Treatments for Prenatal Depression
What you eat can have an enormous impact on your brain chemistry. Although charges in your diet – perhaps feeling that you don’t want to eat, or bingeing on junk foods – are a common symptom of prenatal depression, try to keep to good eating habits. Ask someone else to cook for you, if need be.
Balancing your blood sugar is essential, so eat little and often (aim for six small meals a day) and eliminate added sugar (such as in cakes, cookies, and many juice drinks) and stimulants (such as caffeine). Try to combine foods in the right way, too.
Many antidepressants, such as Prozac (fluoxetine), are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) because they optimize the use of serotonin, one of the neurotransmitters involved in controlling mood. Amazingly, starchy carbohydrates help increase serotonin levels – only study showed that making your evening meal carbohydrate-rich and protein-poor can reduce symptoms of depression and fatigue.
But why? In order to manufacture serotonin, your brain needs additional help in the form of tryptophan. This amino acid occurs naturally in dairy products, fish, bananas, dried dates, soy, and almonds, but these and other forms of protein also contain other amino acids. When you eat protein, your body breaks it down into its constituent amino acids, and these enter your bloodstream. When they get to your brain, they meet your blood-brain barrier, which lets only some of the amino acids through. Because there are always fewer tryptophan molecules than the other amino acids, the others get through, leaving the tryptophan behind. However, all this changes if a meal contains starchy carbohydrates as well. Carbohydrates help the body release insulin, which makes use of the other amino acids before they get to the blood-brain barrier, leaving the tryptophan to dominate. So make sure you always combine a protein with a carbohydrate. For example, if you’re having fish and vegetables, have potatoes, brown rice, or wholegrain pasta with it, too.
When we feel depressed we tend to want to eat bread, cakes, sweets, and sugary foods, all of which are starchy carbohydrates. In a sense, the body is trying to prescribe its own medication. But remember that much of the quick-fix food we crave combines sugar and refined carbohydrates, which will give you a quick high followed by a crash. Try to train yourself to resist temptation and go for good-quality starchy carbohydrates, such as brown rice, whole grain bread, and so on.
Deficiencies in certain nutrients can contribute to depression. So it’s vital that you take your prenatal vitamins and supplements. Also include more zinc, low levels of which can affect your mood. Take at least 30mg daily altogether. Finally, take a good omega-3 fish oil supplement (1,000 mg containing at least 700 mg EPA and 500 mg DHA, daily). Good levels of these oils are known to help relieve depression and low mood.
Although several herbs, such as St. John’s wort, are well known to treat depression. It is strongly advised against self-prescription of any herb during pregnancy. However, do visit a qualified herbal practitioner, who will be able to advise you on what’s safe.
Other natural treatments
Homeopathy You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by using homeopathy if you suffer from prenatal depression. It’s important to get help from a professional homeopath, but the following are some useful remedies to try at home. Take the remedy that is most appropriate for your symptoms in a 30c potency, three times a day between meals.
• Lycopodium can help when your depression is accompanied by a bad temper
• Pulsatilla can help when you feel tearful and sad but you can find no obvious reason
• Sepia can help if you feel irritable, weepy, and emotionally flat
Aromatherapy Essential oils can be extremely useful for lifting mood during pregnancy. However, use them only once you’re in your second trimester (or week 24 in the case of lavender essential oil). Use 2 or 3 drops of each of the following oils in your bath water, or use a total of 15 drops in 6 tsp, carrier oil (such as sweet almond oil) for a massage.
• To reduce depression and irritability: bergamot and Roman or German chamomile
• To ease depression and anxiety: jasmine
• To encourage sleep: lavender
• To lift mood: rose
Do some exercise You may not feel like exercising at all, but the effort will be well worth it. Exercise releases endorphins, brain chemicals that help you feel happier. It can also improve your self-esteem which is important if your confidence has taken a dip since becoming pregnant. Swimming, yoga, and waling are good forms of exercise for pregnant women. Try to take at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.
Keep a journal Noting down your feelings and thoughts each day can provide a release for some of the confusion that often goes with depression. Also, each day make a note of the things that are good in your life and the positive things that have happened that day.
Use visualization Sitting or lying down in a quiet room, without any distractions, and imagining yourself somewhere beautiful, such as a pretty garden or a beach somewhere warm, can be highly effective if you practice it every day for around ten to 15 minutes (the longer the better). Try to capture all the sights, sounds, and smells of the place you visit in your mind’s eye.
Music help Any music has happy connotations for you can lift your mood. Choose a piece of music and listen to it quietly, imagining all your anxiety flowing out through your fingers and toes. Focus on the wonderful life growing inside you. Transmit feelings of positivity to your baby – and imagine the baby doing the same back to you. Put your piece of music on an MP3 player and carry it with you. Listen to it when you feel sad. Before long, the music should provide a trigger to quickly lift your spirits.