“The postpartum hormone drop is considered the single largest sudden hormone change in the shortest amount of time for any human being, at any point of their life cycle. But then your oxytocin goes up. That should ideally make us feel pretty well and happy, but it has to be enough to counterbalance that huge drop.” – Dr Aviva Romm
After birth your body flips from being run by oestrogen and progesterone to being run by oxytocin and prolactin. This is a whole new operating system! So how do we make allowance for this radical change for mothers? In the West we simply don’t.
Being responsible for a new human while healing a body that just went through the most dramatic shift and dealing with a whole new set of hormones is radical to say the least. Women living in this intense western society of ours are the most susceptible to such occurrences! Post natal depression and anxiety have skyrocketed over the last century. One would think that we should be seeing less of these problems as our society evolves, but what if the structure of society in the West is actually doing mothers more harm than good?
A Mothers Needs
When we look at a mothers innate postpartum needs we realise that these are rarely met. Every woman needs loving constructive support during this major transition. Mothers need physical support as in being fed high quality wholesome foods, having up to date breastfeeding guidance, and someone who will hold respectful compassionate emotional support. She needs a safe space to unravel her story so she can transform into her new self ( even if it’s baby number 8).
Emotionally she is as vulnerable as her baby and starts to find her feet in her new motherhood view of life slowly. She fortifies as her baby strengthens. It’s a fragile and important process that lays the foundation of her ability to take care of her children and herself for the rest of her life. She is a newborn too. This process is one that needs to be held with gentleness, respect and reverence.
She will need to cry, she needs to feel heard and held, and she may be suffering from birth trauma and need a trauma-informed professional therapist to help her heal.
Oxytocin is the love and bonding hormone but it’s also the primal protective hormone of mothers! If anyone pushes a mother towards doing something that isn’t in line with her powerful mothers instinct, she is likely to experience a strong rush of anxiety from the protective side of her oxytocin. Tread lightly.
Mothers are isolated and need as much of a sense of a healthy supportive village as possible. Isolation is a major factor in PND. We are community beings and it takes a village to take care of a new mother, but it’s about meeting her needs not imposing our ideas. Ask what she is needing.
Mothers do not need people to arrive and take the baby – this in itself is traumatic for a new mother and her baby unless she is asking you to hold them. Refrain from giving unsolicited advise. We need to know that the most popular advise out there, even from well meaning loved ones, sadly is still doing more harm than good. The wrong advise is a big trigger for postpartum depression – “Don’t hold your baby too much you will spoil them.” “Let then cry they need to learn to self soothe.” “Get them eating and sleeping to a schedule.” “Put them in a cot to sleep in the nursery so you can sleep better.” “Cosleeping is dangerous.” These are all harmful myths that easily add to impaired neurological development in babies and anxiety and depression in mothers.
A great support for a new mom is a postpartum doula. Plus the family can learn from her and take over once she leaves.
The best visual of a new mothers home is seeing her snuggled up quietly in bed with her baby and partner, while friends and family are busy cooking, cleaning, preparing herbal teas and a sit bath. There are people there if she needs them but mostly they are leaving her to rest and bringing her what she needs.]
Mothers Don’t Need to Bounce Back
The outrageous pressure moms have to be fully recovered and take on other responsibilities after 6 weeks is one of the main factors that add to postpartum depression and anxiety. It takes years for a mothers body to fully heal after birth. In the first year she gets around 700 hours less sleep and her neurology is wired to take care of her baby. It is the most full time job in the world. It takes between 6 months and 2 years before she has even a little mental and emotional capacity to focus on anything beyond her baby and herself.
One of the contributing factors for PND and anxiety is centered around mothers not asking for what they need, soldiering on like a ‘good’ trouper and not saying no when their boundaries are pushed.
Once you add in the high speed existence of todays reality, demands from others, the idea that her body should “bounce-back”, and environmental stressors it becomes clear that PND is the outcome of a complexity of discordant factors unique to each mother.
One of the best hormone balancing tools I used postpartum, along with skin-to-skin (thank you Dr Nils Bergman for your amazing research!), breastfeeding and co-sleeping, was eating my dehydrated placenta from day 2 through to 3 months. I see it as a new mamas superfood.