The birth of a child can bring mixed emotions like joy, excitement, fear, fatigue. It can also bring on something that you wouldn’t expect – depression. Every person reacts to childbirth differently and it’s important to ensure that there are tools for everyone.
Many know that acupuncture can restore a new mother’s energy levels after the stress of birth, but it may surprise you that acupuncture and herbs can also help regulate hormonal imbalances, anxiety and depression. But before we dive into how that works, let’s talk about how postpartum depression affects a family in the first place.
Postpartum depression and anxiety are things that need a little more air time. More people are talking about their experiences with it, but there can and should always be more visibility.
We praise celebrities like Christy Tiegen, Serena Williams, and Alyssa Milano for coming out with their experiences and “normalizing” postpartum depression. The more people talk about it, the less of a stigma there is against it. Between the general expectations of life like taking care of the home, getting back to work, “smiling more” or looking good (cringe), it’s sometimes difficult to add a newborn to the mix.
Postpartum depression and anxiety are different from the “baby blues.” This is the normal jumble of feelings after giving birth. Your hormones are on the fritz. You’re jubilant one moment and want to curl into a corner and cry the next. This shouldn’t last more than a couple days or weeks, though. We empathize and want to help!
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
According to the Mayo Clinic, postpartum depression may be mistaken for baby blues at first but the signs and symptoms are more intense and last longer; and may even eventually interfere with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks. Symptoms usually develop within the first few weeks after giving birth but can begin earlier during pregnancy, or later – up to a year after birth.
Postpartum depression signs and symptoms may include:
- Depressed mood or severe mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
- Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Intense irritability and anger
- Fear that you’re not a good mother
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Untreated postpartum depression may last for several months or longer. Pregnancy and childbirth are both depleting and taxing on mothers. New moms are often micronutrient deficient. Your body funnels micronutrients to your baby and drains them from you because making that tiny person is your body’s primary focus during pregnancy.
On top of this, childbirth can often lead to blood loss and an iron deficiency.
Postpartum Depression in Fathers
This can happen to fathers too, believe it or not. The nutrient or iron issues are the part that don’t happen in men, but they can most certainly suffer from the fatigue, confusion, and anxiety that come with taking care of a newborn.
Depression in dads is, in fact, a relatively common phenomenon affecting anywhere between 2% and 25% of fathers during their partner’s pregnancy or in the first year postpartum.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), this rate can increase to 50% when the mother also has perinatal/postpartum depression. It can take a serious toll on the family’s well-being, specifically their children’s.
Men may show different signs of depression. They may not cry but they may feel frustrated and angry. The depression can manifest itself in terms of irritability, impulsivity, and feeling unable to find pleasure in anything. Depressed fathers are more likely to engage in substance use, domestic violence, and discourage their partners from breastfeeding and/or breast pumping.
Thankfully, we have the tools to battle this in our clinic. Being depressed following the birth of a child is normal. Postpartum depression doesn’t mean you are a bad or “not together” parent; in fact, getting treatment and support helps you care for your baby and your partner. You and your family don’t have to suffer silently. We can help!
Preventing Postpartum Depression
Your body is reacting to a lot after giving birth. You are no longer nourishing a being inside of you, so your body stops producing certain nutrients. It’s imperative to make sure you are well-nourished after giving birth. Not only will this help your body feel better, but it helps your psyche too!
You should continue your prenatal vitamins because they’re packed with iron. If you aren’t a vegetarian or vegan, eat lots of red meat. Dark, leafy greens like kale and spinach and nutrient rich foods like beets are also your friends. They contain iron and micronutrients that you’ll need.
Want to sip the stuff? Make a smoothie or drink some bone broth. It’s like medicine for the postpartum woman!
The body and mind are strong and resilient. If you treat them well, they will bounce back for you. Should you need it, this is where acupuncture comes in
How Acupuncture Helps with Postpartum Depression
Acupuncture can be used to aid postnatal recovery by rebalancing the new mother’s hormones and helping the body come back into balance. Acupuncture is usually started 3 to 4 days following childbirth and used as needed for the first two weeks.
It restores the mother’s energy levels after the stress of birth and alleviates depression and anxiety. It is also used to relieve backache and other kinds of pain once the baby is born. To learn more about how acupuncture helps relieve pain click to read my blog “Acupuncture for the Treatment of Back Pain.”
As a certified acupuncturist, I will dive into the underlying root causes of your hormonal imbalances, anxiety and depression. Every individual is unique and so is your diagnosis. By addressing the root causes through acupuncture and herbs we allow the body to heal naturally. This not only helps restore your health after birth but also prepares your body for your new role as mama!
In conjunction with ensuring you have the correct micronutrients, acupuncture and herbs are also key to promote stamina and an efficient recovery. Acupuncture can also be useful at this time to balance emotions, aid perineal healing and help with any breastfeeding problems.
Interestingly enough, this study shows that the use of acupuncture versus fluoxetine hydrochloride (Prozac) is as effective as fluoxetine for the treatment of postpartum depression. Acupuncture plus psychological intervention had a 90.7% total effective rate and fluoxetine hydrochloride had a 90.5% total effective rate.
It’s remarkable, but not surprising to those of us who know acupuncture, that they were nearly equal in effectiveness. The researchers note that acupuncture did not cause any adverse reactions but fluoxetine hydrochloride caused nausea, dizziness, and loss of appetite. That’s a plus for acupuncture after childbirth!
The researchers also note, “By regulating the exciting and inhibiting process of the cerebral cortex via the nervous system and immune system, acupuncture is able to balance various neurotransmitters among the intracephalic neuronal synapses, reduce the brain’s reaction to stress, relax the stressful spirit, regulate and treat the physical symptoms and relieve the depressive and anxious state.”
Bringing a baby into this world is hard enough. Don’t go without the tools you need to recover from pregnancy and birth. Let us help you!
Visit our booking page to schedule a consultation with Garryn and see how acupuncture can help you before and after you give birth. Feel free to reach out if you are contemplating acupuncture in Denver.
*If your postpartum is severe and you are having suicidal thoughts, please reach out to a friend or family member. Alternatively, the suicide hotline is open 24/7: 1-800-273-8255.