I am on a mommy message board (the name of which I must withhold for legal reasons), and in my “signature” I have a note that I am treating Post-Partum Depression (PPD) and Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) naturally. Because of this, I have many women passing me a “note”, asking me how I do it? And how’s it going? So to provide those answers (without typing them out a dozen times individually to those people), I’ve decided to post those things here for easy reference.
Before I explain what I am doing to treat these conditions, I’ll briefly explain what they entail and what they look like for me personally (as they can vary by person).
Postpartum Depression is a condition of severe anxiety, irritability, depression, and mood swings, caused by a hormonal imbalance occurring after childbirth. Symptoms do not always appear right away (PPD can be diagnosed up to a year after the woman gives birth), and may be different for each mother. One mother may have a lack of interest and lack of appetite while another is extremely anxious/panicked and eats uncontrollably. For me, I was weepy, anxious, irritable, and had severe mood swings.
Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome is a condition that is so vastly different in each patient that it can go undiagnosed for years (as it did for me). It is also a hormonal imbalance, accompanied by a blood glucose and insulin imbalance. Though it can be a “chicken or the egg” conundrum to point out exactly what causes PCOS, and though symptoms may range from hypoglycemia to obesity to excess hair and even to infertility–and vary from woman to woman–the treatment is typically the same. Treatment includes addressing the issue of blood sugar, a weight loss program, and balancing hormones. For me, I experienced unexplained weight gain (and extreme difficulty losing weight) hypoglycemia, excess hair, coarse hair, and painful ovulation.
So how do I cope with these conditions?
For PPD, I spoke to my midwife and she confirmed to me that I was, in fact, experiencing PPD. She suggested a higher-fat diet. Fats are important for neurological function. They line the myelin sheaths which protect and insulate nerves. If our bodies do not have fat, these sheaths are depleted and nerves can “short” and create misfires. Another suggestion given me was to practice deep breathing when I am feeling anxious. In addition to this breathing, I also inhale specific essential oils for aromatherapy. Namely, I use Lavender (for anxiety and nervousness), Lemon (for weepiness), and Peppermint (for a “fuzzy” mind). I have had great success with all of these things and highly recommend them to anyone experiencing depression, whether postpartum or otherwise.
One last thing I did to help with this imbalance was take placenta capsules. These have recently become controversial, but I want to encourage moms to get past the “weird” or “ick” factor and look at the benefits. There are many benefits even outside of treating PPD, including increased milk production, higher energy, lower risk of anemia, and better healing after the birth. I can’t stress enough how wonderful these have been for me.
PCOS is something that my mom and I had suspected for quite some time. Allow me to take a moment to share part of that journey, as I believe it’s important to take note of how I came to the diagnosis (since diagnoses can be hard to come by when there is no infertility). When I was about eight years old, I gained a great deal of weight with no explanation. I was active, did not eat unhealthily, and had been rather slender up to that point. My mom thought it was a little “growing/baby fat”, and hoped I would just stretch out and slim down. But I remained overweight, no matter what we did–no matter how active I was or how much I watched what I ate. We gave up for a while, testing my hormones once in high school for good measure, but we had no answers. After I was grown (and had experienced painful ovulation, excess hair, insomnia, and other symptoms), my mom saw a TV program that discussed medical mysteries. They told the story of a woman with PCOS, and my mom was immediately convinced that’s what I had. Still, no doctor would diagnose it. And when I got pregnant–twice–with no trouble at all, we dismissed it and left it a mystery.
Then, after I moved to Oregon, I went to see my new Family Doctor. She is in an Integrative practice, and when I talked to her about my PPD, she wanted to refer me to the hormone specialist in the same practice. After just one blood test and a thorough health history, this hormone specialist diagnosed me with Marginal PCOS (“marginal” because it had not yet affected my fertility).
This is where the treatment comes in…
The Integrative approach to medicine is combining allopathic (mainstream) and alternative medicines to treat the whole person. This includes lifestyle changes, supplements, and natural alternatives to modern prescriptions. Her recommendation began with a detox diet, and included a low-glycemic index diet, sugar-balancing supplements, moderate exercise, and a natural hormone supplement.
When I received these instructions, I followed them and immediately saw results on the scale and in my daily life. But I wanted a bit more. So I asked my circle of friends–midwives, nutritionists, an acupuncturist, and more–what they recommended. I took the next step and took out parts of my diet that may have artificial hormones, such as dairy, “cheap” meat, etc. And I also took out the things that might be hurting my gut, causing digestive problems, such as gluten, processed foods, and cheap (artificial and chemical-laden) vitamin/mineral supplements. Then I saw even more–and even larger–changes on the scale and in my daily life.
And the final cherry to top this sundae was the acupuncture I began to receive. The acupuncturist I am now seeing is also a nutritionist, giving me a very holistic look at this condition. She also had PCOS previously, so she knows exactly where I’m coming from. The therapy I’ve received (and will continue to receive) has been wonderful! I feel more energized, less volatile/moody, and just better in general. I can see real changes in my body (some too personal to mention here–you’ll have to take my word for it!), my sleep, and in my mood. It truly has been worth every penny to see her.
Well, that is it. That is all I am doing to conquer these conditions. And I think I’m winning! To date, I have lost 22 pounds, I find myself enjoying life more, having more patience with my family, sleeping better, and feeling better all around. I am hopeful and excited for the future. That’s something I haven’t been able to say in truth for a very long time.
To date, I have lost 32 pounds. I still struggle to get down to a healthier weight, but I am still pressing towards that goal.
For financial reasons, I have had to stop seeing my acupuncturist, and I miss it dearly. I can definitely feel the difference. I am continuing with the dietary restrictions as much as possible (as is available to me).
I have been asked which specific supplements I am taking/have taken. I mentioned above (and provided a link to) the progesterone cream that my doctor suggested for me. It is all natural, derived from yams, and is very effective. I also take chromium, which helps to balance blood sugar. Fish Oil Butter (yes, I know it sounds gross) is one of the best ways (in that it’s easy to absorb and utilize) vitamins A and D, which are important for hormone health and for weight management. It also provides essential fatty acids, which are important for mental health, digestion, skin health, and much more. Magnesium was suggested to me by my acupuncturist/nutritionist for specific symptoms I had (particular food cravings and digestive upsets). Probiotics are also good for all around health and wellness. I take them in a variety of forms. My nutritionist has a pre- and pro-biotic blend that is very very good for gut health. I also eat (daily, if I have it) fresh, raw, lacto-fermented kraut or veggies (website). These freshly-grown probiotics are extremely good for all around health, and many have lost weight with the implementation of these foods in their daily diet. It’s important to note that the health benefits come from the kraut being raw, live/active, and lactofermented (rather than flash-steamed or vinegar-soaked, as the store-bought brands do). As a “last resort”, I keep some over-the-counter probiotics on hand just in case I run out of the other two options, which are preferred.
That is the update for now, and I hope I answered everyone’s questions!