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Postpartum Testing: Essential Tests to Support Your Mental Health

Postpartum depression and/or anxiety can affect numerous women. It is crucial that mothers have a healthcare team that will support them and offer them care once the baby is born. I feel most of the attention is on the new baby, and not the mother. I did have challenges with my mental health once my baby was born. I gathered a team of healthcare providers to help me overcome this challenging part of motherhood.

Whether you are under the care of a midwife or an obstetrician, they should be offering you a postpartum visit to follow up on your health. If they do not ask you about your mental health, and you are struggling, please do not hesitate to mention it. Getting blood tests in the fourth trimester is important (the first three months postpartum). Having the following laboratory tests can be helpful to better understand why your mental health may be a challenge:

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC)

  • Ferritin (iron reserves)

  • Iron

  • Thyroid panel:

  • Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)

  • Free T3

  • Free T4

  • Anti-TPO (an antibody to rule out autoimmune thyroiditis)

  • Vitamin B12

  • Additional testing can include fasting glucose if you were diagnosed with gestational diabetes. If you have developed joint pains, please ask to order some autoimmune markers to rule out possible autoimmune diseases.

The above tests can all affect our mental health. It is important to rule out anemia (low iron) and thyroid conditions. I also recommend working with a healthcare provider that is trained to interpret laboratory results by using optimal ranges. For example, your ferritin (iron reserves) may be in the normal range but is actually in the lower part of the range. Optimizing some of these levels can improve your energy, your mental health and help you feel better overall. If your healthcare provider will not order the above tests and you are struggling with your health, please reach out to someone who will.

Further testing through a Naturopathic Doctor can include Vitamin D testing and micronutrient testing (assessment of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants), which are both blood tests.

Naturopathic Medicine offers a variety of treatment options to help with postpartum mental health challenges. Having suffered from this myself, I am grateful to have had access to many resources. Some natural treatment options can include a regular exercise routine (even if it is only gentle walks), being in nature, eating a balanced diet rich in protein and healthy fats, and limiting processed foods and refined sugars. Increasing water intake and limiting caffeine can also be helpful. There are a variety of supplements that may be indicated; however, it is beneficial to have your lab testing completed in case some of those nutrients need to be optimized. Before starting any supplements, it is best to discuss them with a licensed healthcare provider.

As an advocate for maternal mental health, my goal is to empower and educate mothers to overcome their challenges in the postpartum period. No mother should struggle in silence, feel guilty or ashamed about their feelings. The new baby needs to be celebrated, but the sacred transition of a woman becoming a mother must also be acknowledged. It is essential for both mother and baby to be nurtured. Women need to be empowered and educated regarding this transition. I am grateful for my challenging experience with postpartum depression, as it has helped me become more compassionate and empathetic towards myself, and others.

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