Dealing with Pregnancy Blues Naturally
- Wednesday, 24 December 2008
For many women, the experience of pregnancy is a beautiful and happy period during which they eagerly await the arrival of their baby. For many other women however, things are not quite so rosy. Pregnancy blues are more common than many realize and because of the social taboos associated with this syndrome, several moms-to-be are often left feeling alone and helpless. Fortunately, there are simple and natural strategies that pregnant women can implement to try and help ease the heaviness of depression. Very often, simple dietary or lifestyle modifications can be sufficient to bring about the positive change that many of these women crave. As a bonus, many of these same modifications can also have enormous benefits for a growing fetus, making the changes a win-win for both mom and baby. Let’s explore a few of these strategies.
One of the keys to regulating mood is to ensure the brain is made up of healthy tissue. Since the brain is made up largely of fat with a high concentration of DHA (main structural component) being found in the gray matter, having access to these good fats is important. As DHA is a breakdown component of Omega 3s such as fish oil, these essential fatty acids are critical for proper functioning. In fact a deficiency of Omega 3s is strongly associated with depression. Researchers at China Medical University Hospital in Taiwan studied the effects of Omega 3 supplementation on pregnant women and discovered that 2/3 of the women experienced a reduction in their depression compared to only about 1/4 in the control (placebo) group. One of the postulated reasons for declining moods is the fact that if a mother does not have enough Omega 3s available for her fetus, the body may then pull them from the brain (reducing brain health) in order to make them available to the growing fetus. By adding a purified fish oil supplement to her diet, a pregnant woman can ensure that both her fetuses and her own needs for Omega 3s are met.
Avoid Trans Fats
Trans fats are very harmful fats that are found in baked goods, french fries, crackers, margarine, and potato chips amongst other foods. It is important to avoid trans fats in an effort to boost mood as these dangerous substances interfere with the utilization of essential fatty acids such as Omega 3s in the body.
Boost Your B’s
The family of B vitamins is also helpful in the fight against pregnancy blues. These nutrients are critical for nervous system health. Deficiencies in them – particularly B6 and B12 – can often lead to mood disorders. Some people have a difficult time absorbing B12 from food. Vegetarians or vegans often do not have adequate access due to their avoidance of animal foods. In addition, the B vitamins are often depleted in times of stress; accordingly, prolonged stress can also result in deficiency. Ensuring proper consumption through foods – whole grains, legumes, meat, bananas – is important. Supplementation may also be necessary. Speak with your health care provider regarding proper dosages.
Leave the Sugar
Blood sugar levels and mood are also closely connected. Because the brain can only run on glucose, if blood sugar levels are too low – due to hypoglycemia that comes from over-consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates – the brain and therefore mood will not be stable. Another connection to mood is through the B vitamins mentioned above. When a person consumes sugar or refined carbohydrates, they do not offer the body anything in terms of nutritional value. Instead, these foods actually require the body to supply nutrients – particularly the B’s – in order for them to be digested. Therefore, a person is using up their essential stores of B vitamins during the digestion of these junk foods.
Check Your Thyroid
The health of a woman’s thyroid gland is important for many aspects of her well-being including mental health. Quite often depression and fatigue will result if the thyroid gland is not working optimally. Consult your health care provider about appropriate testing regarding thyroid function if you feel this may be a cause.
For many women that live in Northern altitudes, inadequate exposure to light in winter months is the cause of their depression. Fortunately, this condition - often referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) - can be reversed with light therapy using full-spectrum artificial light, which is made up of all the wavelengths of natural light. Women who are sensitive to the changes in light during winter months should install full-spectrum lighting in spaces where they spend a lot of time. In addition, it is advisable to try and spend time outdoors daily.
If you are feeling a little “down” during your pregnancy, implementing these strategies may help to alleviate minor pregnancy blues. If you are experiencing serious or prolonged depression, please speak to your primary health care provider about finding an appropriate solution.
1] Su KP, et al. Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Major Depressive Disorder During Pregnancy: Results From a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2008; 69: 644-51.