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  • MoxieTopics
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I had ppd with both of my kids, and struggle with clinical depression generally...and I wish I'd seen this post postpartum with both of my kids. Excellent, excellent informative one with good suggestions and information.


Moxie--this is totally OT but I would like to ask a question and can't view your email off the link (my tech problem, not yours, I don't have my email program and my browser linked to each other). Can you email me with it? Would appreciate.


Fructose overload can also lead to depression/anxiety/ADHD-type-behavior.

The current American diet has more fructose than most people can tolerate. And even the normal amount (US RDA), only 2 in 3 people can tolerate.

Too much fructose causes a reduction in tryptophan levels.

Tryptophan (the 'happy mood' compound often mentioned around Thanksgiving because it is found in turkey), is also a building block of Seratonin.

Low tryptophan = low seratonin, and low seratonin = depression, among other things.

Fructose in combination with glucose is fine, if it is an even balance. So fruits like oranges may be fine. But overload on peaches, pears, apples, or juice, or things sweetened with juice, or dried fruit, and you can impact your mood for a few days.

Sugar alcohols (sweeteners that end in '-ol', like mannitol, sorbitol, etc.) also cause the same issues.

Other signs/symptoms that you might be getting more fructose than you can handle:

1) GI distress in ONLY HALF the population, and can sometimes be constipation (surprise!).

2) Osteoporosis or signs of low calcium/vitamin D levels (including growth delays in kids).

3) Easy bruising (due to malabsorption of other nutrients).

4) Sore head/eyes (some resources also indicate long bone pain).

5) fatigue/exhaustion/lethargy

6) Signs of IBS (though IBS may be the cause of the fructose issue, not the result, that's not yet clear from research).

Just one more thing to add to the list of 'things to be moderate about/with'...


Moxie, I think all of the advice you've written here is excellent -- and I take the flax seed oil even with the conflicting reports on it.

I must, however, disagree with your bright line statement that depression is solely caused "an imbalance of chemicals inside your body." MAYBE, post-partum depression is caused somewhat by an imbalance of serotonin in your body, but there is no proof whatsoever that depression is ONLY caused by this imbalance. Moreover, I think there's an excellent argument that PPD could be defined as BOTH a chemically caused depression and/or a situationally caused depression.

In fact, all the things you mentioned within your article (traumatic experience (ie, birth), major changes in sleep/eating/drinking cycle, major life changes, huge amounts of stress, difficulty coping, feelings of inadequacy surrounding birth, breastfeeding, or both) are often the exact ingredients needed for situational depression to rear its ugly head.

It's funny because the things you're recommending people do are the things that are appropriate for situational depression, in any event. But I find it really sad that you made a bald statement about depression without any proof to back it up. I agree that sometimes medications are necessary, but I don't think I could ever take that risk with my kids.


Ariella, from what I know, 'situational' ('reactive' or 'exogenous') depression has as many physiological components as 'endogenous' (the 'caused by the imbalance without a triggering event' type). The current discussion in the field is how the imbalance or anomaly is caused/triggered by the situation, not WHETHER there is an imbalance in chemicals during depression.

Saying 'chemical imbalance' is definitely too simplistic if you're talking all the details of what is not 'balanced' in depression. Hormones, receptors, brain chemicals, nutrients, the amount of each varies, and can all play roles. Too much, too little, and a problem occurs. BUT, also, if a problem occurs, the body may respond by generating too much, or too little, or using up necessary nutrients at a faster pace, etc.

Just because depression is triggered by real events that are reasonably seen as 'challenging', does not mean that meds won't help. They often do, 'situational' or otherwise. The point Moxie makes is, IMHO, more that there really isn't much biological difference between depression of one sort or another, once it has set in. And in that, the research seems to be backing her up. Which exact 'imbalance' may vary, but keeping your body in good form, well fed, well hydrated, well rested, etc., is ideal for helping with both 'triggered' and 'not-triggered' depression forms. It may not be enough for either, once depression sets in. But it may be more than enough for either, too.

