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Believe it or not, I'm a fairly reasonable person. Usually. Then there's postpartum- and by postpartum, I mean at least the first full year after birth- when feeling 'normal' is like trying to stuff myself into pre-pregnancy jeans. Completely understandable- and not even slightly realistic. Without help, this is the general schedule:
9am: Breakdown on the toilet after a night of exhaustion and WHY will this child not sleep and will my boobs be the same size ever again...
9:05am: Look at this beautiful babe I grew...so perfect. I did gooood. #proudmomma
9:10am: Being saggy and feeling gross is not my best life... hate everything. *tears
9:12am: Overwhelm. I need coffee...can't have coffee because baby doesn't respond well....totally engulfed by the weight of my new job.
9:15pm: Did I seriously just sign up for this...Life. Over.
9:13 am: Look at this amazing little human. I love being a mom.
9:17: Husband asks if I put the white load in the dryer like I said I would. HOW DARE HE. What are these questions?! Obviously you do not understand my life.
9:20am: Husband brings me a cup of tea. I love him. Such a great man. #perfectlife #savormoments
Obviously, good times are had by all. For nigh on a year.
If you haven't done it...it's awesome. Being solidly unreasonable is the best ever. Sometimes the transition between mood swings is (mercifully) slightly longer than three minutes, but yeah...that'spretty much it.
If you're on this ride, there are a few things that really work that can balance out the roller coaster of constant emotional betrayal. Because as we know, roller coasters are a blast...for two minutes. And then it's more fun to be back on level ground and go find french fries and ice cream.
Here are a few things that actually work to slow down the ride-- and hopefully, stop it long enough to get off.
In the hours following birth, estrogen and progesterone levels drop sharply, which, in the words of CNM Amy Giles, is like "jumping off a canyon with no water at the bottom." (1) Treatment options for this wild fluctuation are a choice between psychotherapy, anti-depressants or both. The scant studies done on treating hormonal fluctuations in postpartum with these standard remedies indicate that these treatments can have substantial side effects and may not be as effective (or as quick to work) as desired. Additionally, the safety of most medications used to treat hormonal postpartum depression is not conclusively proven, particularly for breastfeeding moms and their infants. The studies are scarce and small, and have many times excluded breastfeeding moms altogether. (2)
Research Conducted by the Pope Paul IV Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction suggests that natural progesterone might be an effective alternative treatment option. It's proposed that natural progesterone is unlikely to cause an allergic reaction as it is a substance already produced by the body, and it is "rapid onset", often producing results within minutes or hours. Even better, natural progesterone is a targeted response to the processes already happening in the body. The studies done by the Institute displayed major decreases (in most cases around 50%) in every symptom assessed, including depression, fatigue, crying, anxiety, helplessness, strange thoughts, poor appetite, and night sweats. (3) Natural progesterone is most effective with intramuscular injections, but may also be effective as a topical cream.
One major point to remember: Natural progesterone is not the same as synthetic progesterone (as can be found in hormonal birth control and most everywhere else progesterone treatments are discussed). Synthetic progesterone-also known as progestin- is not human identical and therefore does not work in the same way and does not have the same effects.
Here's the caveat, good reader: If you're wanting to try natural progesterone but can't find a practitioner who can or will administer it, please don't give up on treatment. Standard remedies may work for you, and might be necessary if other treatments aren't available. Put your health and safety at the forefront, and keep pursuing the care you need. No fear, no hesitation. You are not weak for needing help- you are powerful and strong for getting it. If you're interested in natural progesterone treatment, you can find more information here.
Xenoestrogens are estrogen-mimicking chemicals found in millions of everyday items including many plastics, cleaners, foods, and pesticides. (Obviously exactly what you were hoping to hear…the “everything is killing us” storyline is SO tiresome, even if it is true.) Use the Environmental Working Groups Skin Deep Database as a resource to find out what's in your products, and try to avoid estrogen-mimickers as much as possible. Most chemicals can distrupt your endocrine system in some way, so do your best to get away from chemicals in your water, beauty products, household cleaners, and wherever else you’re able to. Before we leave this one, there’s one more thing: phytoestrogens, which are plant-based estrogens that have a similar effect. The top of that chain is soy, which should generally be avoided. Phytoestrogens are a hotly debated rabbit hole, but some fascinating stuff to be aware of if hormonal issues are happening in your world right now.
