Herbs and supplements for postpartum mood and anxiety disorders
September 10, 2012
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and anxious about the many responsibilities of having a newborn. Feelings of fatigue, crying, insomnia, anger, feelings of being alone, and the inability to concentrate are all typical of the “Baby Blues.” They’re usually short-lived, lasting for a few weeks.
But if these or other bad feelings continue, or are more severe at any point after having a baby, you may have a postpartum mood or anxiety disorder, and it’s important to seek help from your health care provider.
Not sure if what you’re experiencing is the Baby Blues or something more serious? See Postpartum Support International’s screening tools. And see our interview with the co-founder of Motherwoman for more on the postpartum emotional spectrum and where to turn for help.
Which herbs and supplements can help?
There are many ways to treat postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, including therapy, support groups, medications (see our podcast on anti-depressants and breastfeeding), rest, acupuncture, nutrition, help with domestic responsibilities, socializing with family and friends, and exercise. In this post we’ll focus on herbals and supplements to combat these disorders.
Herbs: Note: If you are taking an anti-depressant or other prescription medications, be sure to discuss herbal use with your physician to prevent interactions.
- Vitex helps stimulate progesterone production and balance the hormonal cycle.
- Motherwort and lemon balm can help with mood swings and emotional balance.
- Scullcap, oats, and chamomile are tonic herbs for nerves and stress.
- St. John’s wort (discuss with your physician about interactions with other medications)
- A Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner may be able to recommend additional herbs.
- Omega 3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish oil, reduce inflammation and have been shown effective at preventing and treating depression. See Dr. Kathleen Kendall-Tackett’s resources for brands and dosages.
- Vitamin D or light therapy. See our podcast on Vitamin D and breastfeeding.
- Calcium and magnesium
- Folic acid through diet or in a vitamin
Aromatherapy: The smell of clary sage, sandalwood, and citrus uplifts the spirits, so use these essences in a massage oil, bath, or sleep pillow. Put drops on a handkerchief to sniff throughout the day. Aromatherapy inhalers and spritzers are available at natural food stores.
Bach Flower Essences:
- Gorse for discouragement and despondency
- Mustard for deep gloom for no reason
- Sweet Chestnut for mental anguish, hopeless despair, sorrow, exhaustion, loneliness
Additional Resources: Please see Postpartum Support International’s resource page for a list of additional sources of support, and this handout from Dr. Kathleen Kendall-Tackett for a list of non-medication treatments.
This information is provided for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. Please see your health care provider for medical care suited to your needs.Tags: acupuncture and depression aromatherapy for postpartum depression bach flower essences chamomile folic acid herbs for postpartum depression kathleen kendall-tackett lemon balm motherwort omega 3 fatty acids postpartum anxiety postpartum depression postpartum mood disorders postpartum support international scullcap st. john's wort breastfeeding supplements for postpartum depression vitamin d and depression vitex