How nutrition can help beat postnatal depression

Nov 05, 2021

During pregnancy and up to childbirth, the mother should eat fruits that are high in magnesium.

How nutrition can help beat postnatal depression

Ritah Mukasa
Journalist @New Vision

Postnatal or postpartum depression (PPD) involves physical, emotional, or behavioural changes that happen in some women after they give birth.

Dr. Kenneth Mugabe, head of the Obstetrics and Gynecology department at Mbale regional referral hospital, says that PPD usually happens to first-time mothers. But even those with several births are prone.

Some experience sadness, despair, and anxiety. But these feelings are stronger.

“It usually occurs within the first month of delivery. It can be mild or severe,” he explains.

But PPD can also develop during pregnancy and up to a year after birth.

The mild one or baby blues comes with mood swings, sadness, and anxiety. It happens in the first few hours after delivery to a week. The mother easily overcomes it. 

However, severe depression (postpartum sycosis) comes with severe mental illness where the mother becomes suicidal, delusional, agitated, and restless. 

Some hear strange voices and hallucinate as well. They can also attempt to hurt or kill their baby and those around them. At this stage, the mother needs the help of a psychiatrist.

Mugabe notes that PPD also affects one out of 10 new fathers. They get depressed within the first year of their firstborn.

Dr. Mukuzi Katongole of Nakaseke Hospital says rural and urban women are prone to PPD. 

“Even in rural facilities we get extreme cases, some about to harm their babies,” he says.

Possible causes of PPD 

Dr. Paul Kasenene of Wellcare Health & Wellness center explains that PPD usually happens when there is an imbalance between one’s emotions and brain chemistry.

 This means that the brain cannot produce a certain amount of neurotransmitters and neurochemicals like centroids and endorphins that help one to feel good. 

It usually happens when people have undergone prolonged periods of stress.

However, Dr. Junior Ndozire a gynaecologist at Mildmay Uganda Hospital says that PPD does not have a specific cause. 

But genetic susceptibility, hormonal changes during and after pregnancy, as well as psychological, social problems and stressful events could be involved.

Heal with nutrition

Kasenene emphasizes that brain health is very important in treating emotional wellness challenges like anxiety and depression.

“Ensure your body has enough nutrients for brain health,” he advises. 

These include magnesium, vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids and B vitamins (vitamins B1, B9, B12, D and E).

During pregnancy and up to childbirth, the mother should eat fruits that are high in magnesium such as avocados, bananas, spinach, broccoli, onions and cashews. Others are pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, figs and sunflower seeds. 

They should also eat foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids like chia seeds, walnuts, and fatty fish like tilapia among others. 

Additionally, nutritional supplements are important as they stimulate the production of dopamine, the feel-good hormone. 

However, ensure the supplement works well with the medication you are taking.

“It is also important to stay hydrated. Water helps the nutrients to circulate in the brain,” he explains. 

Relatedly, an expectant mother should exercise during pregnancy and after childbirth depending on how she gave birth. 

“It’s challenging but physical exercise helps beat depression. Exercises help to calm the mind,” Kasenene says. 

He adds that sunshine is also a good source of vitamin D, and it also brings about changes in one’s moods.  

A mother should also get enough rest during the day. The more she rests the better her brain health.

Also, take a death breath in the morning, around noon and in the evening. This allows the mind to calm down and improve emotional wellness. 



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