Of course there is only so much control that you have over your hormones, neurotransmitters, and genetics, all of which play a part in whether you will develop a mood disorder during pregnancy or postpartum. These are not the only factors that determine whether a person will develop a mood disorder or not, however, and there are things that you can do that can affect the neurotransmitters in the brain. I’m saying this because in some cases, there is not much that you can do to prevent a mood disorder, but in other people, engaging in some of these activities may make a big difference. If you would like to improve your mood during pregnacy and postpartum, here is a list of activities you can do in order to help. I will explain those that I believe warrant more explanation but please feel free to leave any comments or questions if you need. Also, these are not listed in any specific order, but instead just in the order that I thought about them!
1. Exercise- A good workout can help boost the feel good hormones in your brain and has been shown to even be helpful in improving mood in those who are currently experiencing a mood disorder!
2. Seek out a support network- You have heard me state this before, but having other people around you, feeling understood and cared for, and feeling like your not alone can go a long way in preventing mood problems.
3. Take care of yourself and your needs- Even though your focus may be on other people, especially the little ones you are growing and raising, you need to make sure you are doing things for yourself as well. If you are drained and unhappy then it makes it much harder to give of yourself and can start a downward spiral. This can be engaging in your hobbies and things you enjoy, getting a massage or pedicure, taking a bath, or anything else that is just for you.
4. Get help around the house- We are one of the few cultures that do not give moms more help with chores during pregnancy and postpartum (and we have the higher rates of issues!) It will just take a little bit of stress off of you to allow others to help you.
5. Yoga- I’m feeling a whole blog entry about the benefits of yoga during pregnancy because the benefits are just too many to list here but suffice it to say that it is a great stress reducer.
6. Change your thought patterns- Pay attention to your thoughts, notice any negative thought patterns or cycles and begin by interrupting them and counteracting them. Our thoughts influence our feelings which influence our actions!
7. Get out of the house- It can become so easy to get stuck in a rut, to feel too worn out to leave the house, or to just be worried about exposing a new baby to germs but staying home all the time can lead to feelings of isolation.
8. Spend time outdoors- The bright sunshine, fresh air, and appeal of nature are known for improving moods.
9. Alternative Medicine- There are many alternative medical practices that are safe during pregnancy and can help improve moods. Homeopathic remedies (my doctor uses drops) are safe and helpful, or you could check into acupunture, acupressure (although some points are not recommended during pregnancy), aromatherapy (again not all is safe during pregnancy so do your research first) or chiropractic care as well as other alternative therapies.
10. Massage- This therapeutic touch can not only be relaxing but can help release endorphins.
11. Meditation & deep breathing- It is important to ensure that you and your baby are getting all the oxygen you need and meditation can help you focus on your breathing while relaxing your body as you release all the stress and nagging thoughts of the day.
12. Increase your omega 3 fatty acids- Research has shown that people who get more omega 3 fatty acids in their diet have a lower incidence of depression. It will also help ensure your baby is getting enough in utero or through breastmilk to help develop the brain develop effectively.
13. Imitate joy- Sometimes just by acting happy even when you don’t feel like it can help snap you out of the mood and get you doing the very things that will help you improve.
14. Participate in activities you enjoy- If possible, don’t stop activities you enjoy. Due to limitations of pregnancy or for other reasons it may be necessary, but make sure to find other things you enjoy just as much!
15. Music- Music can have a big effect on your thoughts and mood. Choose music that makes you happy or relaxed.
16. Hire a doula- A doula can be a positive support person who can help you through the pregnancy, birthing, and postpartum process.
17. Sleep- It may be hard during different stages of pregnacy or even during the first few sleepless months but it will be important to sleep when you can (while also not sleeping too much- if thats even possible during this time) to give your body the rest in needs to repair itself and for you to think properly.
18. Nurse if possible- Nursing releases oxytocin another feel good hormone.
19. Placenta pills- Now I don’t know much about this one but it was brought up to me while I was presenting on this topic the last time. You can have someone take the placenta and make pills out of it and it is said to be helpful with postpartum depression and with menopause. Maybe something to consider if you aren’t too squeamish!