How To Navigate The Postpartum Process
Postpartum depression and anxiety affects 1 in 10 postpartum women. While pre-existing conditions can be at play, there is always a root cause. Even if there is no diagnosis during this time, we want to make this a time where a mom can bond with her baby and fell well, not be struggling to function. How do we do that?
First let’s look at the hormonal shift that occurs during the postpartum period.
Look at progesterone (our calming hormone) - it plummets after delivery and stays low ESPECIALLY if a women is nutrient and mineral depleted. You need specific nutrients to make enough progesterone and most women are depleted. As well, Dr. Robert Thompson in his book, "The Calcium Lie" discusses how during each pregnancy a woman loses 10% of her mineral supply. If a woman is already depleted, the period of time after pregnancy can be much harder for her to recover and FEEL WELL.
During pregnancy, the body will take from mom to feed growing baby. Taking calcium from bones and teeth (why you used to see women lose their teeth after pregnancy or have dental issues after pregnancy). Nutrients that are depleted after pregnancy include iron (but hold on thinking supplementation is needed, see below), folate, calcium, potassium, magnesium, Vitamin A and carotenoids, iodine, phosphorus, zinc, DHA and other essential fatty acids, B vitamins, and selenium. These nutrients are necessary for emotional and physical well being. One study from 2002 found that despite women supplementing with prenatal vitamins, many women were still deficient in Vitamin A, B6 (a contributing factor with postpartum gallbladder and liver stress), Niacin, Thiamine, and B12. Many of those are B vitamins, which are NEEDED for neurological and psychological health.
Then when we look at the nutrient needs of the nursing mother we can see where coming from a place of depletion, then adding on nursing an infant might contribute to further dysfunction as well as inadequate breastmilk supply which is so common in this country. We need to set our mothers up for success! Knowing what a postpartum nursing mom needs for adequate breastmilk supply can do wonders for a mother’s breastfeeding journey as well as her emotional and mental health. The benefits of breastfeeding are vast, to both mom and baby. But having adequate nutrients is vital for a successful nursing and postpartum journey.
I believe it all comes down to some simple solutions for the postpartum mother.
1 | Consume warm, nourishing foods. Warm foods are easier to digest, helpful during a time of healing, easier nutrient absorption, and are comforting by nature. Focus on animal based foods such as organ and pastured meats, eggs, wild caught seafood, soups, raw, grass-fed dairy when tolerated as well. Sally Fallon Morrell from the Weston A Price Foundation has several cookbooks that would be helpful. Focus on foods that supply Vitamin A and choline such as eggs, organ meats, grass-fed butter, etc.
2 | Quality sourced raw, grass-fed dairy is POWERFUL for breastmilk supply. BUT it is not tolerated by some infants. Conventional, pasteurized dairy is not tolerated by many infants, mores then raw dairy, BUT sometimes a mom does need to be completely dairy free depending on how infant is doing. If no problems, I would personally feel comfortable and would encourage quality, raw dairy while nursing.
Want to find raw milk near you?
Visit www.realmilk.com to find resources in your area.
3 | Healing postpartum teas like chamomile, nettles, lemon balm… Eartha Mama Organic has a wonderful Peaceful Mama Blend. I also love the support an herbal bath will provide. A calming moment, purposeful for mama to take time for herself, helpful for the stress response and healing during such a stressful time for the body. These baths can also be helpful for healing after a vaginal birth. Using herbs such as lavender, rose buds, calendula, yarrow, chamomile, and lemon balm are favorites.
Brew tea with bout 1 oz. of dried organic herbs and 2 quarts of filtered water. Cover and steep for about 30 minutes. Strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer and pour into tub along with sea or epsom salt.
Mountain Rose Herbs is a good source for dried herbs. As well, Wish Garden Herbs also makes a postpartum tincture that can be helpful for afterpains and an AfterBirth Sitzbath preparation.
4 | Give yourself grace. It is really important that you don’t just start the “bounce back” as soon as soon as you have your baby. That is not how it is supposed to be, that is not how it should be. That “bounce back” mentality is so harmful. Look at this time as a time to just BE, to be in awe of your body, to be in awe of your baby, and to be present in the moment. This isn’t the time for counting calories, wondering when you can start exercising again, or trying a new diet. Focus on some sort of morning sunlight (evening sunlight is great too!), grounding, deep breathing techniques, tapping, journaling…and of course sleep. Sleep when you can!
5 | Focus on mineral balance. Targeted supplementation after speaking with your healthcare provider can be very helpful. Minerals are calming, needed for parasympathetic nervous system regulation (we want less sympathetic nervous system stimulation -fight, flight, freeze, or fawn- and more parasympathetic nervous system upregulation (rest and heal nervous system). There are a lot of techniques that can be done to support this nervous system. Stimulating the vagus nerve is a big part of this as well. But minerals are needed for regulation of this system. When we think about adding magnesium on we also need to think about the balance of salt and potassium and calcium. These all work together in concert together. A balance of each is important. For this reason, adding adrenal cocktails and magnesium can be a helpful support. This nervous system balance is also important for breastmilk supply. I have several magnesiums linked on my Fullscript as well as a premade adrenal cocktail mixture. I typically recommend magnesium glycinate, bicarbonate, or a combination product. Another way I get 70+ trace minerals daily is from Biofulvic Fulvic/Humic Multimineral drink. I started very slow with this one, but this is helpful for balancing minerals.
