Postpartum care is something that isn’t addressed very well by the medical establishment. Everyone gets focused on the care of the baby after birth, and rightly so of course! But what about the new momma? In addition to caring for a newborn, she is dealing with some very real changes in her body that can create a lot of stress. Postpartum depression treatment is very common during this time as is postpartum anxiety. The new mom may also may start to worry about postpartum weight loss and when she will shed the baby weight. All of this can create a lot of mental distress in a new mom.
Hormone levels readjust after the baby is born to support breastfeeding. The body that has been so focused for nine months on growing a tiny human now shifts to becoming a feeding machine.
Levels of progesterone plummet after birth while estrogen stays high. Progesterone is a key hormone in mood regulation. This imbalance of hormones right after birth explains why so many women deal with depression and anxiety the baby is born.
There are a lot of resources that explain the hormonal changes after birth in more detail. For our purposes, we’ll focus on ways to deal with postpartum anxiety, depression and weight that are independent of your post-pregnancy hormones.
As always, please consult your medical care professionals if you have any concerns about your health after childbirth or any other time. Postpartum depression and anxiety can be very serious and may require medical intervention.
Postpartum Anxiety and Depression Treatments
Traditional methods of treating postpartum anxiety and depression include drug and counseling intervention. While these may be medically necessary in some cases, there are also a lot of holistic treatments that can be effective.
One of the most important things you can do as a new mom is relying on your support network to help. A support network can not only give you direct help with the baby but also act as support when you’re adapting to new hormones and a new schedule.
Sleep for New Mothers: Anxiety and Depression Fighter
Sleep is arguably the most important thing for your health anytime, but especially when you have a newborn. With initial feeding schedules, it’s impossible for a new mom to get consistent, restful sleep.
The demand for magnesium during pregnancy is increased and supplementing has been shown to have better birth outcomes 1. Magnesium is also well known to help with sleep, so it may be worth it to continue supplementing with a high quality, easily absorbed magnesium after the baby has arrived.
Magnesium deficiency has also been indicated in depression as well as other micronutrients such as zinc and selinium2. Continuing to take your prenatal vitamin or a high quaily women’s multivitamin is a good idea as well to support your body as hormones adjust.
Supplements won’t help though if you can’t even relax long enough to fall asleep. This is where you should enlist the help of partners, family and friends. There is enough anxiety of worrying about when your baby will wake up or need to feed again. If you can create at least some chunks of time where someone else can watch the baby and promise to wake you if necessary, it may take the pressure off long enough for you to get a good amount of sleep.
Sleep will also help with postpartum weight loss as further explained below.
Easy Self-Care Practice for New Moms: Abhyanga
If your anxiety level about leaving the baby with someone else is too high, it can prevent sleep and your ability to relax. You may want to try taking a warm bath for a few minutes first followed by the simple self-care practice of Abhyanga. Abhyanga is an ayurvedic practice that basically amounts to self-massage. Read our article on the benefits of abhyanga and how to perform this simple but powerful self-care practice.
There are several studies cited in the abhyanga article above, but of note is a study showing anxiety and stress reduction in pregnant women 3. There is no reason to think that abhyanga wouldn’t be effective postpartum as well and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence for it in the yoga and Ayurveda community.
Choosing aromatherapy with abhyanga self-care is extra relaxing. We love the Plant Therapy Organic Jojoba Oil with a couple of drops of lavender or patchouli essential oil. Jojoba is a great choice for abhyanga since it’s appropriate for all dosha types.
Lather also makes some great products to support sleep and gives readers of HealNourishGrow 15 percent off with the code HNG15.
It’s tough getting a good amount of sleep when caring for a newborn, but good sleep is one of the most effective tools you have against postpartum anxiety and depression. Both of those conditions are exacerbated by lack of sleep. Here are some additional great tips for better sleep.
Proper Nourishment and Postpartum Weight Loss
Most women want to take off the weight gained during pregnancy as quickly as possible. While this desire is understandable, give your body some time and rest to recover. Postpartum weight loss will take some time. As mentioned above, proper sleep is essential for your mental health, but also for weight loss. If you’re wondering how to lose baby weight, read on!
Lack of sleep can affect the hormones that regulate hunger and appetite and prevent postpartum weight loss. Leptin is the hormone encourages your body to expend energy and suppresses appetite. Sleep deprivation reduces leptin which may make you eat more. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells your body to eat.
