Post-partum depression major challenge

Recently I participated in a workshop focused on supporting women struggling with post-partum depression.

Recently I participated in a workshop focused on supporting women struggling with post-partum depression.

The workshop facilitator was American herbalist, Meryl Kastin Flocchini.

Meryl works with several mid-wives in Idaho supporting women through pregnancy, labour and the months following the birth of their child.

She spoke passionately about recognizing and helping a mom in the throws of post-partum depression, having suffered with it herself.

In the States, Meryl quoted the statistics on women struggling with post-partum depression as being anywhere between four to 25 per cent. She also claimed women who have a caesarean section are at greater risk of depression than women who deliver vaginally.

Because of the wide ranging statistics Meryl quoted, I decided to do some of my own research. According to The Canadian Mental Health Association, 15 to 20 per cent of women in the general population will suffer with post-partum depression.

Thirty per cent of women with a history of depression will experience post-partum depression. Fifty per cent of women who have struggled with post partum depression will be overcome by depression with subsequent births.

If these statistics are correct, post-partum depression is a major challenge for many women, their babies and families in Canada.

In Meryl’s experience, she found that it was difficult for people to understand the profound sadness and anxiety she felt following the birth of her child. Many people told her she should be happy with the blessing of her child.

This did not help Meryl, she only felt guiltier. Guilt is one of the symptoms of post-partum depression.

Some told her it was the baby blues and it would pass if she just pulled herself together. Four months into depression Meryl knew she was feeling more then baby blues.

Many women experience the baby blues shortly after giving birth. They feel sad or anxious, maybe irritable or exhausted.

Many of these are symptoms also occur in post partum depression.

The difference between the baby blues and depression is: the baby blues generally last no longer than a week. Post-partum depression last for months, for some women years.

I also looked into the research on the relationship between caesareans sections and depression. The jury is out.

Some research says there is a definite relationship while other studies find there is no such relationship.

In terms of anecdotal evidence from mom’s who have had a caesarean and post-partum depression, the scales tip towards a relationship.

There are three primary factors at play to trigger depression following a caesarean.

1. During vaginal labour and delivery mom’s brain releases mega doses of the love hormone oxytocin. This hormone supports mother/infant bonding moments after birth.

One of the challenges women struggle with during post-partum depression is difficulty bonding with their new born.

Cesearans reduce the amount of oxytocin available to the new mom’s brain.

2. Immediately following most caesarean deliveries the infant is taken to another room while the mom is stitched up and remains in recovery. This time, immediately after birth is called “The Golden Hour” when nursing is initiated.

Tiny glands in the mom’s breast secret a hormone which smells just like the amniotic fluid the baby has been living in for the past nine months.

It is the scent of this hormone which guides the new born to the breast. Once suckling, a further surge of oxytocin hits the mom’s brain making her feel good.

3. Recovery from a caesarean takes four to eight weeks, depending on how well mom stays off her feet with a new born and possibly other children at home.

Trying to care for a new born when one is struggling to perform basic care for oneself is difficult indeed.

Obviously, if there is a risk to the mother or child, depression or not, a caesarean section is the option to choose.

From the herbal tradition there are many ways to prevent post-partum depression as well support a woman while she struggles to regain perspective and balance after birth.

One mid-wife in Idaho Meryl works with has all her moms take a Vitex agnus-castus tincture during their last month of pregnancy.

Vitex moderates the hormonal swings immediately following labour (which is the possible cause of the baby blues) and supports the woman in regaining emotional balance.

It also is used to make rich breast milk.

In the next column I will explore further ways in which traditional herbal medicine can support women following the birth of her child.

Herbs for Life is written by Abrah Arneson, a local clinical herbalist. It is intended for information purposes only. Readers with a specific medical problem should consult a doctor. For more information, visit Arneson can be reached at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A commercial building, housing two businesses, in Stettler was completed destroyed by a fire Thursday. (Photo courtesy Stettler Regional Fire Department)
Fire destroys commercial building in Stettler

A commercial building just outside of Stettler was destroyed by a fire… Continue reading

Almost half of Alberta's population should have at least one shot by the end of May said Premier Jason Kenney Monday morning.
Alberta poised for economic ‘renaissance’ after pandemic, says premier

Economic recovery is Alberta’s “next big challenge,” says the province’s premier. “It’s… Continue reading

Red Deer has a new welcome sign at the south end at the new entrance from Hwy 2. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Red Deer ranks 241st on MacLean’s Best Communities list

The list features 415 Canadian communities

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, 66, died Tuesday at Chinook Regional Hospital. (Cornerstone Funeral Home)
Lethbridge doctor becomes 7th Alberta health-care worker to die from COVID-19

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, who was 66, died Tuesday at the Chinook Regional Hospital in the southern Alberta city

A FedEx worker loads the 255,600 doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine which came from Europe into a freezer trailer to be transported during the COVID-19 pandemic at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Wednesday, March 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canada’s incoming supply of Moderna vaccine slashed in half through end of April

Procurement Minister Anita Anand says Canada’s incoming vaccine supply from Moderna will… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Have an opinion you'd like to share? Submit letters to the editor through our website, via email or the postal service. (Heather Colpitts/Black Press Media)
Letter: MLAs who are against tougher restrictions have no plan for consequences

The group of UCP MLAs pushing to end lockdowns are exacerbating what… Continue reading

Former Parti Quebecois leader Andre Boisclair leaves the police station after being charged with two counts of sexual assault dating back to 2014, Friday, May 29, 2020, in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Preliminary inquiry in September for ex-PQ leader Boisclair charged with sex assault

MONTREAL — Former Parti Quebecois leader Andre Boisclair will have a preliminary… Continue reading

Three vials of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine are pictured in a new coronavirus, COVID-19, vaccination center at the Velodrome-Stadium in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Sohn, pool
Trudeau sending help to Ontario as Pfizer vaccine supply bolstered by 8 million doses

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says more doses of COVID-19 vaccines are coming… Continue reading

Teachers demonstrate outside a school during a morning walk out in Longueuil, Que., Wednesday, April 14, 2021. Around 73,000 Quebec teachers say they will walk off the job for several hours on April 27. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
73,000 Quebec teachers plan to walk off the job for more than two hours April 27

MONTREAL — Around 73,000 Quebec teachers say they will walk off the… Continue reading

People line up in the rain for a COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up clinic at the Masjid Darus Salaam in the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood in Toronto on Sunday, April 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario science advisers urge six-week stay-home order as province pleads for help

TORONTO — Ontario’s science advisers called for a six-week stay-at-home order and… Continue reading

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, 66, died Tuesday at Chinook Regional Hospital. (Cornerstone Funeral Home)
Lethbridge doctor becomes 7th Alberta health-care worker to die from COVID-19

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, who was 66, died Tuesday at the Chinook Regional Hospital in the southern Alberta city

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney updates media on measures taken to help with COVID-19, in Edmonton on Friday, March 20, 2020. Alberta is set to join three other provinces in exploring the feasibility of small modular reactors as a clean energy option. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Students in Alberta town ready to return to school after quarantining

ATHABASCA, Alta. — A superintendent of schools in northern Alberta says the… Continue reading

Britain’s Prince Charles, with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, visits the gardens of Marlborough House, London, Thursday April 15, 2021, to look at the flowers and messages left by members of the public outside Buckingham Palace, following the death of Prince Philip. (Jeremy Selwyn/Pool via AP)
Princes William, Harry won’t walk side-by-side at funeral

LONDON — Prince William and Prince Harry won’t walk side-by-side Saturday as… Continue reading

Most Read