The recent events with the Clancy Family in Duxbury, MA, have deeply impacted me. It has driven me to provide some education on postpartum depression (PPD) and autoimmunity and their roles in the mother’s—and the whole family’s—well-being.
Feelings of sadness called the “baby blues” are often experienced after labor and delivery, starting about 3–5 days after delivery, and may resolve around two weeks post-delivery. Postpartum depression, on the other hand, can begin anytime within the first year and affects around 1 in 10 women. Signs include unimproved baby blues, sadness, guilt, a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, trouble making decisions, worry that you are a good mom, sleep changes, stressful changes (e.g., new baby), thoughts of harming yourself or others, and general anxiety. If you are unsure if this fits your bill, visit www.psychology-tools.com/epds/ to test your symptoms.
The Dangers of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is a common disorder, yet women are suffering silently. PPD should be carefully monitored, and any hallucinations or psychotic features should be discussed with and taken seriously by your provider, particularly when you have a family history of mental illnesses. This could be a manifestation of postpartum psychosis (occurring in every 2.6 out of 1000 births) or bipolar I or II. Both parents should be present during these encounters and understand the risks for the mother and child(ren). If your practitioner ignores your concerns, RUN! Leave the office, never return, and find someone who will listen to you and get the help you deserve.
PPD and Autoimmune Conditions
Often, I find mothers with postpartum depression have an additional underlying autoimmune condition. Autoimmunity may have either gone away during pregnancy or started up during pregnancy or post-delivery, and it can occur during any period for the mom with any (or all) of her children. Autoimmune conditions often wear out our energy cycles, create inflammation, and disrupt hormones, leaving symptoms of tiredness, fatigue, low energy/drive, inflammation (which may appear as weight gain), aches and pains in the body, digestive issues, skin issues, swollen glands, and (low-grade) recurrent fever. But sometimes, there are no symptoms at all. Because autoimmune conditions can be hard to recognize, they may go untested and untreated. If you have a family history of autoimmunity or are interested in checking, make an appointment so you and your doctor can review your symptoms and decide if further testing is necessary.
The connection between PPD and autoimmunity is that one can feed into the other, creating a cycle that may not resolve and may even become worse. For instance, if you have a disruption in your sleep cycle, your hormones (thyroid) are likely getting further disrupted—being pregnant disrupts them automatically to sustain a new life.
We do the most healing during sleep, between the hours of 10 pm and 2 am. Without sleep, your body becomes inflamed—particularly if it’s not able to heal. This causes us to hold onto toxins that disrupt our natural homeostatic state, leading to a cascade of impairments and symptoms, such as a disruption in pH buffer systems. This allows for certain bacteria to reside (as an overgrowth) in the gut, where they would be limited and in balance with other microbes. Or, our happy hormones (dopamine and serotonin) might see disruptions, leading to further depression—and, if there is a rapid surge, they may appear as schizophrenia.
I want no woman to go unheard or feel out of control of her mind or body—I want her to feel blessed and happy with her new child. If you need help, reach out—you deserve to rest and have support.
Dr. Cora Stover, ND, operates Emerald City Health Associates, LLC as an all-natural telehealth clinic. At ECHA, Dr. Stover assists her patients through challenging health conditions while sifting through the symptoms to find the common factor. Dr. Stover works with complicated issues such as hormones and autoimmunity, addressing core issues for her patients.
Call 203.963.1932 and visit: www.emeraldcityhealth.com for more information.