I've had low-grade depression for years. Maybe set off by experiences, maybe not, hard to say. But that's really immaterial. For me, finding that just keeping up with my rest and my fluids and my Omega-3's does 90% of the work, that's important. Considering the long-term neurological damage that depression-laden parenting can also cause our children, I'm on board with trying whatever will help. Having read rather a lot on the implications at the neurological level of staying depressed while parenting, I don't think that I could take the risk of NOT pursuing a variety of treatment avenues. Granted, I do start with the least invasive and most natural/dietary/lifestyle approaches first! That's a no-brainer. And it is exactly what Moxie is advising, IMHO.

d. feldman

Excellent advice--the previous installments helped me through the first few months of newborn bootcamp with only minimal craziness.

RE: PPD being situational and/or chemical, I've been re-reading Sarah Blaffer-Hrdy's "Mother Nature" and she makes an interesting point that it may related to lactational aggression. In other words, the same hormonal factors that in animals cause mothers to violently defend their nurslings could be at work in humans post-partum. It's an intriguing hypothesis, especially when one considers the cultural factors that often channel aggression and anger in women into self-doubt and self-destruction--not to mention the social isolation many new parents (mothers especially) endure.

You can't drive off a bad scenario with bared fangs, after all.

So whether PPD and related problems are hormonal, neurochemical or situational, anything that increases the physical, social and emotional support of a new parent can only help. Meds are simply another tool, good for some situations, not good for others.

RE: the post itself, I've had the GoLite for several years now to combat seasonal affective disorder, and I give it two thumbs way up. Going into this winter with a four month old, I've been extra vigilant about anything I can do to avoid a mental death spiral, and it's one of the big guns in my arsenal.

I've also found that with nursing, I need to make sure I eat enough fat or I crash fast because the kid's sucking it out of me to build her own brain. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds also have high omega-3 content, as do avocados, so you kill two birds with one stone there.


Just to note - the link to Part 2 is missing from this post. It says "Part 2 is ,". Thanks!


As someone who is struggling with post-toddlerhood depression (I was fine for the first year of Madam's life, but now I am seriously struggling), I thank you for these. I just started taking my flax seed again.

I can't wait to read the second installment.


"Mother Nature" is an amazing book--recommended to all moms and prospective moms. It's an academic but accessible look at the social and biological impact of motherhood by a senior primatologist/anthropologist. No how-tos or anything, just an exploration of the phenomenon from some very unorthodox perspectives.

But I was going to chime in to say that an exercise partner, if you can find one, is really helpful to keeping the regimen. If you live in anything resembling an urban neighborhood, figure out what coffee house the moms go to before the birth, if possible. If you know somebody whose baby is the same approximate age as yours, and they're nearby, it's very easy to go for walks together when the babies cooperate and do some kind of indoor physical thing when they don't.

No idea how I got so lucky, but I met 2 moms with babies within a few weeks of Mouse's age, who do the same form of yoga I do. Back when we were all on leave we'd get together at a very smushy start time, do a little practice...whoever needed to nurse would go ahead but we'd all encourage each other and help with each other's babies...and afterwards whoever's house we were at would make some scrambled eggs or a quesadilla or something. It really helped all of us--I'd never have stuck with it without them.


Melinika, I fixed the link. Thanks for pointing it out.

Ariella, I consider hormones to be chemicals. What makes you think that situationally-caused depression doesn't have a hormonal element to it? All kinds of things affect our hormone levels in all sorts of ways, and we know for sure that lack of sleep, stress, the trauma of birth, and all sorts of other changes do just that. And, yes, sometimes depression is an appropriate bodily response, but that doesn't mean it's good for you to be depressed.

I also don't know if you'd decide against medications (which I didn't even mention in this post) if it meant you were having thoughts of killing your children or yourself. PPD is nothing to mess with, and I'd hope that we'd be willing to keep all our options open to keep ourselves healthy for our kids.


