You know it's funny how things happen in my mind. Elizabeth and I really didn't have a planned post for today and we had just decided we were going to link to something else when out of nowhere it hit me.
Hello Earth Day!
But you see that's not where my brain stopped no, it then jumped over to planting trees, fun projects with the kids, then moms and of course "Mother Earth" and then the natural health and holistic health movements. Seriously if we've never had the opportunity to sit down and brainstorm together let's make a brain date you'll find my stream of consciousness, especially when well caffeinated, is really quite fun.
Now back to Earth Day- April 22- marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Now if you're a history nerd like myself go click Earth Day to learn about this one day were twenty million Americans took to the streets to demonstrate their desire for a more sustainable environment. Hey I wonder how many moms were out marching for Earth that day. I don't want to get into a rant about various religious-political-social issues surrounding Earth Day or Creation Care Day or whatever you choose to call it. Once the gears in my head started spinning I really kept thinking of how the natural parenting community, or as we sometimes call it "crunchy mom" community often sees things, especially when it comes to perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. A lot of moms are concerned about taking medications, especially while breastfeeding or are simply interested in seeking more natural remedies for all ailments, including postpartum depression.
If I had a dollar for every time I saw a post in a moms group asking something like "what are natural remedies for anxiety" or "what oils are good for depression" I wouldn't have a mortgage to pay anymore. Seriously.
So, with this in mind, today I want to touch on a few complementary options for treating prenatal or postpartum depression and anxiety.
I just want to throw this out there, there is nothing wrong with deciding to take medication for mental illness. Medication combined with therapy is the most effective known treatment for maternal mood disorder.
As always, consult with your health care provider before starting or stopping any treatment plan, be it pharmaceutical or otherwise.
I also want to mention the value of Mom's groups, you know the kind where you get together with other moms with or without your baby and chat about various topics. Research has shown Peer-to-Peer support is an integral and effective part of recovery from maternal mental illness. It improves outcomes, improves quality of life, helps connect people to treatment, reduces severity, and is cost effective. If you are able to get to a group or even a play date with a couple of other moms, go for it. This may seem like a huge task but if you go, odds are you'll be glad you did. Let us know if you need information on motherhood groups near you, we'll be glad to share a list of resources.
Now if you are able to get out of your home (I say able because I know depression and anxiety can make just stepping outside a huge feat) you may want to consider what are called Complementary and Alternative Medicine or CAM. According to the MAYO Clinic, nearly 40 percent of adults report using complementary and alternative medicine. Doctors are implementing CAM therapies too; often mixing them with more mainstream options — hence the term "integrative medicine."
What is considered “alternative medicine” changes constantly because different forms undergo research and testing over time and tend to become more mainstream. To make sense of the many therapies available, it helps to look at how they're classified by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM):
Whole Medical Systems
A system is more than a single remedy, it's actually many practices or remedies that center on a philosophy, for example:
Thought to strengthen the communication between your mind and your body. CAM practitioners say these two systems must be in harmony or balanced for you to be well. Examples are meditation, prayer, relaxation and art therapies.
I'd like to mention the concept of mindfulness and its power when it comes to motherhood. Mindfulness involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. Practicing mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
Here in Tampa Bay, we have professionals that specialize in Mindfulness, Evelyn Ojeda-Fox of Red Tent Collective is one such professional. I encourage you to check out her Dunedin based business and ask her about services such as mother's circle, motherhood mentoring, even Craniosacral Therapy. Many moms rave about the mother's group that meets there each week!
Biologically based practices
These are dietary supplements and herbal remedies taken as teas, oils, syrups, powders, tablets or capsules. Using ingredients found in nature, these are very popular with people interested in using herbs in place of or in addition to prescription medicines.
Here's a brief article on herbal treatment for anxiety courtesy of the MAYO clinic. I'd like to point out the importance of knowing potential side effects and adverse reactions to herbals and please use caution if you are breastfeeding.
If you're interested in learning more about using herbs or many other holistic options, our friend and supporter De'Nicea Hilton, DOM, AP, holds a Masters of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine is certified as a diplomat of Oriental Medicine with a thorough knowledge of Acupuncture and Point Location, Biomedicine and Chinese Herbology. Dr. D as she is affectionately called recently shared more information with us about her practice and working with women experiencing in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. She offers appointments in both Clearwater and Temple Terrace. The Seventh Mom Project, Inc. is looking forward to inviting Dr. D to join our Temple Terrace Peer-to Peer support group coming soon!
