Posts tagged postpartum psychosis
Naturopathic care for Postpartum Mood Issues

Naturopathic doctors are trained to look for the root problem causing someone's symptoms, rather than just making the symptoms go away.  If we address the underlying cause, we can allow the symptoms to recede for good.  This is no different for postpartum women, and there are a number of reasons WHY women develop postpartum mood disorders.  Naturopathic doctors, especially those trained in the art of midwifery or who have had special training in pregnancy and birth, are very well-equipped to figure out how to best help each woman on an individual basis. Dr. Adriana Azacarate-Ferbel is a Portland area Naturopath who has studied Postpartum depression extensively.  I met with her last fall when I began researching this topic more myself.   She outlined the most common underlying reasons for development of Postpartum depression:

  • Fatigue and Sleep Deprivation
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hyperthyroidsim
  • Immune system dysregulation
  • Pain
  • Low Cholesterol levels
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Neurotransmitter
  • Insulin resistance

Sometimes, it may be a combination of one or more of these that can cause postpartum mood disorders to develop.  Because this is true for many women, the Naturopathic approach is multifactorial as well.  The earlier we can recognize the symptoms and determine what's actually going on, the better.  In my office, a primary work-up to determine the underlying cause may include:

  • Thyroid testing, followed by nutritional supplementation and/or medicine to balance the thyroid gland (if needed)
  • Combination Hormone and Adrenal Saliva testing, followed by treatment with herbs and nutrients known to balance female hormones, DHEA, and/or cortisol (and are safe for breastfeeding).
  • Lipid panel, to look at cholesterol levels, followed by nutritional counseling to ensure adequate levels.
  • Comp. metabolic screen, Iron panel, and Complete blood count, to assess for blood sugar issues, anemia, and immune system problems
  • Musculoskeletal assessment to determine sources of pain that may be adding to increased stress and fatigue, followed by massage, acupuncture, or other forms of physiotherapy
  • In some cases, neurotransmitter testing will be done first.  This is especially true if someone has a marked history of depression, anxiety, or psychosis.

I could write pages and pages on this topic.  This is just a jumping-off point.  There is still a lot to learn about this realm of women's health, but we have a very good grasp on how to make the transition to motherhood a happy and healthy time.

Be strong.  Live healthy!images

Baby blues

imagesDid you know that about 80% of all new moms experience some form of postpartum mood flux?  There is a normal drop in mood, increase in anxiety and tearfulness that occurs in most women right after they have a baby.  In most of these women, it is hormonal.  The pregnant body is pumped full of estrogen, progesterone, relaxin, prolactin, and oxytocin.  When the baby is born, all these amounts shift---mostly dropping off like the cliffs of the Grand Canyon. Having a baby opens women up in so many ways: physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  It is a very wonderful and overwhelming time in all regards.  It is also a very vulnerable time because the body is going through so many changes AND there is a tiny little being that must be tended to 24 hours a day.  "Baby blues" affect up to 80% of new moms within the first few days postpartum.   I've seen that days 4-6 postpartum tend to be the most difficult for women mood-wise.

About 10% of new moms will go on to develop postpartum depression.  The onset of postpartum depression actually tends to be anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months after the birth.  The symptoms are similar to depression: low mood, sleep issues, appetite changes, panic, anxiety, disinterest--plus constant concerns about ability to care for the new baby, and possible fears of actually harming the baby.  If a mom has had issues with depression prior to pregnancy, she is at a higher risk for developing postpartum depression.  Sometimes, it can be due to underlying physiological issues like hypothyroidism (which can also develop in the postpartum period).  So it's good to rule out root problems to best help with treating the symptoms.

Roughly 2% of new moms will suffer from postpartum psychosis.  This is a very serious condition that must be addressed immediately and is thought to also be due to the drop-off of hormones that occurs after the birth.  Symptoms of postpartum psychosis are seen within the first 2-3 weeks following the birth and include:

  • insomnia (other than not being able to sleep because the baby is awake)
  • mania
  • flight of ideas
  • self-harming
  • constant thoughts of harming the new baby
  • disinterest in the new baby
  • complete shift of mental status (that friends and family easily notice)

Often, these women need in-patient help with stabilizing mood, but there is a lot that can be done naturopathically to support a woman in this situation.  With the right support, these women go on to embrace being a mother.

There is a whole slew of new research coming out on postpartum and antepartum mood disorders.  More prenatal care providers are broaching the subject with their patients as well.  One of the best tools we have is to educate the patient and her family about the signs and symptoms so early intervention can occur.images-1

Next week, I'll be writing about some of ways naturopathic doctors help women who may be at greater risk for developing postpartum depression, anxiety, or pychosis.  Until then, enjoy the days as we begin to welcome Summer this year!