Sleep deprivation, not surprisingly, elevates the hunger hormone ghrelin and may explain why losing weight after pregnancy can be difficult.
Lack of sleep also increases cortisol, which is indicated in milk supply reduction.
Whether or not you choose to breastfeed is a personal decision, however, there are a multitude of studies that show consistently that new mothers lose more weight and more quickly if they breastfeed 4 5 6 7.
Eating the right food to support your body’s recovery from pregnancy and the production of milk if you choose to breastfeed is a great goal. Most resources say you burn an additional 300-500 calories while breastfeeding. This may mean continuing to eat more than you were accustomed to prior to pregnancy for a while longer.
Postpartum Weight Loss Tips
Starting to Eat a Healthier Diet
Even though you may want to wait a while before beginning to focus on losing the baby weight, you can start to make small changes right away. Food can seriously affect your mood and wellbeing, so begin to take dietary steps that will help balance hormones and create more equanimity in your postpartum mental state.
Increase Your Intake of Healthy Fats
While there is still some debate on what constitutes a “healthy fat”, most agree that monounsaturated fats and foods containing Omega-3 specifically are amazing for brain health and help fight depression.
If you’d like to read more about the discussion of what constitutes a healthy diet, go check out our Complete Beginner’s Guide to the Ketogenic Diet. It starts off with a discussion about how we’ve all been duped into believing that saturated fat and possibly all fat is bad. Remember the 90s when low-fat was all the rage? A low-fat diet is terrible for mental health8.
Reduce Your Intake of Sugar
Don’t reduce just table sugar, but all carbohydrates. Postpartum weight loss may be a lot easier if you go low carb or even keto. Plus, carbs and sugar take your body on a rollercoaster ride of emotions every time you eat them. Staying more even-keeled with your diet will help keep postpartum mood swings in check. If you need help on reducing carbs or what even constitutes sugar and carbohydrates, check out the Complete Beginner’s Guide to the Ketogenic Diet for tips on how to get started.
Reduce Intake of Processed Food
Anything that comes in a box or bag is likely to have additives that could interfere with your hormones. They also tend to contain empty calories which interferes with postpartum weight loss. Nutrient dense foods are best when you’re trying to recover. The corollary of this is to eat more whole foods. Although it can be a challenge to cook for yourself when you have a newborn in the house, you can stick to basics.
For example, eggs, bacon, steak, asparagus, chicken breasts and fish all cook quickly and most of these can be made in the oven where you don’t have to monitor them. Better yet, have your partner or friends do some meal prep for you so that you have healthy choices easily available in your refrigerator.
Find Joyful Movement as Part of Your Postpartum Depression Treatment
Depending on whether you had a cesarian section or a traumatic birth you may have some restrictions on movement for a while. However, once you’re cleared for movement don’t just jump into “working out”…instead find joyful movement. The last thing you need if you’re struggling with postpartum anxiety or depression is to begin a practice that seems like a chore. However, finding some form of movement is key. The role of exercise in depression has been shown time and again to be as effective as pharmaceutical interventions9.
Find a form of movement that suits your body and feels joyful when you do it. Ideas are yoga, hiking, running, walking, taichi, swimming, weight lifting, stretching, dancing, jazzercize and so on! Try to find something that speaks to your personality.
You may want to consider the type of exercise as a form of recovery as well. This study showed that typical yoga type exercises were more effective than Kegals in strengthing the pelvic floor postpartum10. Yoga is also shown to reduce depression in new mothers11.
Mindfulness and Meditation as a Postpartum Depression and Anxiety Treatment
Meditation is well researched and provides a wealth of health benefits. Although people think of it as hard and that they can’t do it if their mind is all over the place. In reality, that is the very reason you need to train your brain! Check out my YouTube video below to learn more about how your brain works and why meditation helps.
Here is another study that specifically looks at the effect of mindfulness and meditation on new mothers 12 and found it had a positive effect on psychological wellbeing. Multiple studies show that mindfulness practices help with postpartum depression131415.
In honor of mother’s day and the Own Your Pretty Now podcast interview, here is a special root chakra mediation especially for new moms! It can also used by anyone who could use some grounding and meditation. It’ll only take about three minutes of your time and can help you start a simple mindfulness practice that can help with your postpartum anxiety and depression.
Please fill out the form below to receive your free download.
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