6 | Research medicinal mushrooms. There are medicinal mushrooms that are helpful and safe for pregnant and nursing moms. Of course, speak with your healthcare provider before changing anything but these can be helpful for you… maitake mushrooms are helpful for a healthy stress response and blood sugar control, reishi for nervous system support, blood sugar control, it packs a big antioxidant punch. Turkey tail for immune support, chaga as well for the same reason, especially post-viral. Lion’s mane is also helpful for those with anxiety, depression, and fatigue. I use medicinal mushrooms from Perfect Supplements (Immune) and Wild Wholistic (multiple options).
7 | Vitamin C, salt and potassium…the main ingredients in the adrenal cocktail are all very needed in the post postpartum period. Vitamin C is crucial for health of the adrenals. Your adrenals are your stress response organs. If you don’t handle stress well, if anything happening makes you have a bad day or derails your whole day, you might need some adrenal support. Stress also depletes a lot of nutrients namely magnesium, calcium, b vitamins, vitamin e, selenium, vitamin c, zinc, sodium and potassium. Your potassium needs while pregnant and nursing are higher than in other times. If you are eating a processed food heavy diet, you may have enough sodium, but if you eat mostly whole foods you ma be in need for more sodium. Dr. James Nicolantonio, a cardiovascular researcher, has shown that the kidneys filter 3 pounds of salt every day, meaning 1 TEASPOON EVERY 5 MINUTES. WOW! When you have enough salt, there is better blood flow to your tissues, a lack of salt means less glucose and insulin transported to your skeletal muscle.
If you are struggling with the afternoon crash, you may want to look at the adrenal cocktail. I do a simple one with:
- 1/4 teaspoon quality salt (I use Redmond Real Salt or Crucial Four)
- 1/4 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
- a serving of whole food Vitamin C powder (there were three options I use, Acerola Powder from Perfect Supplements, Immune Aid from Earthley, or Super C Chewable from Young Living.. all are whole food C options)
- 4 oz or so aloe juice (I get the Lakewood Organic brand). Or I mix it with Ningxia Red (a wolf berry puree that packs an antioxidant punch). Some will do organic orange juice but I prefer to keep my blood sugar a bit more stable. If you would prefer a premade option I also have one linked from Jigsaw on my Fullscript.
8 | Progesterone. Lastly, as you might imagine from the graph above, progesterone dropping after delivery can impact mood a lot. Progesterone is our calming hormone. It is high in pregnancy and it’s why many women feel much better when pregnant but might feel much worse after pregnancy. Using a bio identical progesterone such as Progessence Plus can be very helpful. It is made from sweet yams. This is something I would discuss with your provider and would wait to start until breastmilk supply is well established, but it can be very helpful. It MIGHT impact when your cycle returns but it also may not. However, if you are crashing during the postpartum period, this can be a very helpful step for you. Again, I would discuss with your provider. The one I use is a topical serum and I just apply a couple drops on my neck (not where baby would be).
One question I have received off and on is about placenta encapsulation. My thoughts are that it could be harmful depending on the health status of the mother. We have seen multiple studies show how toxins are transmitted to the mother and there is no way to know this ahead of time unless much prep is done before pregnancy. As well, it does not seem placenta encapsulation was as prevalent in traditional cultures as you would think if this was such a helpful and historically safe practice. “Chinese traditional medicine has for centuries used human placenta to treat kidney and liver ailments or low energy, though not in postpartum mothers.” As well, in 2010 a study was performed analyzing 179 societies and they found almost no evidence of this practice among traditional cultures. When we look to the Bible for reference, we see in Deuteronomy that a woman did indeed consume her placenta but it said “for in her dire need”…. So when I look at this information along with the multitude of studies that have shown toxins being present in the umbilical cord and placenta I have to assume there is questionable safety especially when the health status and toxins load of the mother is unknown.
My thoughts? Keep it simple. Focus on nutrient dense eating, morning sunlight, less artificial light in the evening, rest, and target supplementation as indicated.
Focus on nutrient dense eating, morning sunlight, less artificial light in the evening, rest, and target supplementation as indicated.
The postpartum period can be a beautiful and wonderful thing. But for some, it can be stressful and not quite what you imagined. Making sure you have the necessary nutrients on board can be a very helpful thing to ensure a happy and calm postpartum period.
PLEASE NOTE: This is not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition. These things are supportive in nature. This is not meant to be medical advice, this is meant to be educational. Please speak to your healthcare provider before changing anything in your healthcare routine.
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