Emotional and Mental Health During Pregnancy
What are Emotional and Mental States?
During pregnancy and childbirth, many physical and chemical changes are experienced within the body that can be extremely stressful. These physiological and hormonal changes may result in confusing emotional and mental states.
A combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can help correct chemical deficiencies, balance hormones, and encourage natural regulation of emotional and mental states. Regular recognition, support, and treatment of mental disorder is important in maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
Acupuncture can be extremely successful in treating the depression, and other symptoms, that accompany the pregnancy experience. By increasing the release of ACTH, beta-endorphins, serotonin, and noradrenaline acupuncture treatments can help increase blood flow, regulate hormones and enzymes, and relax and promote natural healing of the body. Acupuncture can bring relief to mood swings, sleeping and eating problems, strengthen the immune system, and help increase overall energy and motivation.
Further, acupuncture is a natural treatment that does not interfere with lactation, so there is no risk of chemically contaminated breast milk.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
In conjunction with acupuncture or as treatment on its own, Chinese herbal remedies are useful in treating emotional and mental disorders gently and naturally. Chinese Herbal Medicine is highly successful in regulating the endocrine system and restoring balance in the body. Chinese herbal formulas are specially tailored for each individual case and are safe to take during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Some herbal formulas are surprisingly effective in supplementing deficiencies and saving pregnancy. Formulas such as Gui Pi Tang may be useful, for example, in treating sadness and insomnia experienced postpartum by toning Spleen-Qi and Heart-Blood. The formula Fu Shen San may be useful in treating palpitations, anxiety, and confused behaviour after childbirth.
Nutrition & Diet
It is important to note that unhealthy diet and weight can lead to a higher risk for postpartum depression and anxiety, so it is critical to ensure optimum nutritional health before, during, and after pregnancy and childbirth.
The neurotransmitter serotonin is critical in regulating mood, and when serotonin levels are low mood may be negatively impacted. Production of serotonin is closely associated with the availability of the amino acid tryptophan and vitamin B6. In order for tryptophan to be converted into a precursor for serotonin, it is critical to ensure adequate levels of niacin and iron are available in the body.
Further, the hormone cortisol, produced in response to stress, converts tryptophan into a chemical that cannot be converted into serotonin. Drinking coffee and alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and stress can lead to increased production of cortisol, and therefore limited availability of the serotonin precursor.
Treatment of postpartum depression from a nutrition standpoint involves preventing deficiencies in iron, niacin, and vitamin B6.
The optimum diet should be well-balanced and include foods like fatty fish (like salmon), green leafy vegetables, eggs, beans and lentils, nuts, and citrus juice. Ensuring enough iron by eating spinach, red meat, liver, raisons, broccoli, and egg yolks is important.
Lifestyle & Mind-Body Medicine
In addition to acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, and nutritional changes, learning relaxation techniques can be beneficial throughout all stages of pregnancy. The mind-body connection is especially important during pregnancy, as there are two minds and two bodies involved. A higher incidence of negative emotional and mental states has been observed among women who are highly anxious, fearful, and/or stressed. Anxiety, fear, and stress can negatively affect the sympathetic nervous system, which can negatively affect the baby’s environment. By increasing the release of endorphins, acupuncture is effective in reducing stress and pain, stimulating blood flow and allowing the uterine muscles to relax. It is important that the mother tries to maintain low levels of anxiety, fear, and stress throughout pregnancy.
Practicing focused deep-breathing, meditation, yoga, tai-chi and other activities are among those that can increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy. Listening to music, focused breathing, or being outside in nature are also effective methods of managing stress. Calming the heart and mind is particularly important in the context of Chinese medicine for a successful pregnancy.