Treating Depression During Pregnancy, Naturally
This post is the follow up to last month’s post on Stacey’s experience with Depression in Pregnancy. The first post was intended to bring awareness to the issue and offer hope and encouragement, and this second post takes a closer look at some of the natural and wholistic methods of treating depression while pregnancy. There is another detailed post on this site with natural remedies for treating depression, but please note that that post does not take into account the safety of various remedies during pregnancy.
Written by Stacey T, Contributing Writer
In my last post here on Keeper of the Home, I talked about my struggles with ante-natal depression, or depression during pregnancy.
Very soon after finding out I was pregnant, the anxiety and depression hit; and it hit so suddenly and so severely that my efforts to fight it on my own were ineffective and frustrating, only adding further to my depression. I was spiraling downward quickly, and with two young boys to care for, my husband and I decided I should go on an anti-depressant medication, under the advice of my doctor, to try and get some relief as quickly as possible.
The anti-depressants did help, somewhat at least. The doctor prescribed me Wellbutrin which is a mild anti-depressant and is known as having “no established risks during pregnancy.” The pills didn’t magically make me my former happy self again and the anxiety I felt was much the same, but they did lift me just enough to be able to keep one foot in front of the other and continue caring for my children. It wasn’t ideal, but based on our situation, we did what we felt was best.
There are, however, a myriad of ways to treat ante-natal depression naturally. Preventing and treating things naturally is our preferred form of treatment but due to extreme morning sickness and the almost instantaneous drop I felt shortly after finding out I was pregnant, my husband and I felt we had no choice but to use another means for a time.
But now that the morning sickness is finally starting to subside somewhat and my hormone levels have stabilized somewhat for the moment, I’m back to reaching for those alternative treatments which I feel will be better for me and better for my baby. I’m weaning myself off of the medication (under the guidance of my doctor) because I feel and hope the worst is over.
5 Ways to Treat Depression Naturally During Pregnancy
Studies have shown that exercise can be as beneficial as anti-depressants in treating depression.
Unfortunately for many people suffering from depression, it is most difficult to do the things that will help the most. This is the situation I found myself in early in my pregnancy. I’ve never been much of an exerciser for exercises’ sake, so nothing sounded worse than hitting the gym or going for a run. Sure I probably needed to exercise but just couldn’t drag myself to do it.
If you find yourself in the same boat, maybe just start small and go for a short walk around the block or to the mailbox. I’m hoping that, now that I’m not quite as down as before, I can go for walks regularly which will not only get my blood pumping and endorphins flowing through my brain, but I’ll get some sunshine too.
2. Get some sun
It is true that sunshine warms the soul. And there’s good reason for that. From exposure to sunlight, our bodies are able to produce vitamin D. When people suffer from seasonal affective disorder, often real or artificial sunlight is part of the treatment. There is just something about being out in nature that brings a feeling of peace and helps put things into perspective.
3. Take Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements
A deficiency in Omega-3 Fatty Acids may cause or contribute to depression, especially during pregnancy when the baby is needing and using up stores of these fatty acids for it’s own growth and development. Taking a cod liver oil or fish oil supplement may help alleviate symptoms and will certainly also be good for you and your baby.
4. Add a B vitamin supplement
It is thought that depression during pregnancy may be caused by vitamin deficiencies. B-complex vitamins, in particular, are essential to our mental and emotional well-being. Our bodies do not store B vitamins and so we depend entirely on our daily intakes of these important vitamins to supply them. With the baby consuming so much, it is important to eat well by eating foods that are high in vitamins, especially B vitamins.
5. Get some talk therapy
Talk therapy can be a tremendous source of strength to those who suffer from depression and anxiety, whether pregnant or not. It helps to provide much needed perspective and an unbiased opinion. It is also nice just to have someone to talk with to express your thoughts and feelings. Finally a therapist can provide tools to help you deal with times when you feel yourself sliding into depression or negativity.
Those who already struggle with chemical and hormonal imbalances are more at risk of ante-natal depression, as is the case for me. Now that it’s been so severe, I can see how I have struggled with it for many years but it has gone largely unnoticed because it was so mild. The hormonal changes due to my pregnancy sent my already imbalanced system into a tail spin, so to speak.
If you suffer from depression and/or anxiety, and are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant, it is a good idea to implement these natural ways to treat depression as soon as possible. Hopefully a combination of natural remedies will give you the boost you need to stay afloat during this difficult time.
For those who have experienced depression while pregnant, which natural remedies and lifestyle treatments were helpful for you?
Disclaimer: This post is not intended to diagnose or treat any symptoms. If you feel this is something you are dealing with, it’s very important that you talk to your doctor or midwife about it as soon as possible.
