My Postpartum Depression Experience
I experienced postpartum depression (PPD) twice. My first experience was after the birth of my first child, and I didn’t even know it! Only now looking back can I see the signs: hopelessness, irritability, feelings of anger, worrying about the baby, withdrawing, suicidal thoughts. Did I go in for my 6-week check-up or have any postpartum care? No. What I’ve learned in my own experience and as a naturopathic doctor and doula is that postpartum depression is real, and it’s treatable. I’m here to give every mama the personalized treatment that I didn’t receive.
Postpartum Depression is more than Depression
Most definitions of postpartum depression start with common depression symptoms. You may experience sadness, anxiety, empty mood, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and so on. But PPD also comes with:
- Feeling distant from your baby
- Worrying you will hurt the baby
- Feeling guilty about not being a good mom
- Crying more often than usual
- Feelings of anger
Did you know the postpartum period can last over 4 years, yet the time allotted for conventional treatment may be only 6-12 weeks!
Prevention & Risk Factors
Ideally I like at least 3 months prior to pregnancy to get the body optimized, taking into consideration several factors: stress, sleep, diet, hormones, mood, exercise, and nutrient deficiencies.
Understanding postpartum depression risk factors can also help you and I be proactive and preventative. This doesn’t definitively mean something bad will happen, but it’s an opportunity for us to open the conversation.
- Mood disorders prior to pregnancy and early in life
- High stress before and during pregnancy
- Trouble with sleep
- Socioeconomic status and access to resources (It takes a village!)
- High levels of testosterone
- Low levels of oxytocin; paired with high stress can be a big risk factor! Women exposed to synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin) could also have a higher risk of PPD.
- Changes in thyroid function following birth
- A history of significant PMS prior to pregnancy
My Favorite Postpartum Depression Testing & Treatments
- Thyroid function should go back to normal after 4-6 weeks postpartum. Almost 1/4 of moms experience low thyroid symptoms.
- Iron is commonly deficient during pregnancy and after giving birth.
- Cortisol is our stress hormone and is naturally higher during pregnancy. High postpartum cortisol and inflammation contribute to problems with mood and sleep.
- Estrogen is another hormone that is high during pregnancy. Estrogen is important for serotonin production, that feel good hormone. So when estrogen levels drop, so can your mood.
- Oxytocin is the “love hormone”. Low levels can contribute to low mood, anxiety, and low tolerance for stress in new moms.
- Sleep Sleep Sleep! I know it’s not easy, but we’ll work together to find a way. Lean into your support system, get a postpartum doula. Whatever you need to do, DO IT! And kick those feelings of guilt to the curb.
- Medication – if we decide you need to be on medication, THAT IS OK! This doesn’t mean your treatment plan also won’t include natural remedies and support.
- Continue your prenatal vitamin – don’t underestimate the power of a high quality prenatal.
- Diet – focus on nutrient dense whole foods as much as possible.
- Balance your hormones with oral progesterone, estradiol, and thyroid medication depending on what’s needed.
- Omega 3 fatty acids
- Adaptogen herbs can be very helpful, and we’ll talk about which ones are safe if you’re breastfeeding.
Women’s Health is My Passion
Offering support to new mothers is so important to me. I share my own postpartum experiences with depression to offer hope and treatment. You can come and see me at any point during your reproductive journey!
Nicole Lewis, ND is a naturopathic doctor in Portland, Oregon who helps patients achieve a healthy mind and body by supporting natural healing systems. She specializes in integrative mental health care, women’s medicine, and digestive disorders. She received her degree from the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, AZ and has certifications as a Naturopathic Doula and Pre and Post-natal Coach. Learn more about Dr Lewis.