Having a baby brings with it a host of emotions ranging from excitement, happiness, worry, guilt, sadness and irritability. Transitioning into motherhood is challenging and post-partum depression creates an added layer of challenge. A lot of mothers wish to avoid the use of anti-depressants, especially if they are breastfeeding. However, anti-depressant medication can help you feel better faster, allowing you to cope and adjust to the new change.
Choosing to take pharmaceutical medication is a personal decision. If you are having feelings of worry, sadness, guilt, irritability, mood swings, etc. it is best to speak with your primary health care physician who can assist you with pharmaceutical options and provide resources for support.
Regardless of your decision to take pharmaceutical medication or not, the following three nutrients are commonly prescribed by naturopathic doctors for post-partum depression, and do not interact with pharmaceuticals:
1. Continue your prenatal vitamins: Prenatal vitamins are high in b-vitamins. B-vitamins are needed to help your body produce seratonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that boost mood. Foods high in b-vitamins, particularly vitamin B6 and B12 include: eggs, milk, meat, fish, whole grain bread products, sunflower seeds, banana, avocado and spinach.
2. Vitamin D: Vitamin D plays a role in mood support, especially in the winter months when sun exposure is lacking. It is challenging to achieve minimum daily requirements through food alone which is why supplementation is recommended. Often more vitamin D than is found in your prenatal vitamin is required for healthy mood support. Speak to your primary care physician to determine how much vitamin D is right for you.
3. Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids support healthy nervous system function and therefore have positive mood balancing properties. It is also challenging to intake a high enough therapeutic dose through food alone which is why supplementation through a high-quality fish oil supplement is recommended. Speak to your primary care physician to determine what dose of omega-3 fatty acids is right for you. In the meantime, adding small, fatty fish such as sardines, anchovies and mackerel to your diet is a great start to boosting your omega-3 intake. Vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids include ground flaxseed, flaxseed oil, chia seeds, hemp hearts, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds.
More natural alternatives for balancing mood include:
- Relaxation exercises
- Guided imagery
- In person and online support groups
Herbal medicine such as St. John’s wort is a popular natural option for mood balancing, however it is CONTRAINDICATED if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or taking pharmaceutical medications. To stay on the safe side, it is best to avoid herbal medicine unless under the supervision of a trained health professional.
Feel free to share your personal story and tips others might find useful!