Living with postpartum depression is a lonely, dark experience no one would wish upon anyone. It is a reality for a significant number of new parents, both mothers and fathers. If you are not sure if you have postpartum depression, read over Jane’s signs of postpartum depression. Seek mental health services from your primary doctor, midwife, or a therapist if you feel like you might have postpartum depression. While natural remedies for postpartum depression may be effective, they do not replace the essential evaluation, assessment, and follow-up of a care provider. A healthcare provider will be able to evaluate your symptoms and help you create a comprehensive prevention or treatment plan. They also provide an important safeguard against worsening symptoms and a spiraling inability for self-treatment. It’s never too early to see a provider. Everyone I know who tackles their postpartum depression with the guidance of a professional wishes they had done so weeks or months earlier. It is so wonderful to feel joyful and productive again!
Pharmaceutical medications may or may not be part of your recommended treatment plan. Anti-depression drugs are highly effective for many and may be important for you. These natural remedies for postpartum depression may be integrated with pharmacological treatment. Natural remedies may also serve as prevention when used as soon as postpartum depression symptoms first appear and may be an important aspect of maintaining health once initial healing is achieved.
19 Natural Remedies for Postpartum Depression
- Get extra rest.
- Practice excellent sleep hygiene. If you have supportive adults in your life, make sure they know what good sleep hygene is and enlist their assistance setting up these patterns for yourself. They can offer you help with baby or household care to create time for you to rest, or you can be accountable to them for putting these practices into place.
- Hyland’s Calms Forte is a great homeopathic sleep aid. Rescue Sleep by Bach Remedies is another remedy that helps many people. Both of these are beneficial for people who find that they cannot fall asleep or stay asleep, even though they know they are tired and their baby is sleeping. These remedies are not habit forming and they are not contraindicated when taking other medications. They are also safe for breastfeeding.
- Do not use over the counter sleep aids or natural supplements such as melatonin or valerian without the guidance of your healthcare provider. These can interfere with your body’s ability to re-regulate your sleep cycles and are not safe with all medications.
- Eat well. Nutrients make a huge difference in your body’s ability to regulate hormones and bio-states. During times of stress, change, and healing, your body uses excess nutrients. You need these vital components to balance your hormones and support neuro-transmitters.
- Eat lots of dark leafy greens, whole grains, and other fruits and vegetables to assure that you are getting an adequate supply of the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
- Molasses and nutritional yeast are foods that can boost your B vitamins, essential to stress management.
- Eating one Brazil nut per day will give you a selenium boost which is helpful for fighting depression.
- Turkey, often know for its sleep-inducing effects at Thanksgiving, provides calming.
- Protein will help your body restore after depletion.
- Reduce stress. Reducing stress can take two forms: prevention, and release.
- Do every preventative measure in your control – say no to social or family functions you don’t have the energy for, turn down unnecessary obligations, ask others to pick up responsibilities that you currently carry. There may be a wealth of people in your life who are willing to help if you ask. Brainstorm who these people may be, make specific plans for when and how to ask them for help, and enlist a loved one to help you overcome any hesitations you have in asking for help.
- Releases stress is a different task. Make a personal top ten list of stress-releasers, post it where you can see it, and put stress release activities into place whenever you feel your stress point rising! Rescue Remedy is a natural remedy that can be taken under the tongue or in water when you experience sudden or pronounced stressful feelings, or before entering a known stress-inducing situation. It is not contraindicated when using other medications or for breastfeeding.
- Practice deep relaxation exercises. There are many deep relaxation aids that are deeply effective, and having one or two in your home, kept in a visible location, will prompt you to use them. Try to make a daily habit of spending at least 5 minutes intentionally practicing deep relaxation. Ask a loved one to keep you accountable, and to help with baby care to make this possible. Some aids you may purchase are a meditation CD, miracle balls to release held tension, a still-point inducer, or an acupressure mat. If you want to practice deep relaxation without buying anything, try taking long slow breaths from your lower belly while laying on the floor, sitting by a window and staring out to a mid-distance without focus, or taking a long warm, not hot, bath.
- Get exercise every day. Aim for at least 90 minutes a week. Research confirms that 5-10 minute bursts are just as effective as longer stretches, as long as the overall exercise time adds up. So pick up your baby and put on some dance tunes or park at the outer edge of the parking lot to get in more walking.
- 30 minutes of sunlight per day.
- Take time with your appearance, grooming, self care. Looking good and caring for your body can help you feel better.
- Nurture yourself. What feeds your soul or makes your feel wonderful? Do these things, go to these places.
- Keep to a routine. It can be a daily routine or a weekly routine. Even seasonal “routines,” activities or rituals done at particular times around the year, strengthen our sense of rhythmicity and resilience.
