much as you can.
“Omega 3 fatty acids are proved to increase levels of serotonin so they are essential in fighting depression and anxiety,” recommends Cassandra Barns, nutritionist.
Balance your hormones
Milk Thistle is a great supplement to help support the liver and gall bladder, helping to balance your hormones and make you feel more level.
“This powerful herb can help the liver to deal with toxins and process excess hormones from the body,” says Shona Wilkinson, Nutritonist at Superfooduk.com.
“In addition, it is an excellent promoter of milk production, so will help with breast-feeding as well.”