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Supporting your mental health in postpartum

Supporting your mental health in postpartum

Postpartum can often be a sensitive and emotionally demanding period that lasts longer than the arbitrary 6-8 weeks. Dealing with hormonal fluctuations, the trauma of birth, sleep deprivation, and adjusting to life with a newborn can be overwhelming. If you’re finding it hard, it’s okay. Thankfully, there are many ways to support your mental health during this transitional phase.

Eat mood food

As the emerging field of nutritional psychiatry continues to demonstrate, the body and mind aren’t two separate entities (1). What you choose to eat during postpartum has the power to support, lift, and nurture you.

Support your gut

In recent years, scientists have discovered a complex neural network that connects the brain and the gut: the gut-brain axis (2). Researchers believe our gut microbiome – the collective name for the trillions of bacteria in the digestive tract – can affect mood and emotion via this intricate communication system (3). Put simply, a happy gut means a happy mind.

Pack in plant foods

Dietary fibre provides food for the trillions of microbes living in the gut. Gut microbes break down the fibre in fermentation, which produces different metabolites called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) (4). These fascinating compounds serve various functions, which directly impact mood. 
Plant foods are naturally abundant in fibre. According to gut experts, we should aim for 30 different plant foods a week to support the diversity and health of the gut microbiome (5). 
Plant foods include vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans, pulses and peas), whole grains, nuts and seeds, and herbs and spices.
Fibre-rich foods can also help aid regular bowel movements in postpartum, which can provide some relief if needed.

Try live cultures

Live cultures are made up of good bacteria that help the body work optimally. They’re a popular choice for gut health post-pregnancy.

Increase B vitamins

The B vitamins are essential for your emotional health in postpartum. Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) supports normal mental performance, while vitamin B6, biotin, and vitamin B12 contribute to normal psychological function.

You can find the B vitamins in meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, leafy green veggies, legumes, and seeds. Still, you may want to take a comprehensive B complex to support your intake post-pregnancy.

Add magnesium

An essential mineral involved in over 300 biochemical processes, magnesium contributes to normal psychological and nervous system function, making it a great addition for your mood postpartum.
Although whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and cacao powder are excellent sources of magnesium, you may wish to supplement to cover any shortfalls.

Up your iron intake

Iron plays an important role in cognitive function. Studies suggest low levels may contribute to adverse mental health symptoms (6) You lose a lot of iron-containing blood during birth, so staying on top of your intake post-pregnancy is vital.
You can find iron in animal foods like red meat, poultry, pork, fish and seafood, as well as plant-based sources, including nuts, seeds, whole grains, green leafy vegetables and fortified foods. Combining plant iron with a serving of vitamin C can support its absorption.

Aside from increasing dietary iron, you may also wish to take a supplement to provide a reliable intake in postpartum.

Increase iodine

An essential trace mineral, iodine contributes to normal cognitive function and the normal functioning of the nervous system, making it a critical addition during postpartum.
Eggs, dairy, chicken, and fish are good sources of iodine. However, it can be hard to meet your nutritional intake from food alone, especially on a plant-based diet. We recommend taking supplemental iodine as an insurance policy.

Consider a bespoke multivitamin

There’s a lot to think about with a newborn in tow. To make things easier for yourself, you may want to consider taking a bespoke multivitamin with plenty of mood-supporting nutrients, including B vitamins, magnesium, iron, and iodine, as well as other postpartum vitamins and minerals.

Don’t forget healthy fats

Omega-3 essential fatty acids are building blocks of the brain, supporting communication between cells (7).
Although you can find omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds, you may wish to take a high-strength fish oil supplement or vegan alternative derived from plant-based microalgae to plug any nutritional gaps.

Lean on your friends and family

An ancient proverb once said, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. Creating a support network post-pregnancy is essential. It doesn’t need to be big. Just a small circle of reliable friends and family you can lean on. And if you’re struggling, let them know. They love and care about you.

Have faith in yourself  

Motherhood can be daunting. But raising a child is no small feat. Try to have a kinder inner dialogue. Be gentle with yourself. Have faith that your best is always enough.
You may find it helpful to say or write some affirming statements to yourself:

  • I do my best for my child and myself.

  • I allow myself to enjoy this precious time with my baby.

  • I am a strong, brave woman.

  • I have great trust in myself and my capabilities.

  • I can overcome challenges that come my way.

  • I feel confident. I feel safe. I feel secure.


Don’t ignore the warning signs

Feeling low after birth is normal. In most cases, your mood should lift after two weeks. However, if you’re feeling continuously sad or down, it’s worth seeking professional help. Don’t ignore the signs. Acting early can help you receive the best treatment available.

Find out more

If you found this article on supporting mental health in postpartum useful, you can find similar guidance on our health blog. Alternatively, please get in touch with our team of expert Nutrition Advisors, who are on hand to provide free, confidential advice.

  1. , The brain structure, immunometabolic and genetic mechanisms underlying the association between lifestyle and depression.

  2. , , , The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems.

  3. , A review of dietary and microbial connections to depression, anxiety, and stress.

  4. , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Dietary Fiber-Induced Microbial Short Chain Fatty Acids Suppress ILC2-Dependent Airway Inflammation.

  5. Eating 30 Plants per Week: How To Do It and Why.

  6. , The Importance of Marine Omega-3s for Brain Development and the Prevention and Treatment of Behavior, Mood, and Other Brain Disorders.


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Our Author - Olivia Salter


Olivia Salter has always been an avid health nut. After graduating from the University of Bristol, she began working for a nutritional consultancy where she discovered her passion for all things wellness-related. There, she executed much of the company’s content marketing strategy and found her niche in health writing, publishing articles in Women’s Health, Mind Body Green, Thrive and Psychologies.

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