Manipulation and body-based practices
Chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation and massage are examples.
Sometimes the simple luxuriousness of a massage or the relaxation that comes with a visit to the chiropractor can do a world of good for a mother whose feeling overwhelmed and on the verge of burning out. Chiropractic care in particular is associated with relieving some of the physical ailments of postpartum adjustment. As an example, the hormone relaxin, which is crucial for loosening ligaments in preparation for birth, lingers in the body for 6 months to a year after pregnancy, leaving your pelvic and sacral regions vulnerable to misalignment and injury. Regular chiropractic adjustment is believed to help maintain stability in the region, helping you to recover quicker and more effectively. Dr. Shannon Whitlock, not only offers home and birth center visits, but she holds specials classes and mom's morning out events. Remember those moms groups I mentioned, find one.
A buildup of anxiety manifests itself in tense muscles-a feeling of stiffness and tightness. Hands-on massage therapy treatment can increase relaxation, while helping the body to grow stronger. For our friends on the other side of Tampa Bay, especially if you are currently pregnant, check out Melissa of Rising Lotus Maternity Services and over here in East Hillsborough, Anita Griffin Thomas is a licensed massage therapist who works with chiropractors, neurologists, immunologists, OB/Gyns and orthopedists to achieve the best possible outcome for their patients.
Some CAM practitioners believe invisible energy force flows through your body, and when this energy flow is blocked or unbalanced you can become sick. Different traditions call this energy by different names, such as chi, prana and life force. The goal of these therapies is to unblock or re-balance your energy force. Energy therapies include qi gong, therapeutic touch, reiki, and magnet therapy.
Things to keep in mind
Many doctors practicing today didn't receive training in CAM or integrative medicine, so they may not feel comfortable making recommendations in this area. Bare in mind that mainstream therapies have been researched and tested for safety and effectiveness. Science based evidence does exist for some CAM, for many there is still a lot of unknowns.
Sadly, there are CAM practitioners who make exaggerated and sometimes outright false claims about curing diseases. If your CAM practitioner encourages you to skip treatment from your doctor or therapist be very aware. Mental illness is still a medical condition and it's crucial to ensure proper care and treatment. Large scale, carefully controlled medical studies are costly. Trials for therapies are often funded by big companies that develop and sell drugs. Fewer resources exist to support trials of CAM therapies. That's why National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health was established — to foster research into CAM and make the findings available to the public.
Talk to your doctor about risks and benefits of any therapy you're considering especially if you are pregnant, have other medical problems or take prescription medicines. Don't stop or change your prescription medications — without talking to your doctor first. Finally, be sure to keep your doctor updated on any alternative therapies you're using, including herbal and dietary supplements.
One thing I did not get into here is essential oils. Again there's just not a lot of research and I don't want to give unsafe information to anyone. So I will offer this, if you like the smell and want to diffuse some oils or maybe wear a special skin safe blend, go for it. Please be very cautious when using essential oils as injuries can occur.
In addition to essential oil use I did not talk about placenta encapsulation. I just want to touch on it real quick, since I have written about it before, while there is no science-based evidence confirming that placenta consumption can improve postpartum adjustment there are numerous accounts of anecdotal evidence from moms who have tried placenta encapsulation or placenta smoothies. I cannot tell you for certain that consuming your placenta will improve your mood, speed your recovery, or promote breastfeeding success but it may work for you. Perhaps even the placebo effect is worthwhile. We have been fortunate to work with many placenta specialists, specifically broadening their knowledge of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and are more than glad to help you narrow down your search.
And the last thing I want to mention, is go outside. Plant a tree if you like (this seems like a lot of work) or simply sit in the sunshine breathing in fresh air. Just being outdoors has been proven effective at boosting one's mood. I used to sit on my porch steps nursing my baby in the afternoons just to get my fresh air and sunshine fix and I felt great after each time. In fact, I suggest finding a great moms group that has outdoor meet ups and play dates because, well, outdoors is good for moms and kids. I can even help you find one!