Use hormone balancing essential oils such as clary sage which regulates estrogen levels, thyme oil which improves progesterone production, and lavender which has multitude hormonal benefits and is one of the more gentle oils (safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding!) I also highly recommend DoTerra’s Clary Calm oil blend, formulated specifically for female hormone balancing. As always, use oils safely with proper dilution, whether diffusing or using topically (in general I wouldn’t recommend ingesting essential oils without the guidance of a healthcare provider or licensed aromatherapist). And always research the safety and efficacy of the specific oils you’d like to use for your stage of the process, as some oils are not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Magnesium is responsible for more than 700 enzyme-activated biochemical reactions in the body. In plain English: magnesium helps the processes that create and regulate hormones. So we need to make sure we get enough of it. The problem is, magnesium needs a pretty specific concoction of other vitamins and minerals available in the body in order to be appropriately absorbed. Otherwise, absorption rates for magnesium- specifically in supplement form- are pretty abysmal, with research showing absorption of 20-25%. The fix? Topical application in the form of Magnesium Lotion or Oil, which uptakes directly into the bloodstream, ensuring much higher absorption rate. Other ways to increase magnesium: Epsom salt baths, and dark chocolate (80% cocoa or more) which ounce for ounce has the highest magnesium of any food. Heck yes it does. (4)
Intake your Omegas
Research has proven that omega fatty acids are crucial in balancing hormones. But before reaching for the nearest supplement, there are two important things to keep in mind. 1) You specifically need Omega 3 and Omega 6. 2) The American diet is an overdose of the wrong kind of Omega 6 fatty acids. You need to get the right kind of Omega-6, while steering clear of other Omega-6 fatty acids such as those found in safflower, sunflower, corn, cottonseed, canola, soybean and peanut oils. The specific Omega-6 you want is GLA-Gamma Linoliec Acid. A great source for GLA is Evening Primrose Oil. 3) It’s imperative to maintain an even ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 in your diet by staying away from the not-so-awesome oils listed above, and by upping your intake of Omega 3. (5,6) You can get Omega 3's through food sources such as wild fish, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts and grass-fed animal products. And you can easily up your intake of Omega-3’s with Cod Liver Oil. Whatever supplement you use for your Omega intake, make sure that your fish oil supplement of choice has equivalent amounts of Vitamin A to Vitamin D. Many fish oils contain token amounts of vitamin D and way more vitamin A, and this imbalance can cause health problems, especially if you’re Vitamin D deficient. (7)
Consider your thyroid
If you have a thyroid problem, your hormones will be out of balance already. Get a proper diagnosis and the right treatment. Thyroidpharmacist.com is a great resource to check out on the topic.
I love strange words-- and of weird words, this one is king. Placentophagia- eating your placenta. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: placenta encapsulation is a gift from the gods. This is anecdotal rather than scientific, but many a momma will attest to that fact that placenta ingestion helped them heal quickly and regulate postpartum hormones (including this momma. And I will gladly tell you my story). It makes sense considering this particular organ was created with the perfect hormonal concoction specifically needed by you and your infant. If it’s not your thing, it’s ok. But if it’s needed, it may be worth a second look. (There will be posts upcoming on the actual science and research behind this practice. Stay tuned.)
Ahahahahahaha.....ok, I mean...I know. So try. Try to get sleep. And if you're struggling with depression, blues, or worse, it is really, really important that this happens. Ultimately, what baby needs- even more than being comforted from every cry- is a healthy momma. Check out this post, and this one- for more on getting real sleep right now.
Virtually no life event rivals the hormonal, psychological and social changes associated with pregnancy and childbirth. (3) It really is that major, so if you're feeling the effects of it, take heart: you are normal. Use the resources and ideas above and get the help you need to get off that crazy roller-coaster. And while you're on it? You're not riding alone. There are many ways to connect. Please be sure to nourish you, body and soul. This season is tough, momma, but you are powerful.
What have you tried? Have you found something that's worked really well for you?
1,2. The Power of Natural Progesterone: Treating Hormone-Related Postpartum Depression by Shannon K. Valenzuela, Midwifery Today Issue Number 103 (Autumn 2012)