Postpartum Depression or Postnatal Depression (PPD) affects 1 in 7 new mothers, in Australia. Importantly, many women struggle not knowing they have it. This isn’t to alarm you, but it makes it important to identify what the telling signs are and which of the key nutrients you can call on, should you or a mother you know fall into a slump.
PPD is complex, just like any other mood disorder where some mothers may experience it for only a month and others may struggle for over a year. It can cause extreme mood swings, feelings of quilt and inadequacy, social withdrawal, trouble bonding with your baby, anxiety and a change in appetite. Not to fear though, research shows lifestyle factors can both minimise the risk and promote recovery of PPD.
While the exact mechanism is unclear, there is strong evidence that dairy consumption lowers prevalence of PPD. This could be from the calcium and protein dairy products contain. These foods include cheese, yoghurt and milk.
Omega-3 fatty acids, also known as the “healthy fats”, have been found to reduce risk of PPD. Not only this, they’re an essential part of the diet as the body is unable to produce them on its own. The major source of omega 3s is fish. Other sources include walnuts, canola oil, red meat, chia seeds and linseeds.
Upcoming studies tell of promising remedies which focus on the gut-brain connection. Probiotics is one such promise. Probiotics are living bacteria and have a significant role in bridging the pathway between gut and brain. They support gut health, at the same time lessening depressive symptoms. Species, Bifidobacterium infantis and Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001, have shown a positive effect in reducing symptoms of depression. Fermented foods are the go-to here: natural yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, sourdough and even some cheeses.
It’s long been known that exercise is good for us and PPD is no exception. A simple 30 minutes most days will reduce symptoms of PPD. This could be a walk with bub, or you may choose to indulge in some alone time and take yourself for a walk. As you become more comfortable with your new body, you can gradually add in more intense exercises such as pilates.
On top of motherhood, diet and exercise can sometimes feel like too big a task. However, PPD should not be treated as a fleeting side effect that comes after pregnancy; rather it can and should be treated by feeding and moving your body appropriately. Focusing on a wholistic diet, with fruits, vegetables, dairy, seafoods, nuts and olive oil, can significantly improve mums and bubs’ health, both physically and mentally.