Umbrella is open, today's forecast is a Purple Rain,
We at The Seventh Mom Project, Inc. are especially fond of Doulas. You can probably tell, after all a few of our board members and several volunteers are professional Doulas. Since March 22, kicks off World Doula Week, I thought I’d share something I wrote a while back. I wrote this early in career as a birth-worker. Over time I tweaked it here and there based on my evolving experience both as a labor doula and as a mom who was fortunate to have doula support during my own children’s births.
The Cochrane Review (a global independent network of researchers, professionals, patients, care givers and people interested in health; recognized as representing an international gold standard for high quality, trusted information.) has offered this “Continuous support during labor has clinically meaningful benefits for women and infants and no known harm. All women should have support throughout labor and birth.”
I suspect, for many mothers, the experience we have in childbirth greatly affects our postpartum experience. For many women, a traumatic birth can increase the risk of postpartum depression and anxiety even lead to postpartum PTSD. With that in mind, we’re grateful for all the Doulas out there loving on mothers so they can prepare to love on their babies.
Ready to “Doula” you through the storm,
So God Made a Doula
One day, God looked down on one of His creations becoming a mother and said “She could use a special helper”, so God made a Doula.
God said, “She needs someone who feels the calling, from deep within, to sacrifice, to serve, to guide and to comfort. Someone who can navigate when needed and let go when its time, whose ability to lead is balanced with her willingness to follow, whose heart is as warm as her ability to nurture is skilled. She needs someone whose impact will last for generations to be born.” So God made a Doula.
God said, "She needs somebody willing to get up and work at fielding calls and answering inquiries while still caring for her own children, nursing, training, educating and influencing. Someone who can buckle four kids into the car with a birth pool and all the needed supplies, run two other errands, deliver the pool and be home in time for dinner and baths before heading out again to teach a childbirth class and stay late to answer questions from mothers to be.” So God made a Doula.
God said “She needs someone who will pick up snacks and poise pads, walk through hospital tours, study the latest evidence based care, teach about how to make a birth plan; only to support the mother when she changes it all mid journey and help coach a new Dad in a sport he’s never played. I need someone to teach a mother to breathe through the pains, make sure she has everything she didn’t think she’d need, and encourage her to speak up for herself and her decisons. All with a demeanor that is calm, personable, and professional.” So God made a Doula
“I need someone to ride that roller coaster of anxiety, hope, fear, and worry as she sees the mother’s worries and doubts increase while baby’s heart tones decrease all with the same peaceful, confident exterior that she’s held up all through the night. Someone to cheer with mom as things turn bright and be a light for her when they are grey and a smiling face of reassurance when the ride twist back again.” So God made a Doula.
God said, “I need someone who is willing to jump out of bed, in the middle of the night and drive across town with a moment’s notice, to head to a birth, not knowing how long it will be or when she’ll return home to her own bed and her own family and do this for someone she’s never met because she’s backing up a Sister Doula. Someone whose family knows the true meaning of the word vocation more so than words like vacation yet they are willing to share because they know their mother is called to serve and with pride and joy they hold space for her as she mothers the mother. So God made a Doula.
“Somebody who knows that a birthing woman needs to feel free to be vulnerable and strong all at once. To support her decision through every transition, to offer every bit of physical and mental relief they can and still not judge when mom chooses pain medicine (or doesn’t). Someone willing to climb on the bed to Rebozo sift mom and grab the last peanut ball available to help mom rest as she reaches that last centimeter, meanwhile pumping for her own baby at home and gulping down water and a cookie because she knows she’s going to be needed again soon. So God made a Doula.
God said, "I need somebody strong enough to support a new mother as she squats low to the earth breathing down a new life, yet gentle enough to pull her hair up and wipe her face with a cold cloth, who will stay after the babe’s arrival to ensure a good first latch. Someone who’ll make sure the mother eats and drinks before acknowledging her own growling belly. Somebody who'd knit a new family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing and caring, holding space in that golden hour before heading home to her own family.” So God made a Doula
Author’s note – I use the word need for poetic emphasis. The truth is no one needs a doula, in fact, as a doula, I believe if my client feels she absolutely needs me, as in she can’t birth her baby without me, then I’ve failed to do my job of educating and empowering her.
