There are few words that actually describe the early post-partum days; exhausting, emotional and awe inspiring come close, but still don’t cut it. The first 2 weeks after childbirth are bound to be tiring at the very least, but some women feel “out of it” for much longer—and could be dealing with a post-partum “mood disorder.”
A post-partum mood disorder is sometimes diagnosed when the “baby blues” last longer than 2 weeks and intensify. PP mood disorders can take the form of depression, anxiety or (in rare occurrences) mania or psychosis.
I experienced mood changes as soon as I stopped breastfeeding my sons. I found myself becoming anxious and overwhelmed often, as well as feeling that I “wasn’t myself.” I knew I wanted to avoid any anti-depressant that I would have to take daily, as many of them come with unpleasant side effects and the possibility of addiction.
I’d like to share just a few suggestions for maintaining a healthy post-partum period and for overall healing and wellbeing. It should be noted that am not a medical doctor, so if you are having severe depression or thoughts of suicide, please consult your doctor immediately.
1 – Meditation and Mindfulness
Meditation is creating time and space for your mind to rest and rejuvenate. It doesn’t always have to be planned, or formal—it can be as simple as a quiet moment or a few deep breaths. Parenting comes with a lot of noise—babies crying, toddlers talking incessantly. It also never stops, so getting those few minutes of peace is easier said than done. You may have to wake early (watching the sunrise is totally worth dragging yourself out of bed), or meditate during your child’s nap time.
Mindfulness is often used in meditation, but you can be mindful anytime, anyplace and it’s a great way to savor time with your kids. Mindfulness is simply tuning into your senses and focusing on the present moment.
When my son hugs me I like to breathe him in—really pay attention to his smell and feel the playful energy he radiates. Mindful parenting also keeps the days from “flying by” without having truly enjoyed them.
2 – Feed Your Brain, Strengthen Your Body
Recovering from childbirth is huge adjustment for your body. Everything is off kilter—from your hormones to your emotions and sleep cycles. Your body needs nutrition to heal, so give it the good stuff! Find a good daily supplement with potent B-Vitamins and omega 3-fatty acids; both of which are important in brain health and function. Magnesium plays a big role in several metabolic processes in the body and is known to have a calming effect. Magnesium in our soil has depleted over time, and most people are considered deficient in this mineral. Ways to replenish magnesium include supplements, topical oils or epsom salt baths.
It helps to make good nutrition a lifestyle rather than a “diet.” I like to make myself a quick smoothie every morning with frozen or fresh fruit, greens, nuts and seeds. Smoothies are tasty and refreshing, and easier to clean up than a juicer.
Gentle exercise every day will help both your mental and physical health. Its best to start off slowly, and keep it light, as heavy cardio has been known worsen a hormone imbalance.
3 – Promote Hormone Balance
Post-partum women experience a sudden drop in progesterone, the “relaxation hormone.” This drop, combined with the stress of caring for a baby is suspected to cause post-partum depression.
After I stopped breastfeeding my sons, I knew my hormone levels were changing. My hair began “shedding” by the handful, and I was having trouble sleeping.
After doing some research I decided to try 1,000 mg daily of Vitex (Chaste Berry Tree). Vitex had been used for ages to balance hormones in women with heavy menstrual flows and to increase fertility. It is said to work by stimulating the pituitary gland and encouraging healthy progesterone to estrogen balance, especially when used long-term (I have yet to see results). Learn more about charting your cycles and hormone balancing in this post.
4 – Spend Time Away
As a new mom, you may find yourself staying in the house for days at a time—especially during the winter months. When you don’t make an effort to get some time out of the house, days tend to run together and depression can easily set in. The responsibility of constantly caring for little ones can be overwhelming, and can lead to resentment of your husband or kids. Let go of any guilt you feel about leaving your family, and realize that time apart will actually bring you closer.
5 – Express Your Feelings
When the only human contact you have during the day is a toddler and newborn, you tend to keep a lot of thoughts to yourself. I can tell I need more adult conversation when I have a visitor and can’t stop talking their ear off.
I also don’t like to unleash it all on my poor unsuspecting husband when he gets home from work, so my best option is to call a friend to talk every couple of days. It really helps to express how I am feeling to someone (another mom) who listens non-judgmentally and understands.
Releasing your emotions during meditation and yoga can also be cathartic. Try these heart-opening poses at home.
6 – Accept the New You
Childbirth changes you from the inside out, and you will never be the same. This fact is wonderful and powerful but can also be frightening. New responsibilities combined with physical body changes like weight gain and stretch marks are enough to make any woman want to curl up and hide.
It helps to accept that your life is changing and find love and renewed self-worth in the person you’ve become. Acceptance is a process that takes time, effort and compassion.
I remember getting ready to go out for my first girl’s night post-baby, and I was trying on and peeling off shirt after shirt, while scowling at my loose belly. One of my best girlfriends heard my frustrations and called through the door to remind me of one of her favorite affirmations:
“I love and approve of myself!”
Yogasync me! Try Out Post-Natal Yoga: This class is designed by Sarsha, beautiful Mum of Three, Yoga Teacher and Yoga Model for Yogasync.tv: