Yesterday I shared my postpartum depression story and today I want to talk about the steps I’ve taken to treat postpartum depression naturally. I hope anything I share about this sensitive topic of postpartum depression can offer encouragement to any mother that may be facing it. Postpartum depression is a topic that doesn’t get discussed enough but the truth is there should be no shame in this. Raising children is a beautiful, messy process and sometimes that process includes PPD.
When I had accepted the fact that I would most likely experience postpartum depression a second time, I began to gather tools that I could use and do research on how to treat postpartum depression naturally. Treating postpartum depression and anxiety with nutrition was a battle I was prepared to fight. Here are the steps I’ve taken to help treat postpartum depression naturally.
I shared my experience with postpartum depression in this post, reading it may help you understand how I came to the place to attempt to treat postpartum depression naturally.
Taking Action to Treat Postpartum Depression Naturally
It is said that PPD is more likely to occur if you’ve already experienced it with a previous birth. Because of that, I had been open with my midwife in the early stages of my pregnancy and remained open with her when I began to experience prenatal depression.
She explained some things that could cause postpartum depression and took action by testing my vitamin B-12 and vitamin D levels, which both came back low. I began to take 5,000 UI of vitamin D3 daily and receive a weekly B-12 injection for 8 weeks then continued supplementing with B-12 capsules afterwards.
Folate versus Folic Acid
During that time, my midwife encouraged me to find a prenatal that contained folate instead of folic acid, explaining to me that folate is better absorbed by the body than folic acid. The vitamin I had been taking did not use MethylFolate so I tried to work with my insurance to receive a prescription to EnBrace HR, a folate therapy vitamin for depression. My insurance wouldn’t cover the prescription and it was far out of our budget, so I decided to switch to Honest Prenatal vitamins which contains MethylFolate. Research shows there may be a relationship between folate and postpartum depression.
Dennis’ birth came and after two weeks the depression hit. This time around, I was all too familiar with the feeling of it. I prayed for the peace that only Jesus provides, confided in my husband and close friends, and reached out to my midwife for help. I also began to take a folate supplement in addition to my prenatal, to attempt to mimic the benefits of EnBrace HR.
Testing Hormone Levels
At my six week postpartum appointment, because I was experiencing postpartum depression, my midwife tested my thyroid panel. The results revealed that I was low in Free T3. Low Free T3 (FT3) doesn’t indicate a problem with the thyroid, but a problem with the gut that isn’t properly converting T3 into Free T3. Stress also plays a role in our bodies ability to convert Free T3. My midwife recommended that I go on a non-inflammatory and gut supportive diet for 3-6 months, to help my hormones get to where they needed to be.
The Important of Nutrition and Gut Health
I decided to keep my diet simple by doing the Whole 30, since I previously had a good experience with it and knew how to navigate it. I’ve completely cut out dairy, grains, sugar, alcohol, and artificial preservatives from my diet. After two months of eating to support my gut and feeling emotionally stable, I went out to eat and ordered a hamburger fried without any oil. It seemed a bit greasier than usual and that night my gut was not happy. Three days later, I woke up to the familiar emotions of postpartum depression, exactly like that first morning when Dennis was two weeks old. That only helped me confirm the connection between the brain, the gut, and nutrition.
It’s been three months since I’ve cut out potentially inflammatory foods from my diet and I’ve been amazed that certain tasks actually feel possible again. I am also being sure to slow down when I wake up knowing that day is going to be a challenge emotionally in order to reduce stress, since stress could have an impact on gut health.
What You Can Do
First, be patient with yourself in this season and don’t push yourself too hard. Instead of worrying about having the house in perfect order or your pre-pregnancy body back, spend time loving on your precious baby. Stress is a deal breaker when it comes to allowing our bodies time to heal.
Nourish Your Body with Real Food
The easiest thing you can do to treat postpartum depression naturally is to eat nourishing, wholesome foods and avoid processed, refined foods that cause inflammation and wreck havoc on your gut. I know this can be hard, eating out is just so easy, but there are healthy alternatives. Keep meals simple by cooking a protein, some roasted veggies, and a salad. Also make an effort to avoid processed foods, artificial preservatives, and refined grains and sugars. Two resources I recommend to encourage you to change your diet is the book It Starts with Food and Kristin Marr’s site, Live Simply.
Test Hormone Levels and Deficiencies
The next best thing is to test for deficiencies and have your thyroid tested. I found Everly Well kits on Amazon that I plan to use when I need to retest my thyroid. They have a thyroid test and a vitamin D + inflammation test.
Help your Body Heal
Lastly, you can support your body as it takes time to heal and replenish after birth by supplementing with high quality vitamins and minerals.
Supplements + Vitamins for Postpartum Depression
Please remember, I am not a medical professional and can only share my experience and what has worked for me. With that said, here are the supplements that I’ve mentioned in this post that I have been taking regularly to treat postpartum depression naturally. I chose these specific supplements based on the quality of the brand, the absence of fillers, and the price I needed to fit my budget.
During pregnancy and afterwards I have been taking these supplements:
After birth, based on my research, I added these to my daily supplements:
- Jarrow Formulas Folate
- Source Naturals Magnesium Malate
- Viva Naturals Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplement
- Garden of Life Probiotic (I’ve switched between the Women’s supplement and the Mood supplement)
- I also try take this Digestive Enzyme before each meal, when I can remember
Treating Postpartum Depression and Anxiety Naturally
Being able to treat postpartum depression naturally with the help of midwives that truly care about my wellbeing has made such a difference in my ability to function day-to-day. It wasn’t always this way, as I have been through the dirty muck of postpartum depression and anxiety with no idea what was going on. I have lived those days where my brain felt too compressed to be able to think clearly. There were days where the best I could do was rely on television for my children in order to lie down and rest my head.
This post was to share with you what I wish I knew then about the connection between the brain, the gut, and nutrition and how eating carefully and supplementing appropriately can make a difference. Those days may not be completely over, and there is grace for that, but today I am thankful for the impact real food has had on my experience.
Please keep in mind that each person is different. Not one approach will work for everyone. Please remember you are valuable, you are loved, and this depression does not define who you are as a person or a mother. There is a crisis hotline to call in times of trouble. It is free and available 24/7 at 1-800-274-8255.
Above all else, the ultimate healer is Jesus, who is able to heal not only in this world but willingly heals our souls for eternity. I am thankful to be reminded that whatever ails me in this present life is not permanent and that there is hope for the future that is to come. Throughout all of the despair of postpartum depression, there is always hope, even when things seem hopeless.
If you have any questions or would just like to share your story, I’m here to listen. Please reach out to me via the comments, Instagram, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Postpartum depression does not need to be hid in the shadows and there is no reason to be ashamed.