MA: What is the difference between the “baby blues” and “postpartum depression” and how common are they?
JS: Postpartum depression is a very real and physiological occurrence that can begin anytime between birth and twelve months postpartum. It is generally experienced as a series of symptoms, which are identified along a spectrum of severity — ranging from baby blues (which is the mildest and generally corrects itself in the first three to four weeks postpartum), all the way to postpartum psychosis. Postpartum psychosis is incredibly serious and often leads to hospitalization.
The majority (80%) of women experience some sort of post-natal mood instability, mostly in the “baby blues” range. Baby blues shares many common symptoms with full-blown postpartum depression, but is not technically considered a “disorder” by the medical establishment unless the symptoms extend longer than 3-weeks. Symptoms may include: weepiness, mood instability, mood swings, feelings of anxiety, not wanting anyone else to hold the baby, unwillingness to be alone with the baby, or fear husband or partner going back to work or even leaving the house.
15-20% of women who experience the baby blues will go on to experience full-on postpartum depression. When depressive symptoms last for longer than 6-8 weeks, a doctor may prescribe an anti-depressant.
MA: What causes mothers to feel depressed or sad postpartum?
JS: Aside from the physiological factors (hormone re-balancing and physical recovery), I believe postpartum is largely cultural. There is a lot of emphasis on building confidence during pregnancy and empowering the birth experience, but there is a real lack of practical support once the baby is born. Those first few weeks are filled with visits from friends and family and interaction with a care provider. But once the flurry dies down, the changes that come with a new baby can become overwhelming. It’s hard to have confidence as a mother, especially if you’ve never done it before — and the job is so important. Every decision you make feels like a life and death situation, and women tend to internalize everything.
It’s not just “oh the baby is crying again” — it’s “why is my baby crying again, what am I doing wrong? Why can’t I not stop this? Does this mean I’m not a good mother?” Women place a lot of pressure on themselves, and I think there’s a lot of pressure that society places on mothers as well. We elevate motherhood as a noble and worthy institution, which is fabulous, but we don’t give any sort of structure to support that pedestal. In my own personal experience, this leads to an incredible lack of confidence — and that’s very unfortunate.
MA: When should mothers seek medical support?
JS: This is really where the husband and/or partner comes into play. He or she should be aware of the symptoms of postpartum depression and notice when a mother is showing signs. Often a mother will not seek help for herself, and her partner should not be afraid to seek help for her — before it becomes a serious issue. If you notice that your wife or partner is still not herself after 6-weeks, suggest that she make an appointment so that she can be seen for treatment.
MA: What is the preventative measure, especially for women who have the baby blues?
JS: Most women who have just given birth are going to have depleted iron stores. The placenta is packed with iron and has a lot of vitamins and minerals that your body needs postpartum. I advocate that mothers utilize placenta encapsulation — whereby it’s completely dried and then ground — to restore the body’s natural balance.
Placenta is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat fatigue and to enhance lactation, and it has been scientifically shown to increase milk production. The hypothalamus is part of the brain that regulates the endocrine system and studies show that it takes about two weeks for the hypothalamus to receive the signal that the baby’s been born. The placenta capsules help the body to maintain homeostasis during this period, until her body would normally regulate itself.
I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of clients, and everybody calls the placenta capsules their “happy pills”. It’s nature’s perfect gift.
Jodi Selander, Director of Placenta Benefits, started researching placentophagy in 2005 during her second pregnancy. She found substantial information documenting the benefits it offered. Having dealt with depression for many years, Jodi had many risk factors for developing postpartum depression. With a B.S. in Psychology, she understood the devastating effects depression could have on women and their families. As a natural health enthusiast, she wanted an alternative to pharmaceuticals that might help avoid those issues. Jodi continues to work toward her mission of making placenta encapsulation an option for every new mother with the launch of the Placenta Encapsulation Specialist Training & Certification Course in May 2008. As a member of the placentophagy research team at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Jodi has helped develop and perform several research studies on placentophagy. She traveled to New Orleans in November, 2010 to present the findings at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association. This research is incredibly important to her mission of validating the use of placenta for postpartum recovery. Her goal is to have a qualified person in every city offering encapsulation services, so that women everywhere can enjoy a happy, healthy postpartum experience – the way Nature intended.
This interview was originally filmed for Mindful Mama Magazine and has been transcribed with permission from Mindful Mama Magazine.