- Laugh regularly and hard. Visit with people who make you laugh, read your favorite humorous web sites, or watch a TV show that always provides a chuckle. When turning to youtube or the internet, set a timer, and after 30 minutes move on to activities in which you connect with someone you can physically interact with and touch. The internet is wonderful, but during times of depression it can actually serve to further isolate us by creating connection experiences that don’t involve all of the senses through which true attachment is built.
- Pray or meditate. Spiritual transformation and growth are a common part of the transition to parenthood. So much about your life has changed. This impacts your control in the world, as well as meaning, purpose, and identity. Exploring spiritual significance is a healthy means of integrating motherhood or fatherhood into who you are.
- Sing. Songs can express any emotion and may be used either to release emotions you are feeling or to create in you emotions you are reaching for.
- Listen to a variety of music.
- Spend time with other adults. Talk with supportive and understanding people. Perspective, normalization, and community are essential for the new parent.
- Keep a journal. Express your thoughts and feelings by writing them out.
- Get involved in the outside world. Help others. There are volunteer programs that welcome parent-baby pairs. Check out this inspiring site about empathy training in schools. Call your local nursing home and ask about opportunities for visitation with healthy residents.
- Find a support group. Local birth doulas, midwives, and childbirth educators should be able to help you find a postpartum depression support group in your area.
- Use essential oils for depression. To a warm bath or to 2 ½ T massage oil (such as grapeseed oil or almond oil) add 2 drops neroli, 2 drops petitgrain, and 2 drops orange oil. Enjoy a massage or soak for 10-15 minutes. These three oils come from three parts of the orange tree: the flowers, leaves and twigs, and the fruit. The wholeness of them when used together restores balance. Bergamot, jasmine, neroli or clary sage are also recommended for postpartum blues.**
- Use essential oils for fatigue. To encourage deep rest – 3 drops of lavender, marjoram, or roman chamomile in a warm bath before rest. To create a sense of more energy: 2-3 drops of geranium or bergamot and 2-3 drops of rosemary to a morning bath or in a bowl of water or a fragrance burner to scent a room: 2-4 drops of any of the following: petitgrain, geranium, mandarin, rose, bergamot, ylang-ylang, lemon, lavender, or rosemary. Especially recommended is a combination of lemon and geranium.**
** Any time you are adding essential oils to water it is best to first add them to a small amount of milk, and then add the milk to the water. This helps the oils bind to the milk and prevents chemical skin irritation from direct contact with the strong oils.
Integrative Natural Health Practitioners
In addition to the natural postpartum depression remedies you can use on your own, integrative natural healthcare provides can provide powerful natural remedies for postpartum depression. The following are a list of some different natural modalities and how they might help with postpartum depression.
- Massage Therapy: Deeply relaxing. Helps manage physical pain and the impacts of stress.
- Acupuncture: Deeply relaxing. Helps resolve pain and imbalances such as disturbed thyroid function.
- Cranial Sacral Therapy: Deeply relaxing. Light touch, fully clothed. Supports the parasympathetic nervous system, thereby stopping an inappropriate stress response, and provides overall support to your body’s innate healing and balancing abilities.
- Reiki: Deeply relaxing, fully clothed. Helps manage physical discomforts, stress, anxiety, depression, and feelings such as guilt or inadequacy.
- Yoga: Restores, rejuvenates, and releases bodily held tension. May create community. Many postpartum yoga classes welcome babies. In some areas, you can find yoga classes specifically for emotional balance or postpartum depression.
- Wellness Coaching: Can help you figure out how to make the life style changes that will support your wellbeing.
- Nutritionist/Herbalist/Naturopathic Doctor/Homeopathic Practitioner: These professionals are able to assess diet, thyroid, estrogen and progesterone levels, and more to make appropriate nutrient recommendations in the form of foods, supplements, or bio-identical hormones. Their training, certification, and licensing varies widely among practitioner and state. An ND, or licensed naturopathic doctor, is a medical doctor who approaches the body as a whole interconnected system, and uses homeopathics, botanical and other other natural and lifestyle medicine. They are not licensed for primary care in every state, but their training is extensive and phenomenal no matter where they practice. If you cannot find an ND, ask carefully about experience with postpartum depression and always discuss all treatments you are pursing with your primary medical care provider as well.
When to see your doctor or a mental health professional
- It’s never too soon! Any time you have health concerns talking with professionals may be a huge help and a comprehensive treatment plan is important.
- If your symptoms persist beyond two weeks.
- If your symptoms are worsening.
- If your symptoms are severe to the point where they impact your ability to take care of yourself or your baby, give rise to thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, or make you feel desperate.
- To test for physical causes such as thyroid function or changes in blood volume.