Eating Your Way Through Postpartum Depression

Chocolates anyone?

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Pregnancy, despite being nothing short of miraculous, comes with its fair share of challenges. From the process of carrying the child to delivery and even thereafter, the female body undergoes a series of changes, some of which may have negative and debilitating effects.

One of such effects is Post-Partum depression, whose growing prevalence is one for concern. It instills in a new mother – crippling mood swings, severe feelings of self-doubt, panic attacks, thoughts of self-harm or harming the baby and in more extreme cases, suicidal thoughts.


Although a direct cause of the ailment remains elusive, certain factors are known to play pivotal roles in its emergence, as seen in the following:

· Sleep deprivation following the birth of a child.

· A history of depression.

· Traumatisingly painful or difficult childbirth.

· Marital or financial troubles.

· Changes in hormonal levels: Oestrogen and Progesterone are hormones produced by the body with exhilarating and calming effects to the brain respectively. During pregnancy, copious amounts of the hormones are produced, which is met with a drastic decline, following childbirth. This sharp change in hormonal levels is a sure factor in the materialisation of post-partum depression.


With the severity of the risks posed by post-partum depression, an easy remedy to its effects would be resorting to anti-depressants. However, with the increased likelihood of the drugs being transferred while breastfeeding, such medication may be met with hesitation, and understandably so.

A viable and healthier alternative would be resorting to an activity that’s sure to be no stranger – eating!

Studies have shown that your diet plays a key role in mental health and well being. So much so, that with the right meal plan, a guaranteed increase in positivity, sure to have you seeing the end of Post-partum depression, is certain. To sufficiently combat the disease, the following foods must be key players in your diet:

· Foods rich in Omega 3 Fatty acid: DHA or Docosahexaenoic acid is an important fatty acid, popularly viewed as brain food, which is crucial for a baby’s visual and mental development. It is transferred from mother to baby during pregnancy and following delivery, through breastmilk.

However, by transferring copious amounts of DHA to the baby, a mother’s reserves fast become depleted, a deficiency which is known to be a direct source of Post-partum depression. To counter this, foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acid, which is replete with DHA, are to be consumed by a new mother. It can be found fish oil, salmon, flaxseed oil, chia seeds, soybeans and spinach, and are certain to provide noticeable mood improvement over time.

· Trace minerals: Zinc and Magnesium are key elements used during a pregnancy and after childbirth. They aid foetal development and maintain nerve and muscle function respectively for baby, roles which continue even after birth, leading to an increased deficiency in mother and a resultant increase in the chances of developing Post Partum Depression.

To counter a Zinc deficiency, animal proteins such as poultry, fish, organ meats and Legumes should be consumed. For Magnesium, Turkey, lobster, cottage cheese, flax seed oil, spinach, pineapple are sure bets to getting your levels of Magnesium up.

· B- Vitamins: the body, in regulating moods and well being, produces a neurotransmitter called Serotonin, whose key role is mood stabilisation. Studies have shown that a deficiency of Seratonin is a direct causal link to Depression, and with the knowledge that stressful activities, (typically exemplified by an ordeal such as pregnancy) hamper its production, new mothers are thus easy pickings for Postpartum depression.

It is thus advisable, in attempting to supplant the body’s efforts at producing Seratonin, to consume Vitamin-rich foods, as they are rich resources of the chemical. It can be found in foods such as: cereals, whole grains, potatoes, pork, liver, pineapple, grapefruit and watermelon.

· Herbs: these are an invaluable addition to any diet, with proven abilities to calm nerves, stabilise moods and produce essential hormones, they are great for pre and post-natal care. With reference to post-partum depression, the following are great choices in a new mother’s diet: Chamomile, Vitex, Oats, Scullcap, St John’s Wort, Peppermint, Fenugreek Seed and Red Clover.

· Protein: these are great for producing feel-good hormones in the body and can be found richly, in poultry, eggs, milk, soybean, fish.

· Dark chocolate: a sure favourite for mood uppers and a great excuse for indulgence, the consumption of pure dark chocolate leads to the production of Endorphins and even Serotonin, known to be great for mood improvement and the calming of nerves.

Consuming meals rich in the following is a positive step, sure to alleviate the mood swings, self-doubt and uncertainty characteristic of depression. However, the following should be avoided to prevent compounding the effects of Post-partum depression: caffeine, alcohol, processed sugar and foods with preservatives and artificial colouring.

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