Pregnancy Changes the Brain

Recently the Washington Post published an article about the changes that pregnancy has on the brain. It’s important to note that this study was small and hasn’t been replicated yet. But it does go a long way in soothing concerns that I hear from many postpartum women.

As I’ve written about before, actually many times, medication is a tough subject. We have a certain degree of control over our thoughts, feelings and logical deductions. But that control only goes so far. So people naturally think that when you’re in the midst of some type of depression, that you should be able to control how you feel and treat it with your own thoughts.

But as I’ve pointed out before, mental health is not that simple. We are trained to think that happiness is a choice, for all. We view everything from our own perspective, so we think that if we can use herbs and positive thinking that everyone can.

To be honest, I never fully understood how wrong this thinking was – the thought that we truly can control our depression with disciplined thinking – until I went through my own postpartum depression. Now I understand that it’s a very chemical and hormonal process and when your chemicals are off, your brain plays some pretty strange tricks on you.

But I digress.

One of the other concerns that women have about starting a postpartum depression treatment involving medication is that they’ll be on the medication forever. People, I’ve found, can deal with the idea of taking antidepressants a little better if they believe it’s a temporary thing. While I still think this isn’t exactly the healthiest approach to mental health issues, as far as it relates to postpartum depression, I guess I can deal with that approach.

If you think about it, pregnancy is only a finite period, but it would seem logical that the effects would linger. For example, during pregnancy your estrogen is at incredibly high levels. For many women, this acts as a natural antidepressant. For me, it was quite the opposite. My body doesn’t handle hormonal fluctuations very well. But getting back to the point, that’s 9 – 10 months that your body is operating at a different hormonal cocktail.

Then you give birth. Your estrogen immediately crashes. That’s why a lot of women report “baby blues” or crying, emotional highs and lows in short periods and so forth. For many women, those hormones start to level off, but it’s important to note that if you’re breastfeeding, your estrogen levels – which were formerly crazy high – are now in the toilet. Your body has to make room for the prolactin to produce milk…and estrogen is the first hormone to get kicked out. So then for however long you breastfeed, your body is yet again taken through the ringer with abnormally low estrogen levels. For months. Or for some women – FOR YEARS!

Then, is it any wonder that our bodies need time to recover once they go back to their normal hormonal equilibrium? Our bodies spent years fine tuning themselves at that specific chemical frequency and then they basically get jerked around for about two years surrounding pregnancy and childbirth.

So ladies – if you find yourself in a position where you’ve got to take some medication to get back to normal – be patient. Your body’s been through the ringer. Your life has changed. Nothing lasts forever. You might be on the medication for awhile, you might not. But by getting treatment, you’ve taken the first step to getting better and being the mom you always wanted to be. So be kind to yourself. You deserve it. Put the days ahead of you where they belong…in the future.

Postpartum World_ICON_4C_Green Rattle

Oxytocin Levels and Postpartum Depression

I’ve linked before to this article that speculates that women with low oxytocin levels may experience depression associated with weaning from breastfeeding. Specifically, previous studies have suggested that women who have naturally low levels of oxytocin will suffer from depression.

Continue reading “Oxytocin Levels and Postpartum Depression”

Is Postpartum Depression Genetic?

The New York Times recently printed an article called “Hunting the Genetic Signs of Postpartum Depression with an iPhone App“. The article explores the idea that there may be genetic markers in women who have postpartum depression. Essentially the University of North Carolina will be conducting the study by collecting data from women who have recently had a child, via their iPhones. The data will allow the researchers to ascertain if a woman is struggling with postpartum depression. Continue reading “Is Postpartum Depression Genetic?”