This week I wanted to take some time to expand on the recent Facebook Live Video I did on the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto’s study on Postpartum Blues. To read the study, please click here. I think this research is great in that brings to light simple interventions that new moms can do at home to help ease their transition after giving birth.
Postpartum Blues are quite common after giving birth, and usually start around 4-7 days postpartum. Postpartum Blues and Postpartum Depression are not the same thing, but when the blues get severe it significantly increases a woman’s risk of being diagnosed with Postpartum Depression. Many women do not suffer depressive symptoms at all but are afflicted with a strong Postpartum Anxiety. Postpartum Blues are caused by a surge in the enzyme monoamine oxidase, which breaks down our “happy neurotransmitters” dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. Having less dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine can lead to feelings of sadness and lack of motivation. An increase in monoamine oxidase is also observed in people who suffer from depression, so trying to reduce this surge soon after it starts is an essential component of successful treatment of Postpartum Blues. The typical peak for monoamine oxidase levels in women is 5 days postpartum.
The supplement that they used in this study contained 3 key ingredients
- Tryptophan- Building block of serotonin
- Tyrosine- Building block of dopamine
- Blueberry Extract- Anti-inflammatory effects
The participants were given the supplements in the following manner
Night of Postpartum Day 3- Blueberry extract and Juice
Morning of Postpartum Day 4- Blueberry extract and Juice
Night of Postpartum Day 4- Blueberry extract and Juice and 2g L-tryptophan
Morning of Postpartum Day 5- Blueberry extract and Juice and 10g L-tyrosine
The levels given of L-tryptophan and L-tyrosine are higher than you would get from diet alone, but they were determined to be safe for breastfeeding.
Results: On postpartum day 5 the women underwent tests to assess their mood. One of the ways they were tested is via sad mood induction, which measured their ability to be resilient against sad events. The women read statements that expressed pessimism, dissatisfaction and lethargy, and listened to sad classical music. Depressive symptoms were measured both before and after. There was a stark difference in the women who received the supplements and those who did not. The women who received the supplements did not experience any depressed mood, while the women who did not receive the supplements had an increase in depression scores.
These results are very impressive! Having worked with many postpartum moms in my practice, I know it is considered common place for moms to feel very down and out mood wise for the 4-10 days after giving birth. This simple intervention can help to stabilize mood in these moms which could help to smooth out their transition to mother hood and would make them more resilient to the challenges that early breast feeding can present.
This study is great example of how our moods can be so greatly impacted by the foods we eat.
Another well studied intervention for Postpartum Blues and Postpartum Depression is fish oil. Fish oil, specifically the DHA component of the oil can help to stabilize mom’s mood and helps with baby’s brain growth postpartum.
One great way to help a new mom is to feed them! Here is a recipe for a postpartum smoothie that is high in the nutrients necessary to help reduce the symptoms of Postpartum Blues
Postpartum Blues Smoothie
2 Cups Water
2 Cups Baby Spinach
1 ½ Cups Frozen Blueberries
3-4 Chunks Frozen Pineapple
¼ Cup Cashews (soaked in water)
¼ Cup Hemp Seeds (soaked in water)
- Combine Cashews, Hemp Seeds and Water and allow to soak for 10-20 min before blending. Blend until very smooth
- Add in Baby Spinach, Frozen Blueberries, Frozen Pineapple, and Avocado. Blend again until smooth. Divide into glasses and enjoy!
Did you suffer from Postpartum Blues? Please share in the comments below
Dr Alexis practices in Kanata. To schedule your appointment, click here