Creating and carrying a baby is hard work. There’s no way around it. But, as any mother knows, the work doesn’t end when the baby is delivered — far from it. For so many moms, the hardships that come with caring for a new baby are lessened because of just how much you love that baby. In fact, that love is so intense that it clouds other things too, like how much mom needs to be cared for.

While there’s definitely a spectrum for postpartum depression, all moms go through hormonal changes during pregnancy and postpartum. These changes, while much more intense for some, can produce a myriad of concerns, ranging from constant exhaustion, weight gain, anxiety, and an inability to sleep. Unfortunately, most moms believe that all of these feelings and symptoms are “normal”, and their passion and determination to be the “best mom” possible drives them to power through, waiting patiently for things to (hopefully) sort themselves out.

What exactly happens that causes all of these changes?

In general, the body becomes deprived of Vitamin D and Vitamin B12 during pregnancy. And, because of the physical stress that comes with actually creating a baby, the body’s cortisol levels elevate. When this happens, thyroid hormone conversion is blocked, causing so many of the issues that happen across the postpartum spectrum for moms.

One of the biggest concerns is that new moms typically only have one follow up check up after giving birth. Once she’s cleared at that six-week mark, she’s normally left to fend for herself. And, even if she feels overly exhausted or anxious, she’ll rarely seek help since all of these “normal” symptoms have become so accepted by today’s culture. The result is that a huge percentage of moms in our country are left struggling, hoping things will improve even though what tends to happen is that the symptoms don’t improve long-term; instead, moms just get used to how they feel.

Thankfully, once you connect the dots between hormones and postpartum depression across the spectrum, there really is a lot you can do, especially if you choose to take a functional medicine approach. Full recovery after giving birth really is possible with the right nutrition and taking care to re-balance the hormones after labor and delivery.

The key is making sure that new moms know that there is help available and that feeling “off” doesn’t have to be normal — it’s not! Small changes in diet and nutrition can play a huge role in starting to feel like “you” again. Things like eating more cruciferous vegetables and taking a high-quality B-complex vitamin can shift your imbalanced hormones rather quickly! At every meal, new moms should focus on taking in the nutrients they really need, which means finding ways to regularly eat plenty of fiber, fat, protein, and leafy greens.

Of course, each and every situation is unique when it comes to postpartum health. Working one-on-one with an expert you trust is really key to getting back to feeling your best!