Depression in Pregnancy. The Ultimate Guide to Natural Remedies that Can Help You Heal
Oh mama, depression in pregnancy is such a challenge. Should you stay on the anti depressants when you know it has risks? Should you get off the anti depressants when that has risks too? I hope as you read this you will hold yourself in absolute compassion. You didn’t ask for for depression. Yet you are the warrior who is overcoming it, and more importantly, not letting depression in pregnancy stop you.
Where to begin looking for healing when you are suffering from depression in pregnancy:
Depression has many causes and many cures. Finding healing often means engaging the problem and pulling many solutions together. When you ignore the root causes of your depression and only medicate the symptoms away, you deny yourself the opportunity to heal from it.
That is not to say that there is no room for medication when you suffer from depression. It does mean that there are many ways you can begin healing at levels physically, emotionally and spiritually which can allow you to no longer need medication.
Can I guarantee you will heal during your pregnancy using these steps? Unfortunately, there are no guarantees. All of these suggestions are evidence-based, backed by science and can be very effective.
However, if your depression persists, remember, your depression is not a reflection or judgment of you. Living with depression in pregnancy can be challenging. Recognize yourself for the warrior you are and never give up hope.
First, understand where to start. These 6 steps of healing will help you balance natural remedies with western medication:
Master herbalist Susan Weed puts forth a guide to healing that helps balance natural remedies with medication. Here are five steps to healing that can help you understand how to find management and healing of your depression.
Picture these steps as a ladder. Depending on the severity and persistence, you will need to go further and further up the ladder. Each step you take carries a little more risk, but also may help you directly fix the problem. If you try step one and it is not enough, continue up.
Work with your maternity care provider and keep them updated on your symptoms at all times. They will want to know you are facing the challenge and they will be equipped to offer you support.
If you are on the top rung of the ladder, you still have the steps beneath you for support. You may need to skip to the top to do damage control and gradually come back down. Or you may be fine taking the first step and solve your problem there.
1. Allow yourself to do nothing.
This means giving yourself time to rest, meditate, journal. Your body needs sleep and time to simply be unplugged.
2. Collect information.
Begin to keep a journal specifically related to your mental health. Begin to notice if you have specific triggers. Also, take note of when you feel the best and when you feel the worst. Ask your body where it wants you to begin the healing process. Also, begin asking for referrals or find books to help you explore your needs.
3. Engage the energy.
This is where you bring in prayer, meditation, massage. Also, therapy and bodywork such as craniosacral therapy would fall here.
4. Nourish your body and soul.
Examine your diet and make sure that you are eating foods that are nourishing. Examine your exposure to toxins, caffeine, alcohol (which you are most likely already avoiding) and sugar.
Also, take more time to do things that are nourishing to your soul, such as laughing, journaling or yoga, and remove yourself from toxic or draining situations.
Work with your naturopath or doctor to supplement any area that you may have deficiencies in. Although it is best to get your nutrients from your diet, it is better to get them from supplements than not at all.
It takes time to develop new eating habits, which is especially challenging when you are suffering from depression and also especially challenging when you are pregnant. If you need to use supplements, which typically have fewer side effects than medications, don’t beat yourself up for it.
6. Use medications.
There are a time and place for medication. Healing from trauma and fixing nutrient deficiencies does take time. If your depression is debilitating, consider that there may be a time and place for this step. As you focus on your health and healing in other areas, you may be able to reduce and come off of this as you heal.
7 of the Best Natural Remedies for Depression in Pregnancy You Can Use, Even if You Are Pregnant
The 6 steps to healing give you a good idea of what types of things can help with depression in pregnancy. However, it is possible to wonder how exactly you apply the principals in those steps.
Here are 7 concrete easy ways to approach your depression symptoms that are safe to use even in pregnancy.
1. Get your magnesium levels up by taking an Epsom salt bath.
Epsom salt is better than finding the only egg with the $20 bill in it when you were searching for eggs as on Easter Sunday as a kid. Not only does an Epsom salt bath check off the luxurious self-care box, but it delivers a huge health benefit by delivering the essential mineral, magnesium. It is insanely inexpensive as well.
Magnesium is a mineral we need to be healthy and function, yet 80 percent of people are deficient in it. 80 percent!!! One of the side effects of being deficient in magnesium happens to be depression and anxiety.
Turns out, the availability and balance of magnesium determines how much energy your mitochondria make. The available energy in your brain determines how clearly you think, how intensely you can focus, how calm or anxious you feel, how happy you feel, and how you respond to stress. Having adequate amounts of magnesium will help regulate all of these issues.
