Postpartum can be quite a ride as our bodies adjust to sudden drops in some hormones and sudden rises in others that is exacerbated by interrupted sleep. For many moms, this leads to some increased weepiness and irritability in the first few weeks, commonly referred to as the "baby blues", however for many other moms, this lasts much longer than just the first few weeks and can quickly turn into something longer lasting like PPA or PPD.
If your mood swings, feelings of sadness, or worried thoughts are lasting beyond the first 6 weeks postpartum and/or are impacting your quality of life, your sleep, or your mental health then speaking to your doctor or midwife needs to be your first step. The herbs that I mention in this post are meant to be used for very mild symptoms and as part of a holistic protocol if you are struggling with something deeper.
All of the herbs that I mention in this post are breastfeeding safe, and have a great safety record as they have been used for centuries for the support of new moms!
This herb, which translates quite literally to “herb for mothers” has been used for thousands of years in many countries across the globe for the purpose of supporting mothers during and after birth. The ancient Greeks recommended it for anxiety during pregnancy while modern western herbalists often use it mood stability in cases of PMS. Motherwort is a phenomenal ally if you are dealing with anxious feelings especially if they come paired with heart palpitations, or if the general stress of taking care of a newborn is starting to feel overwhelming.
As a bonus, if you are very freshly postpartum and suffering through the dreaded after-pains that come along with the uterus shrinking back to usual size, Motherwort is again a go-to herbal ally! As a uterine tonic and general antispasmodic Motherwort helps to make the cramping more manageable and effective.
Motherwort is a very bitter herb, so it’s not one to cozy up with as a tea. I generally recommend taking it in tincture form, diluted in a few ounces of water or juice. The best results are seen over time, and this is a safe, long-term herb.
The traditional nickname of Lemon Balm is “the gladdening herb” and as part of the mint family it lives up to that name with a sweet and bright flavor. Lemon balm is an uplifting herb that is traditionally used in tea form for help with relaxation before bed, especially if restlessness is keeping you up at night. It is also a well-known herb for reducing anxious feelings throughout the day, especially if they pair with digestive problems.
I recommend this to clients to be taken as a tea in the evenings as part of a calming bedtime routine. Even if you are in the thick of newborn cluster feedings and crazy sleep schedules and you can’t do a full routine, simply taking a few minutes out to drink something warm and soothing can go a long way toward improving your mood and mental health!
This herb has always intrigued me, as to me, the name seems to signify brightness and energy, but the actions of this herb are more restful and sedating. I think this paradox can also describe how helpful this herb is for new mamas. It’s a strange new world when we become mothers and we are so sleep deprived we feel like we could fall asleep anywhere, but sometimes we find that when we finally have a chance we simply can’t get to sleep! Passionflower is especially indicated if your sleepy time troubles are tied to racing, anxious thoughts.
Another bitter herb, I recommend that this also be taken as a tincture diluted in a few ounces of water or juice to improve sleep and quiet those worries.
St. John’s Wort
Although I saved this herb for last, it is certainly NOT the least in our discussion today! St. John’s Wort is the most extensively studied herb for the treatment of depression and is used as the first-line treatment in many European countries! A 2008 Cochrane review found St. John’s Wort to be as effective as common anti-depressents while having fewer side effects.
Side note: If you are having any symptoms of PPD I do not recommend self-medicating, even with herbs. This is the time to get your doctors and spouse or other close friend or family members on board to provide an objective measurement of how you are doing. However, I do think that due to the extensive research backing this herb, this is a great option to bring to your doctor as you craft your plan together!
St. John’s Wort is typically taken in capsule or tincture form and is best used for a set time as part of a comprehensive protocol.
Have you tried any of these herbs before? I would love to know which one(s) and what you thought about it!