I have no opposition to medications and medical interventions when necessary, but I also believe that we need to treat the cause not just the symptoms. Sometimes we are so focused on managing symptoms that we forget to look for underlying cause. This applies to perinatal mental health as well. Sometimes our hormones are out of balance and we need pharmaceutical help and sometimes we need dietary changes or more simply things to ease the transition into motherhood, like solid peer support. Make no mistake, I whole heartedly believe that medication saves lives. I also believe that often women are improperly diagnosed and treated thus exacerbating symptoms of distress.
Occasionally a mom reaches out to me for what she thinks maybe postpartum depression. Sometimes, through care and professional evaluation, moms find that while they are definitely overwhelmed with new motherhood, they are not experiencing maternal mental illness. Sometimes. Fortunately, here in Tampa Bay we really do have this amazing wealth of resources for families. Not only do we have a large natural birth and parenting community, we have a large number of alternative and complimentary therapy practitioners (such as massage therapist, hypnotherapist and acupuncturist), several support groups, educational programs and more.
In my own quest to understand my struggles with maternal mental illness I studied every treatment possibility I could. Read many case studies, consulted with professionals and eventually came to a treatment plan that was suitable for me. I found a combination of prayer, medication, cognitive behavior therapy and alternative therapies worked for me, after obtaining an accurate diagnosis.
Now I know every woman is different however if you are considering alternatives to medication, I want you to know what is out there. I recently chatted with Dr. De’Nicea Hilton, owner of Hilton Holistic Health and founder of Sisters of Flow. Doctor D, as she is sometimes called, is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and Acupuncture Physician working with families in Tampa Bay. With years of study and national certification, Dr. D specializes in encouraging self-healing and wellness.
If you’re not familiar with acupuncture, it is an art of inserting (or non-insertion for some styles) sterile, one-time use needles in specific points that are all over the body. By stimulating these points, it’s believed we are calling these points to activate with a greater purpose of helping the body to harmonize and thus promote self-healing. Pretty neat huh.
I asked how acupuncture treats mental and emotional issues, as in what is the theory behind acupuncture for health and mental health? Here’s how Dr. D explained it to me;
“While the physical act of performing acupuncture is working with the body, there is an intimate connection with the mind as well. Each organ system houses a part of our mental/emotional state. You hear that our physical health is a representation of the mind or vice versa. I see it all the time. Thought patterns and physical complaints may seem completely unrelated but they are very much so related due to the understanding/nature of the organ systems. For example, someone may describe having constipation and when asked about having difficulty "letting things go" in life, they often agree that they do. So, you can see it is more in understanding the organ systems and the relationships between each other. Body, mind and spirit are tightly connected. Often times, the physical symptom is a way your body is communicating. We hold emotions in various parts of our bodies. It is part therapeutic talk and acupuncture and herbs are a tool to further the therapeutic process by balancing and harmonizing the body, mind and spirit.”
In preparing for this post, I went searching for information on acupuncture and its use in the field of maternal mental health. I didn’t find much, in fact, one study, mentioned at Postpartum Progress was the most detailed I could find. I shared it with Dr. D and asked here to help me understand (in plain mama English) and she was glad to expand on it. Take a break, go read it and come back to us.
Back again? Here’s our pal Dr. D’s reply;
“The author of the post did a great job in presenting both sides of the findings of the study. It is very clear that the opposing author does not believe in or consider Qi to be something that exists. However, it does exist and since 2010 when that article was written, more and more scans and studies have come out. Cardiologists are recommending Qi Gong and Tai Chi for patients for its benefits in reducing blood pressure. Other physicians are recommending it for pain relief and even helping to manage tremors in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
As for the methodology of the study, it can be difficult to say you are going to treat a blanket diagnosis as depression without going through the pool of potential study participants and setting the inclusion criteria to maybe only represent a specific TCM diagnosis. I appreciate the thought in the performing acupuncturists not knowing the diagnosis beforehand. The notion of "sham acupuncture" is interesting to me because although the needle may not be inserted, the points can still be stimulated. Non-insertion technique is commonly used in Japanese acupuncture. Commonly you will hear about Toyohari and Shonishin.
It's necessary to point out that TCM is one of many acupuncture theories and practices. For some patients, TCM acupuncture may not be as effective as Japanese, Six Stage, Five Element or Korean. This list is not exhaustive by any means. I mention this because practitioners practice differently. With that, you may ask if there is a certain style preference she or he uses.
