Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Psychosis

© (updated 1/2013)

Postpartum depression can be a serious bout of depression lasting for months.  Postpartum psychosis is a rare disorder that induces hallucinations and delusions it is most likely to affect women who have bipolar

Postpartum depression ruins what should otherwise be a joyous and beautiful period of bonding with your new baby; it is treatable, seek help and don't suffer. 
An estimated 80% of new mothers experience some stress called baby blues upon arrival of a new baby but only 10 to 15% will experience postpartum depression, and a less than one in a thousand women will experienc postpartum psychosis which is a much more serious condition.

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
  • Low depressed feeling.
  • Loss of pleasure.
  • Excessive inappropriate crying
  • Lack of interest in your baby.
  • Negative feelings towards your baby.
  • Thoughts of suicide.
  • Negative feelings towards your baby.
  • Worrying about hurting your baby, feelings of hostility towards your baby.
 Symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis
  • Hallucinations (seeing things that aren't there hearing voices).
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions.
  • Disorientation.
  • Delusions (paranoid ideas that everyone is against you, irrational beliefs).
  • Thoughts of harming or killing your baby.
Postpartum psychosis is rare even in women with a history of bipolar syndrome and psychosis, postpartum psychosis can develop suddenly usually within the first two weeks after delivery. With postpartum psychosis the mind loses touch with reality and there is a genuine risk of the mother or baby or both being harmed by the condition so it should be considered a medical emergency. Call for immediate medical assistance to keep the mother and baby safe. 

Treatments Options

Although it is possible that the arrival of a new baby may cause psychological stress or baby blues, postpartum depression is distinguishable because the symptoms are quite intense, inappropriate and stressful.
You should look towards physical causes of postpartum depression first. Severe postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis are definitely going to be due to physical rather than psychological factors. In my practice I focus on hormonal and mineral imbalances as causes of postpartum depression:

Bio-identical Hormones

Hormone imbalances following childbirth is a likely cause of postpartum depression with a deficiency of progesterone relative to oestrogen being the usual suspect. Supplementing pharmaceutical progesterone however is one of the last things you want to do because it is notorious for producing a long list of side effects some of them serious. They alternative is to use what are called bio-identical hormones obtained from natural (plant-based) sources that do not produce any unwanted side effects for you or your breastfed baby. When progesterone deficiency is the cause of postpartum depression supplementing bio-identical progesterone should quickly return you to normal. 

High Copper

You can see research online that postpartum depression can involve an imbalance with high serum (blood) copper. Copper and zinc are antagonistic minerals meaning that as the level of one increases it displaces and decreases the level of the other. At the end of pregnancy during labour copper levels naturally increase and if zinc levels are already low they may become sufficiently low to cause depression. Zinc plays a significant role in the healthy functioning of the brain and mental health, very low levels of zinc can be a cause of depression, sadly conventional medicine has not yet adopted a simple nutritional strategy for dealing with this situation. 
The solution is to quickly bring the high copper down by antagonising it with sulphur, iron, and zinc supplements along with relevant vitamin cofactors to assist mineral absorption and metabolism. After the initial phase of aggressively antagonising the high copper levels the second phase is to significantly bring up the suppressed zinc levels to combat zinc deficient depression. 
To be effective zinc supplements need to be of a high-quality and absorbable form, and one must include relevant cofactors such as B6. This will simultaneously increase zinc levels and antagonise the high copper. 
N.B. ideally you would have taken a prenatal supplement throughout pregnancy to ensure that your zinc levels were not chronically deficient going into labour, thus eliminating or reducing the possibility of high serum copper/low zinc precipitating postpartum depression. 

Natural Antidepressant Therapies

After the above issues (progesterone deficiency and high serum copper/low zinc) have been taken care of if there is still symptoms of postpartum depression I would use aggressive antidepressant therapy with natural remedies and bright light therapy to elevate deficient neurotransmitters, principally serotonin and dopamine. 

Canadian research in 2010 found that levels of a brain chemical called MAO-A were 43% higher in women who had given birth within the previous week compared with women who had not recently been pregnant. MAO-A reduces the level of serotonin in the brain and has been linked in other research to be causative agent in depression. Interestingly levels of MAO-A were at their highest five days after childbirth which is the day that postpartum depression is typically observed to be at its worst. 

High MAO-A breakdowns and reduces levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, low levels of these neurotransmitters is associated with depression.
There are effective ways of raising serotonin and dopamine levels using natural remedies and without side-effects.
If all the above doesn't work then you’ve still got pharmaceutical antidepressants to fall back on.

See also:

Major Depression

Dysthymic Depression
Atypical Depression
Melancholic Depression
Postpartum Depression
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Bipolar Depression

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