If you are feeling sad, depressed, trapped, isolated, anxious and over-emotional at what is supposed to be the happiest time in your life, you are not alone. Up to 85% of women suffer from some sort of postnatal anxiety and it is an entirely normal reaction for mothers to have after having a baby.
In fact, following the birth of her first child, Gwyneth Paltrow confessed to ‘feeling like a zombie’ while Courtney Cox has said ‘she couldn’t sleep and was very depressed’.
Pressure to be the ‘perfect parent’, feel overwhelming love to the newborn and breastfeed can all contribute to postnatal anxiety and depression.
‘Crying and confusion are experienced by most women and are partly due to the hormone changes experienced during the labour; they can also be connected to when the milk comes through. But for some 15% of women, this despair and tearfulness continues and develops into post-natal depression’, explains Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading women’s health expert and an author of Getting Pregnant Faster. (www.marilynglenville.com).
According to a recent poll, pressure to be the ‘perfect parent’, feel overwhelming love to the newborn and breastfeed is also contributing to the condition and can significantly worsen its symptoms.
If you are feeling low and anxious, follow these five tips to boost your mood naturally and enjoy motherhood to the max.
Take a break
Make sure you find time to rest. Permanent sleep deprivation is the biggest cause of anxiety and low mood. Instead of catching up on all those chores that have piled up, try to coordinate your rest periods with your baby.
Dr Glenville says: ‘You may need to ask for help with the housework and other chores so that you can have time to rest, sleep, eat properly and also spend time getting to know your baby. It is a good idea to get out the house on your own if you can; it can feel quite overwhelming to suddenly have someone dependent on you twenty-four hours a day. Giving birth may bring up unresolved emotional issues from the past that need to be dealt with and counselling may be very helpful if this has happened’.
Keep your sugar levels balanced
It is important that you make sure that you are eating little and often, particularly if you are breastfeeding. Keeping your blood sugar in balance is crucial for helping you through this time as it directly affects mood and energy.
Dr Glenville says: ‘Aim to eat complex and unrefined carbohydrates as part of your main meals – this means choosing brown instead of white (whole wheat bread, brown rice and wholemeal flour). Don’t forget about breakfast, porridge and oatmeal is a good choice. Do reduce and preferably avoid stimulants including tea, coffee, chocolate, smoking and canned drinks with caffeine’.
Too much copper is not good news
Mineral imbalances or deficiencies can also contribute to ‘baby blues’. One of the most important nutrients during this difficult time is zinc. Zinc and copper are antagonists, which means that high levels of copper reduce zinc and vitamin B6. Once you are pregnant, copper levels in the blood tend to rise dramatically and remain high for up to a month after giving birth as it stimulates the uterus. This can cause what feels like depression: extreme fears, anxiety, sleep problems, paranoia and even hallucinations.
Dr Glenville says: ‘High levels of copper that decrease zinc can be dangerous, especially for a new mum, as she may be already low in this mineral after giving birth. Zinc deficiency can cause stretch marks, white spots on fingernails, decreased wound healing, loss of appetite and low mood. Make sure you are taking good multivitamins and minerals, the ones you took during pregnancy are fine but add some extra zinc (the recommended daily intake is 50mg of zinc a day).’
Try (www.revital.co.uk, £8.50).
Eat fatty acids
During pregnancy, women are constantly being deprived of fatty acids because of the physical demands of growing fetus. Omega 3 fatty acids are proved to increase levels of serotonin so they are essential in fighting depression and anxiety. ‘Try to include salmon, avocado and nuts in your daily diet.
If you don’t like fish, choose a good quality omega-3 supplement such as Omega 3 by Quest Vitamins (www.revital.co.uk, £6.19).’ recommends Nutritionist, Cassandra Barns.
Balance your hormones
Shona Wilkinson, Head Nutritionist at www.nutricentre.com says: ‘Try to take milk thistle every day to support the liver and gall bladder. This powerful herb can help the liver to deal with toxins and process excess hormones from the body. In addition, it is an excellent promoter of milk production, so will help with breast-feeding as well’.