Post-Natal Depression Has Been Hard-Hitting For These Celebrity Mothers

Affecting up to 15% of new mothers, post-natal depression has been a hard-hitting horror for celebrity mothers such as Courtney Cox, Gwyneth Paltrow and Hayden Panettiere and Amanda Peet. Today science is finding new insights into this debilitating disorder.

Inflammation and Post-Natal Depression

Inflammation and the immune system appear to play a key role in in post-natal depression according to the latest research. American Naturopathic Doctor, Jolene Brighten, is a huge advocate for postpartum mothers: “Chronic, systemic inflammation is at the root of many chronic conditions, including depression and autoimmune disease. It is the catalyst for physical pain, fatigue, and a laundry list of symptoms, but inflammation also has the capacity to alter your neurotransmitters, which determine mood, energy levels, and impact memory. This inflammation can also impact baby’s brain development and cause postpartum depression.

Serotonin is the neurotransmitter most associated with feeling happy. When all is well in the body, the amino acid tryptophan is turned into serotonin. But when the body is inflamed, tryptophan takes a trip down a different pathway to create kynurenic acid and quinolinic acid at the expense of serotonin. This creates multiple problems. First, you are no longer producing the happy neurotransmitter, serotonin. Second, you are producing a neurotoxin (quinolinic acid) that has been associated with depression.”

Psychiatrist Dr Kelly Brogan comments on the paper, “Homocysteine and serotonin: Association with Postpartum Depression. Here, researchers state what I’ve come to believe is the most promising gauge of risk to baby and mother: elevated inflammatory markers. They state, “One of the biological factors for PPD may be higher levels of homocysteine”. Homocysteine is a good candidate marker for a complex inflammatory syndrome that likely involves diet and environment-driven immune reactivity inside and outside the brain.”

High levels of homocysteine can interfere with the:

  • Production of myelin around nerve sheaths
  • Production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine
  • Support of nerve cell membranes
  • Management of oxidative stress

“A number of studies have implicated the immune system (responsive to oxidative stress signals) in post-natal depression. Theories of immune response have evolved to account for the interplay between genetics, environmental triggers, and hormones… What we have here is an opportunity to resolve and prevent complex neuroendocrine phenomenon through diet, environmental exposure modification, and stress response, while also supporting a health pregnancy, birth, and postpartum recovery.”

Diet: I recommend a diet that controls for glycemic fluctuations through elimination of refined carbs and grains, and through high levels of natural fats to push the body to relearn how to use fats for fuel.

Useful Supplements: 

  • Evening primrose oil contains GLA which supports overall hormone function.
  • Vitamin D3 is essential for healthy hormone production.
  • N-acetylcysteine supports healthy hormone balance.
  • Magnesium is essential for reproductive health and calms the nervous system.
  • Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory.
  • Fish oil. Omega-3 supports good brain chemistry. This paper suggests that DHA specifically, and at lower rather than higher doses, may perform antioxidant roles.
  • Probiotics lower inflammation and support healthy hormone production.
  • Vitamin B’s specifically B12, B9, and B6 are directly involved in the recycling of homocysteine. Hence, low intake of these nutrients can promote inflammation and mood destabilization.
  • Passionflower and skullcap support healthy serotonin production by reducing quinolinic acid production.

Stress Suppresses the Feel Good Hormone

The feel good chemical oxytocin could play a vital role in preventing post-natal depression. Today science is supporting mother’s instincts. By drawing her baby to her chest within minutes after birth, a mother experiences the largest surge of oxytocin ever recorded within humans. Oxytocin is the love and bonding hormone, the more a mother has her baby skin-to-skin, breastfeeds, and carries the baby on her chest, the more she is flooded with this blissful hormone. Unfortunately today many hospitals still conduct the practice of separating mother and baby soon after birth, relocating the infant to a nursery. This practice can be one of the key catalysts for postnatal depression.

Women are 23 per cent more likely to be admitted to a psychiatric unit in the 18 months after giving birth than at any other time in their lives, with suicide being a leading cause of maternal death in the UK.

Scientists have now found pregnant women with low levels of oxytocin in the last trimester may be prone to post natal depression. Psychologists at the University of Basel in Switzerland found a link between the disorder and levels of oxytocin. The report said, “…enhancing oxytocin release during pregnancy could serve as a potential target in prevention, and help to minimise adverse effects of post-natal depression on the mother–child relationship.”

According to gynaecologist Dr Sara Gottfried of the US, “Cortisol, one of your life-saving hormones, is an immediate responder in times of danger and stress. Chronic high cortisol can also lead to rapid aging, loneliness, depression, adrenal fatigue and burnout and then chronically low levels of cortisol. These symptoms are also a sign of low oxytocin. Oxytocin and cortisol oppose each other.”

Apart from skin-to-skin and co-sleeping with your baby, social support during times of stress appeared to increase oxytocin, which simultaneously decreased the level of the stress hormone cortisol, according to a study in Biological Psychiatry.

Hayden Panettiere told Marie Claire UK, “There’s a lot of misunderstanding. There’s a lot of people out there that think that it’s not real, that it’s not true, that it’s something that’s made up in their minds, that ‘Oh, it’s hormones.’ They brush it off. It’s something that’s completely uncontrollable. It’s really painful and it’s really scary and women need a lot of support. It’s something that needs to be talked about. Women need to know that they’re not alone, and that it does heal.”

Hayden and baby Kaya copy - post natal depression
Gwyneth Paltrow told Vogue UK, “At my lowest, I was a robot. I just didn’t feel anything. I had no maternal instincts for him it was awful. I couldn’t connect, and still, when I look at pictures of him at three months old, I don’t remember that time.”

Gwynneth Paltrow Photo: Post-Natal depression
Gwynneth Paltrow Photo: Entertainment Press / Shutterstock.com

Courtney Cox told USA Today, ‘I went through a really hard time — not right after the baby, but when (Coco) turned 6 months. I couldn’t sleep. My heart was racing. And I got really depressed. I went to the doctor and found out my hormones had been pummeled.’

Courtney Cox affected by post-natal depression

Amanda Peet told Gotham Magazine, “I had a fairly serious post-natal depression.”

Amanda Peet