Post Weaning Depression
This is a much lesser known or talked about issue than post-partum depression.
In fact, the DSM-IV doesn’t distinguish the two diagnoses, I suppose since it is for the most part the same physiology. Here’s what happens: Post-partum, there is a huge dip in the amount of oxytocin produced after the spike from labor and birth that is accompanied by a huge dip in progesterone and estrogen as well. Post-weaning, there is another dip in oxytocin that is accompanied by a huge dip in prolactin (along with some other players but that’s the biggie!).
A mini physiology lesson so you understand why this phenomenon is real and not just an ’emotional mama thing’
Key players for post-weaning depression:
Oxytocin and Prolactin
Oxytocin is the hormone that triggers milk release or ‘let down’ & is the feel-good hormone
Prolactin stimulates milk production and encourages feeling of nurturing and protection
What happens after breastfeeding ceases, is that these hormones are not being pumped through your body, giving you the high-loving-snuggly feelings anymore, and your brain and body feel the lack! Hormone receptors and neurotransmitters have been down-regulated during nursing. Your body needs some good endorphins to make up for it and level out once again! To help boost those:
Have some sex (finally)
Get some sunshine
When Cooper and I really slowed down on the nursing around 16 months, to just a few times per week in our transition to weaning period, I felt a noticeable shift in my energy and moods. I certainly felt the inklings of depression. My husband and I are both in the 1st year throws of starting 2 brick and mortar businesses, plus a toddler…so ya, not everyday is peachy. But this felt different, I am in great tune to my body and it felt so dang off. So during one blah evening, I went googling and found this article that had me sobbing.
I had a lovely pregnancy and lovely nursing relationship (once over the painful first 6-8 weeks), and hadn’t experienced much beyond awesomeness of it all. Until this. And it was pretty dark, just as she explains. I kind of put my head down and got done what I needed to get done. I certainly considered getting clinical help, and even told my husband that I was going to. But me, being a terrible patient – and knowing it’ll take a month or two to get my hormones regulated – just stuck it out. That’s not the advice I would give to others, but it’s what I did. I knew exercise was helpful to boost endorphin production, so I slugged my butt to the gym at 5:15am every morning – just for a half hour workout – to get a little sweaty and feel productive. That helped a LOT!
Just wanted to let others know that you’re not alone, that those dark feelings you’re having may in fact, be due to the final separation of you and baby/toddler. That it will be ok, and you can overcome it with tools you can use, and with the help from a professional. To let someone else know what is going on, so they can be on your side.
Here are some other great articles – please read and share!
Anyone else experience this, what’s your story?