Perinatal mood disorders cause mood changes that can occur both during pregnancy as well as up to a year after giving birth. Unknown to many, anxiety is one of the most common symptoms attributed to perinatal mood disorders and postpartum depression (PPD). Other symptoms include trouble sleeping, fear, negative thinking, feeling disconnected or alone, thoughts of someone harming your baby, or fear you may harm your baby. If you experience any of these symptoms, you are not alone. According to the CDC, eight to nineteen percent of women will experience postpartum depression symptoms; this equates to almost one in seven women giving birth. By understanding the signs and symptoms as well as listening to each other and sharing stories, information will become more prevalent. Preventative treatment and care is available. Often, women seek a variety of treatments such as acupuncture, Chinese herbs, counseling, and medication. Preventative treatment during pregnancy has also been shown to help lower postpartum depression rates.

There are many ways women celebrate the blessing of a coming child, such as a baby shower.

The expectation of a new baby is that a mother will be bonded and overjoyed with the changes in her life. A child truly is a wonderful gift and an amazing miracle, but it also comes with unexpected changes, sacrifices, and transitions. While there has not been much research done on honoring rites of passage in our society, it is my opinion that acknowledging the changes occurring for women as they move into a new phase of life is extremely important for their mental and emotional well-being. With acknowledgement comes support, and a circle is created showing women they truly have a village to lean on and confide in. It is a place to ask for help and get support.

In Navajo culture, there is a ceremony called a “Blessing Way”, or “Mother Blessing” to honor and create a space where women can voice their fears, frustrations and any thoughts about the major changes taking place in their lives. So often the focus on motherhood becomes about the baby, but in Chinese Medicine there is a saying: “treat the mother to treat the child.” A healthy mother creates ideal circumstances for a healthy baby. Even if this type of ceremony is not for you, there are other options. Speaking with a private therapist (or a couples therapist) is an empowering and important piece of honoring the changes happening for a woman and her family. Sometimes issues arise during pregnancy and after that are not anticipated or fully understood. In our clinic, sometimes we hear from our patients, “I love my child more than anything, it’s the best thing that’s ever happened, but it so much harder than I ever imagined and I am totally overwhelmed.” Women need to know it is okay to say, “today is hard,” or, “I need help,” or, “I just don’t feel like myself.” For friends, it is important to hear what is being said and find ways to support the new mother.

A knowledgeable, trained, and trustworthy third-party can do wonders for any situation. There are tools available for qualified practitioners to help diagnose the need for intervention. The Edinburgh Postpartum Depression scale is a scale developed to see if a woman is suffering from PPD. The validation study used by healthcare practitioners shows mothers who score above threshold 92.3% are likely to be suffering from a depressive illness of varying severity. It is a series of questions asked to see how a new mother is coping, and assess if they are able to engage and feel joy. The EPDS score should not override clinical judgment (and does not necessarily diagnose anxiety) but can help validate a need for outside intervention. Women can seek help and build a community of healers such as private counseling, support groups, movement therapy, and birth class groups. Changes in diet, acupuncture, massage, and physical therapy (to address any underlying pain and pelvic floor issues) are also great options.

Suggestions to Combat the Baby Blues and PPD:

  • Eat well, eat frequently, and eat adequate protein.
  • Preventatively, pregnant women should focus on 75-90 grams of protein per day.
  • Mothers who choose to breastfeed will need 120 grams of protein per day while nursing. Making sure you have adequate nutrition and continuing with your prenatal vitamin will help prevent ups and downs in mood.

Complimentary Protein Combinations

How Many Grams of Protein are in a Serving?

Movement: stretch, walk, run, take a yoga class, dance – a little bit of movement can go a long way in supporting our healthy and happy emotions. Studies have shown the effects of exercise have long term benefits with mood and the effect can be almost immediate.

Michael Otto, PhD, says, “Many people skip the workout at the very time it has the greatest payoff. That prevents you from noticing just how much better you feel when you exercise . . . . failing to exercise when you feel bad is like explicitly not taking an aspirin when your head hurts. That’s the time you get the payoff.”

At our clinic, it is our experience that mothers work very hard to take care of their children, but do not always make time for themselves. It can be hard to ask for help, but when you do, you will be surprised how many people are there for you and want you to take care of yourself.

Community: whether it is going on a date with your partner, catching up for tea with friends, or attending a support group, or perhaps a spiritual service, human connection is always important. This might be a great time to join some new communities. Go where you feel supported.

Holistic Care: through acupuncture we can help support sleep, digestion, reduce stress and anxiety, help regulate your hormones, and decrease any aches. Here at the Acupuncture Clinic of Boulder, Inc., we pride ourselves on having our patients feel “listened to and heard” and feel the positive results. Please let us know how we can help.

Our practitioners collaborate with our patients and our healthcare community to renew, encourage, and inspire optimal health and vitality.