I suffered during and after (did not know it) my pregnancy with my first. I armed myself with knowledge the second time. My midwife and I made sure I had enough iron, omega 3 and evening primrose. It made a huge difference.
Thank you so much for writing about depression during pregnancy, there are so few resources for women who are pregnant during pregnancy.
I had depression through both my pregnancy and postpartum depression with my second. I had tried the safer antidepressants, and they made me feel worse. It felt like they took away my motivation to feel better. With my second pregnancy I did not take any medication at all.
A couple of things have helped me a great deal with my postpartum depression. One is taking epsom salts baths. Sometimes a magnesium deficiency can cause or contribute to depression. I also started taking tryptophan supplements at night since I have terrible insomnia.
I also saw a therapist throughout my pregnancy. One of the best things that she taught me to accept my depression and anxiety. It sounds counter intuitive, but I was worrying so much about how ” I’ll never feel better”, that it was holding me back from getting better. When I started thinking “I’m depressed/anxious now” instead of thinking about how terrible I would feel tomorrow, in a month, or a year from now, it was a big relief.
(My name is Karen too — but I’m not the same person as the previous poster.) I’m going through post partum depression with my second baby and just started going to therapy for it. I’m trying to go without the drugs for now, which means I have to be really proactive about exercising, eating well, etc. even when I don’t feel like it. Thanks for sharing your struggles and for your advice.
Karen made a good point about magnesium deficiency. My doctor had me taking a calcium and magnesium supplement anyway (I think the magnesium helps to prevent muscle cramps) so it’s good to know that may be helping my depressive issues. I totally agree with the sunlight suggestion as well, though it’s tougher for those of us pregnant in the North East US during winter. It seems like it’s dark and cold for months at a time.
After I had my daughter I had PPD and have suffered from depression on and off through my life. I had been taking meds for 3 1/2 years after I had her. When we decided we wanted to try for our second I knew getting off the meds was necessary. I really didn’t feel that they were helping a ton either – I felt numb, not sad, but not happy either. I talked with my doctor and started acupuncture while going off of the meds and then continued it through conception, pregnancy and postpartum. (Acupuncture is great for morning, aka all day, sickness too!) Acupuncture is now my go-to when I feel it coming on. It might not work for everyone but when faced with depression I encourage people to find something that works for them – no judgement.
I have found that both during and after pregnancy, krill oil w/ evening primrose oil in it has been a big help. I notice the days that I don’t take it that my emotions are harder to handle. Thankfully every day I have Jesus help, but taking this gives me a boost.
NZ is now recommending iodine for pregnant women as our soils are very deficient in it. Depression can be a symptom of iodine deficiency as well.
I find that these suggestions are helpful to me as well. The other thing I find that really benefits me is to try to not have such high expectations of myself. This isn’t the cause of my emotions/depression/anxiety, but it makes it worse and harder to handle. If I take a step back and examine what I can cut out, stop, delegate, change, etc, and then make those changes (often with some help) then that really helps me.
Great article! I don’t have any children yet, but I’m getting married in a few weeks time. Part of my plan for the first year or so of marriage is to get my mind, body, and emotions in top shape for that next step…parenthood. What really helps to boost my mood is regularity in my eating, working, and sleeping habits. When I get plenty of rest (e.g., going to bed before 9:30), I feel so much better the next day. Getting outdoors for a walk in the fresh air also changes my perspective like nothing else. Another thing that helps me is a high raw food diet. It helps me to feel more positive and clear headed.
Been there! I had a pretty bad case of postpartum depression..took a while to get over. I always found that exercise was a big help. I took yoga classes, and 3 years later, still take part in yoga weekly. Makes me feel like a whole different person (in a good way, of course).
The dreaded moment is the morning sickness. I hated the ordeal but it would pass naturally. I think I can stomach such instance. It is the way a mother experiences and the proof in the circle of life.
This post has a lot of great info, but I was wondering about the actual doses??? Is there a certain amount? I happen to have all of the vitamins on hand and was wanting to know if I should start taking them?
Unfortunately, specific doses are something that we can’t really suggest, for both practical reasons and legal reasons. Just because we can never know people’s height/weight, other medical issues, medications they may be taking, or even their specific needs for stronger or weaker amounts of something (some people need more than others). For this, I would consult with a natural health practitioner, with your midwife, your doctor, or by doing some of your own research on products and doses. Sometimes health food/vitamin store employees are also knowledgeable and helpful in this area, because they can actually meet you, ask you good questions, etc.
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Really such a great tips to avoid depression during the pregnancy period. Thanks for sharing these tips with us. Keep sharing.