In my role as a health and female fitness coach, I see a lot of women with post natal depression. It can be mild and just shows itself as a few tears and a general feeling of being down or fed up. Or, it can be completely overwhelming and sometimes require help from doctors and psychiatrists. I wanted to blog about the link between post natal depression and nutrition as it is SO important.
Your body following birth, is absolutely desperate for nutrition. Good nutrition. Fresh, natural foods that promote healing and a healthy mind. This is why people often ate the placenta following birth. We may not do that now in Western culture but it does contain all of the lost nutrients that you lost whilst giving birth. All of your energy stores, your vitamins and minerals, will have been used up during the birth. You feel unbelievably exhausted. Ecstatic too, no doubt, but exhausted. So, at this point, your body is desperately in need of foods to replace all of those lost vitamins and minerals. Not surprisingly, all of your focus is now on your baby, getting them to feed properly, learning how to change them and praying for them to stop crying at times! Not a lot of time is spent on thinking about what you should eat to help your body (and mind) heal. It's very easy to reach for foods that are high in fat and sugar to help you get through the tiredness of the day.
Unfortunately your body needs more than a donut or packet of crisps to get you feeling well again. You must look after yourself too. Keep healthy snacks in the fridge that you can pick at during the day. Make sure you start your day with some protein such as eggs, or natural yoghurt. If you are struggling to even brush your hair one morning, a smoothie or a fresh juice is your friend and will get vital nutrients into your body quickly. Regain your energy with vegetables, some meat and fish and slow release carbohydrates such as oats or wholemeal pitta bread with peppers and hummus. Fresh soups are a brilliant idea. Especially if you are breastfeeding, this is no time to be thinking about weight loss. Think health giving and healing. Taking a supplement at this time can also be a good idea. There are lots of supplements you can take post natally, just check they're ok if you're breastfeeding.
You may have lots of visitors wanting to see the new arrival. People like to be useful. Ask them to bring a meal with them that you can freeze. Ask for healthy snacks or lots fruit and vegetables. Use food to get yourself better. You will need it. Both my sons didn't sleep through the night until they were six months old, I know how tiring it is. Help yourself out :)
After a few months, you will begin to feel yourself again but sometimes, you might not. If you are still feeling down and teary, don't be afraid to ask for help and talk to people about it. One thing I have learnt in the last few years is that post natal depression is REALLY common, much more so than you might think. Be open about it. People are usually happy to talk and will often discuss their own experiences with depression.
Look after yourselves ladies and if you have friends that you think may be suffering, talk to them.