At my 6 week postpartum appointment with my midwife I was so proud to check the NO box next to each question on the postnatal depression survey - I felt great and I passed the test...I was in the clear...so I thought.
However, studies show that women most often develop symptoms of postnatal depression in the first three months after giving birth, and even up to your baby's first birthday. So at around 3 months postpartum when my symptoms started, I was in denial that it could be postnatal depression or anxiety.
I felt like I was stuck in the mud, and even the easiest daily tasks were a struggle. Most days I didn't want to do anything and I blamed it on being the tired mom of a newborn, toddler and preschooler. But then I started to notice how overwhelmed and anxious I felt. I just wasn't myself AT ALL.
I didn't want to leave the house and I was having the craziest thoughts. I avoided going to the mall or any crowded public place because I would think to myself, "What if there's an ISIS attack," or "What if someone goes on a shooting rampage when I'm with the kids in the grocery store," and the fear would consume my thoughts.
I was also constantly worried that something was going to happen to Luke and I couldn't get it out of my head. I would lie awake at night for hours with a racing mind.
I felt like I was failing miserably as a mom of three...that I wasn't cut out for the job, and it would never get better.
Also, things I absolutely loved doing before - fitness, coaching, and helping people...I briefly stopped caring about. I didn't want to exercise and I was eating like crap.
I finally decided to talk to Phil about what was going on. I also reached out to friends and co-workers who I know went through something similar, and this was the BEST possible thing I could have done.
I found out that I WAS NOT ALONE and a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. It was actually a lot more common than I ever thought and I had no reason to be ashamed about it. This encouraged me to share my story with all of you in hope that I can help just one person who may be feeling how I was.
I started to do my research and found that postnatal depression/anxiety/OCD affects 1 in 7 women who give birth. I also started to research the options to treat my postnatal anxiety and I decided to try the natural options before I wanted to go down the pharmaceutical path.
Before I get into this, please let me be very clear that I am not anti-meds for postnatal depression and anxiety, and I AM NOT judging you if you take them...not in the least. However, I want to try to avoid them if I can for a few reasons:
The first is that I am afraid that I won't feel myself if I take meds or I will suffer from side effects. The second reason is that I would be concerned if I started medication that I would be afraid to go off of it down the road. It is the best decision for me to try the natural route first and I'm so happy that I've seen some big changes in the first couple of weeks already.
**I really want to stress that if you do make this same decision to please keep your doctor or midwife in the loop so they are on the same page that this is the best decision for YOU as each case of postnatal depression and anxiety can be very different.
5 Ways to Help Postnatal Depression/Anxiety Without Meds:
1. Spill the beans. Confide in your husband or significant other, call a friend, and/or go see your doctor or midwife. Send me an email if you want to...just PLEASE talk to someone about it. I also found a local postpartum support group on Facebook that meets in my area monthly. Like I said before, finally getting it off my chest was a huge help to me. You know what they say...the first step to fixing the problem is admitting you have a problem. It's so true.
2. Exercise every day. I don't mean you need to complete a Cross Fit workout every day but you need to do something every day to get your blood pumping. I personally aim to do my HIIT workouts 4-5 times per week and on my off days if I can just get a quick walk in with the kids (even if its only 10 minutes)...just getting out in the fresh air and sunshine will make a big difference. Somedays I literally need to force myself to get it done, but feel so much better after it's finished. I also HIGHLY recommend an accountability partner or group for the extra encouragement.
3. Eat as healthy as you can. I know for me, when I eat healthy and avoid processed foods with added sugar I feel so much better. When I eat a diet high in protein and balanced with complex carbohydrates and healthy fats I feel great. I also make sure to include my Shakeology every single day. Proper nutrition for postpartum moms is extremely important for the mother's well being physically and mentally, but also for your baby if you're breastfeeding.
4. Take Cod Fish Liver Oil and Vitamin D Supplements. A friend of mine recommended this to me and I did some research and I learned SO much. I had no idea that studies have shown that low Vitamin D levels in postpartum moms are linked to postnatal depression and anxiety. This is why postnatal vitamins contain 700% of the recommend daily value of Vitamin D. I didn't realize that taking postnatal versus my leftover prenatal vitamins could make a big difference. I know pediatricians recommend a Vitamin D supplement for breastfed babies but I did NOT know I needed it as well. (Source - www.americanpregnancy.org)
I am taking a Cod Fish Liver Oil supplement that also contains Vitamin D. The fatty acids are extremely important for our brains since 60% of our brain is made up of fats. When growing a baby if a mother's diet does not include enough of these healthy fats the baby takes it from your stores in your brain and can contribute to brain fog, or as I refer to it as "mommy brain," and this can continue postapartum as well as during pregnancy. This can be avoided by eliminating vegetable oils in your diet and replacing it with olive oil, coconut oil, fish, flaxseed and chia seeds.
5. Ask for help. Please know that IT IS OKAY TO ADMIT YOU NEED HELP. I know we all like to take on the Super Mom mentality but there is nothing wrong with asking family or friends for help to lighten your load when you are feeling very overwhelmed.
I hope that by me sharing my story I have been able to help even one person get the help they need instead of suffering alone from postnatal depression or anxiety.
I am also so excited to tell you that I will be offering my next fitness and nutrition challenge group that will also be a support group for postpartum moms. You will benefit from having a focus on physical fitness, nutrition accountability, AND mental support with a community to be able to confide in others who are most likely feeling the same way as you are. If you had your baby in the past year you are welcome to apply for this group that will start on Monday, September 12th. Click here to apply. Placement is first come first serve and I will be capping the group at 15 women as I want everyone to really get to know each other.
I'm looking forward to working with you!