One really easy way to solve a lack of magnesium is to take Epsom salt baths. You sit and relax and read a good book while your body absorbs all the wonderful minerals, including magnesium, that Epsom salt delivers. It is a time-honored healing tradition that is also backed by science.
Bonus points for adding essential oils and spending the time in the bath to nourish your soul with a good book, chocolate or meditation!
How do you exactly prepare an Epsom bath? Buy a bag of Epsom salt at the grocery store. It is about $5 for a decent sized bag. Add 1/3 cup Epsom salt with 3-5 drops of your favorite essential oil to your bath and soak for at least half an hour. If this isn’t easy, I don’t know what is.
2. Focus on eating a plant-based diet.
Removing simple carbs and sugars from your diet will do you a ton of good. Replace them with life giving plants/ This gives you a recipe for feeling much better. Diet changes are the number one way you can change everything about your pregnancy.
During pregnancy it is important to eat at least 5 servings of fruit or vegetables (combined) every single day. It is better to eat 9. Vitamins are not a true replacement of real fruit and vegetables.
Also, take a look at how your food was grown, especially your meat. Thich Naht Hanh teaches that if you eat meat that was raised inhumanely, you will absorb the negative energy from that. Take extra care that in addition to eating nourishing foods, the sources of your food are humane and loving.
3. Take a walk in the sunlight.
Lack of vitamin D has been found in many chronic illnesses, including depression. Unfortunately, the synthetic version found in a supplement is not the same thing you get when you spend time outdoors. Do what you can to spend time in the sunshine every day. Start a small garden, go for a daily walk, enjoy a picnic. Studies show simply being outside can be an effective treatment for depression for some people.
4. Begin a simple practice of daily exercise.
Sometimes starting a daily exercise routine feels overwhelming. What clothes do you need? how will you make time?
These little challenges can feel extra overwhelming when you are dealing with depression.
Try this instead. Instead of making it into a big thing, just aim to do short 5 minute bursts a couple times during the day.
5. Have your thyroid and progesterone levels checked?
If you have in imbalance with either of these, you may experience signs of depression. The good news is that both of these are pretty simple to balance once you know they are off.
6. Begin to meditate!
There are so many benefits of meditation for pregnant mothers. Among them are reduced incidence of depression, shorter labors, more satisfaction with labor, less pain during birth and healthier babies! The science is very clear,see this study ,this study, and this study, to learn bout the benefits of meditating while you are pregnant.
7. Be that weird crunchy mom that uses aromatherapy.
Many studies have shown huge benefits of using aromatherapy to help with mood disorders. This one found that aromatherapy and massage was MORE effective than most anti anxiety and anti depression medications. If you are looking to ease off of you prescription, definitely consider trying aromatherapy.
This pilot study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice found that women at high risk for post partum depression found that simply diffusing lavender in their home, participants had a significant reduction in postnatal depression.
What oils can you use for depression?
The oils I personally used the most during my bout with postpartum depression were:
To use, simply diffuse in your house, or mix 3-5 drops with 1/3 cup Epsom salts and dissolve in your nightly bath. Fun fact: all four of these oils blend together to make fun and surprising scents. You will never get bored with these in your arsenal.
Living with depression in pregnancy is difficult. Remember you are not alone.
You are not alone on your journey dealing with depression before, during or after pregnancy. It really is quite common, unfortunately. Maybe that is a signal of how off our entire culture is that we set women up for such a painful journey.
Please know that you are not going insane. This is not your fault. You did not ask for it.
Accept that your brain is telling you that something isn’t right. Seek out the counseling, dietitians, energy workers and any other help you feel you might need. There are many people who can help you work through this experience.
If you are living with depression in pregnancy and looking for help with how to cope with it, we recommend reading this article about how to live in survival mode.
Living in survival mode at some point becomes a rite of passage for mothers. It will not last forever. As you grow, your experience will change.
Overall I hope you will be kind and gentle with yourself when you are dealing with depression in pregnancy.
Depression is not easy and there is not one answer that is right for everyone. I trust that as you read these tips, you will try the ideas that speak to you personally the most.
If you remain on your antidepressants, have compassion for yourself and hold yourself in immense grace. It may not be ideal, but the best you have to give is enough.
Every day you will grow and change and more resources will come your way. Day by day you will grow. Allow yourself to recognize that the journey matters, not just where you are in the moment. This too will pass.