Overall, I would consider what TCM diagnosis was made for each of the participants and their histories. Acupuncture itself can help for sure, and I believe herbs and nutrition work harmoniously. Lifestyle is another consideration. It is not going to take just one thing to correct something. It takes a holistic approach.”
So this then lead me to asking how Hilton Holistic Health approaches maternal mental health, most importantly, how Dr. D works with Moms.
“I love the way this question is asked - "work with moms." That's exactly how I think of it. I meet moms where they are at. By speaking with her, we can really see where she is, including her present symptoms and hearing about her life before pregnancy and her birth story. Details of the birth gives me an idea of what the state of her body was before she went into the pregnancy and the birth. There is some vital information to be found there. For example, she may have had a history of very light menstrual cycles spread apart and then had a very long labor which may have ended up in a C-section. This tells me she had some underlying deficiencies and in the present state, her body has just been really taxed and needs some vital support. It just so happens that she is manifesting it in the way she is now: be it depression, anxiety, poor memory, fatigue or even low milk supply. This is a very common diagnosis of Blood and Qi Deficiency (which could be of different organs based on mom) due to the major loss of those substances during birth.
What helps most often after an Eastern medicine diagnosis has been found, is to replenish the system. This happens via nutrition, herbs and acupuncture. I use a Micronutrient test to see where she may be most deficient and where she's not absorbing these important pieces of our proper bodily function. My preference is using whole food supplements because the body is more readily available to absorb them. Plus, when you are absorbing and processing properly, the herbs are able to go in and do their job as channel/organ system balancing. Acupuncture seals the deal by activating the points to further balance the disharmonies.”
I really love the notion of professionals who encage their patients, really speak with them not at them. By helping moms explore what’s going on with their bodies, Dr. D is planting seeds of healing. Sometimes just having someone who is caring and nonjudgmental to listen can make a world of difference.
I’m also really excited to share another special project from Dr. D called Sisters of Flow. Sisters of Flow is currently a podcast where Dr. D and guest go with the flow, about anything and everything menstrual cycles.
“ I started it out of my personal experience with painful periods which sometimes made me really unproductive because I would have to sit with a space heater on the floor at work or would miss class because I would just have to stay at home in bed with heating pad. While in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine School, I learned about treating this and it worked! All I used was acupuncture and herbs. Later I incorporated vaginal steaming as a regular regimen to make sure I'm shedding all that I need to shed each month. As I began talking with other women, I learned they did not know that the cycle is not supposed to be painful or even there were other options to use besides birth control pills. Thus, Sisters of Flow was born to provide a platform to educate those who menstruate about what their options are, raise awareness about disparities in regards to women's health and exploring different cultures' perception about menstruation.”
“I would LOVE for moms to know the cycle you once knew may change. This may be for the better or for the worse. If there is anything to find comforting, it is that in this new phase of your life, you now know there is a lot of support. If it is for the worse, heed that as a sign that you may need some additional support. For some, it may be cramping or back pain and it can stay that way or get better. For some, there is definitely a connection. The timing of the menstrual pain along with the flow, color, odor and duration are taken into consideration. Though not true for everyone, some with cycles that may have been closer together, painful before and first days with heavy dark bleeding may experience more anxiety. On the other hand, those with prolonged pain throughout the cycle and even afterwards with a lighter color and longer time in between may experience more depression. In these instances, the menstrual pain and information about the cycle in general adds great information in painting the picture of her overall being.”
I’m also a little excited, I recently got to be a guest and “go with the flow” talking about cycle changes after multiple births and various types of birth. We’ll be sure to let you know when it airs, warning its probably pretty TMI for some but you know how open I am. I also think menses is another topic, like mental illness that gets shushed too often. If you are interested in learning more about Oriental Medicine, acupuncture and more, please contact Dr. De'Nicea Hilton, Doctor of Oriental Medicine, and Acupuncture Physician. I warn you though, you may find yourself laughing with her and chatting so much you forget the needles.
Dr. De'Nicea Hilton, DOM, AP
Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Acupuncture Physician
Hilton Holistic Health - www.hiltonholistichealth.com
Sisters of Flow - www.sistersofflow.com
Text or call: 727-300-6722
Each walk is different, but we walk together, and that makes all the