Thank you for this. I really struggled after the birth of my first, and the second is due in three months. I had a hard time with nursing pain and anxious insomnia. (BTW - postpartum or not, it is REALLY hard to keep emotions balanced when sleep is lacking). Most of the suggestions I got were to eliminate this or that thing (caffeine, dairy, TV, etc), but once you're in the thick of the PPD you feel so helpless.

Anyway, it's really refreshing to read a more proactive approach. Thank you again!


Thanks for mentioning the part about keeping your baby close to you. I think it's really important and it seemed like everyone thought I should be 'getting out' and 'doing things alone' during the first few months when that was the last thing in the world I felt like doing.


Once again, a terrific post Moxie. I wish I'd had all this advice when I was depressed after our kids were born. I'm sending the link to several new moms of multiples. The advice is excellent for all moms, whether feeling depressed or not.

Rosemary Grace

I suffer from depression, I found a really useful distinction is that it's sometimes appropriate to be SAD, but depression is never "ok". The difference is that depression involves some loss of self esteem or self worth, you feel bad about yourself because something bad happened, grief or sadness is feeling bad about the thing that happened. I think there's a tendency for people who are depressed to take a long time to realise it, because they think it's normal to feel that way due to something that they went through.

This was much better worded in the book I read, Feeling Good by David Burns, I'm mentioning it because it was a real relief to me to find that statement. I'd been convinced that the depression I was living with was just the normal response to my experiences, therefore nothing I could do about it.


Is flaxseed oil ok to take while breastfeeding? I've tried looking it up and keep coming up with conflicting answers.


the only thing i would add is to ask/allow partner and helper to run the dishwasher, vaccuum the living room, do a load of laundry. also, to avoid any naysayers or people who are trying to push you to do somethign you don't feel comfortable with: leave your baby, give a bottle/formula, buck up and smile. i know my inlaws were not shy to give their opinions and it got old quick.


Thank you Moxie for talking about PPD and offering such wonderful suggestions. I've been blessed with such great support systems and it's still been very difficult. I couldn't have made it through six weeks of breastfeeding hell without some amazing lactation consultants - and I couldn't have survived this long without an equally amazing therapist. I just wish more women were willing to be really honest about the challenges/frustrations/dramatic change in lifestyle and self-image of being a new mom.

And I second the GoLite recommendation. Costco carries them for a GREAT price -- $172.99 at www.costco.com (non-Costco members pay a 5% surcharge) includes shipping. Also available in their stores. I've used this light for a couple of years and it really helps. Plus it's small and portable!


Jenn, I was told 4 years ago by an LC specifically to take flax seed oil to prevent both PPD and plugged ducts. But now the info seems to be conflicting, and I think we're in that nasty period before we can figure out conclusively what's really up with it. I can't in good faith tell anyone specifically to take it while breastfeeding, but I do take it myself.


I like the cafe/cake (Fruedian?) slip ;)



Thanks for your series. Found myself here from LaidOffDad, from DadGoneMad...as someone thinking to start trying in the next few months, this is very valuable information to have. I plan to print off and show my husband as well. Again, many, many, many, many, thanks.

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In this indifferent world, where people become more and more estranged, it's really nice feeling to be that someone you miss and worry about!


I think the top two things are keeping up with some type of exercise regimen and having a support network, even if it's just one friend you can confide in and vent to. I was assessed for PPD by a psychiatrist and was considered borderline. He told me that at that point, doing 20 mins of exercise 5 days a week would be more beneficial than just putting me on a low-dose pill. he said the exercise would release the same, if not more, serotonin.

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  • My expertise is in helping people be who they want to be, with a specialty in how being a parent fits into everything else. I like people. I like parents. I think you're doing a fantastic job. The nitty-gritty of what you do with your kids is up to you, although I'm happy to post questions here to get data points of how you could try approaching different stages, because, let's face it, this shit is hard. As for me, I have two kids who sleep through the night and can tie their own shoes. I've been a married SAHM, a married freelance WAHM, a divorcing WOHM, a divorced WOHM, and now a WAHM again. I'm not buying the Mommy Wars and I'll come sit next to you no matter how you're feeding your kid. When in doubt, follow the money trail. And don't believe the hype.
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