Cure Postpartum Depression Naturally 

A Case Study 

It’s midnight but the glorious moon is shining through the window pane of my hospital room. I am sitting propped up on my bed and I have just finished nursing one of my twins. As my three-day-young baby finishes feeding, a slight curve of a smile touches his lips. I trace his cheek gently and hand him over to the nurse. She puts the baby on her shoulder and delicately massages his back till he burps.

As the nurse walks away with the baby to the nursery another nurse brings the other twin. Her impatient wails tug at my heart and I clutch her immediately. She nurses hungrily and sleeps midway. I gently nudge her so that she could finish nursing. I succeed and she latches once again. This time not so hungrily. Soon she falls asleep. I hold her with exquisite tenderness marveling at the fact that till three days ago she was inside me and now I am holding her in my arms.

The nurse steps ahead and promptly takes the little one from my arms. “Get some rest,” she advises in a friendly tone. I couldn’t agree more.

My head hits the pillow and I reconcile to a fitful sleep. Hours later I wake up feeling suffocated. I rush out of the room and midway meet a pediatrician on the rounds.

For 30 minutes we stayed outside, beneath the star-spangled sky. I was blank.  Then I come back to my room but now I am too scared to sleep. I don’t want to feel suffocated once again!

I thought I should count till 10 backward to induce sleep. Then I counted till 100 in reverse. Later from 1000 to 1. Nothing worked. It was 6 in the morning and I have not slept a wink.

This continued for 2o days. Out of sheer desperation, my doctors tried to give me sleeping pills.

But, it was such a tedious process. I had to drain all my milk for the twins because I could not feed my babies tranquilizer-induced milk. Moreover, the quality of sleep was poor like a daze. Yoga Nidra helped me survive that ordeal of sleeplessness.

Still, 21 days without sleep and I had reached my wit’s end. I wanted to sleep like a baby, just the way my twins did.

And, I decided to explore Ayurveda for treating my postpartum depression’s manifestation in sleeplessness. It was my good fortune that I happened to meet Dr. Gangadharan.

Postpartum Depression in Ayurveda in the words of  Dr. Gangadharan

When Gunjan came to see me, there were dark shadows looming below her eyes. She looked sad to me and didn’t even have the energy to hold her baby.

“I haven’t slept for 20 days,” she said to me.

“When did you deliver the baby?” I asked.

“24 days ago,” she replied. “I have twins. I need the energy to take care of those.”

“How was your pregnancy?” I asked Gunjan. I needed to understand the developments in detail.

“Uneventful. I worked until the last day. My twins were born at 37 weeks. Throughout my pregnancy I ate healthy, did Vipassana meditation and exercised as per my doctor’s advice,” said Gunjan.

“Why am I suffering from insomnia and depression at such a beautiful stage of my life,” asked she. Her question sprang out as a torment. She was incapable of soaking in the precious moments of her life.

Dr. Gangadharan explained to Gunjan the concept of tridoshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Vitiation of any dosha can cause imbalance, disorder either physical or mental in the human body.

From Ayurveda’s perspective depression is largely a Kapha dosha, but during childbirth vata dosha dominates. Vata in the body controls movements and change. During childbirth, a woman’s body undergoes an extreme change which affects her in the body and the mind. Post-childbirth, progesterone and estrogen, the primary sex hormones in a woman dip. Thyroid hormone too follows the same path and it drops.

These hormonal changes can leave a woman tired, depressed and she experiences symptoms like tremendous anxiety, guilt, paranoia, and catastrophic ideation. The classic symptom of Vata induced depression is insomnia or fitful sleep. Her speech may become incoherent. She may become forgetful and distracted.

Initially, the brain’s electrochemistry has an erratic overreaction (vata imbalance), which triggers a loss of enzymatic activity in the metabolism (pitta imbalance). Kapha responds by trying to keep everything down, bringing about heaviness, darkness, and stagnation, which the mind-body interprets as the negative message of hopelessness and depression.

In order to reach the core problem of Kapha imbalance associated with depression, the doctor has to pierce the veil of predominant doshas like Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Like in childbirth the dominant outer dosha is Vata. In other cases, it can be Pitta or even Kapha.

For patients suffering from postpartum depression, Brahmi oil, and ghee are liberally used in the treatment. Warm liquids like Brahmi tea help correct the dosha imbalance in patients suffering from postpartum depression. Since patients become forgetful, caregivers have to ensure that the patients take their medicines as prescribed.

Ayurveda prescribes Saraswatarishtam (20 ml) daily after lunch and dinner. Oiling and sweating using Brahmi oil will help calm the Prana Vayu or life force Shirodhara or gently pouring of medicated oil on forehead also help in calming the mind.

For Gunjan, massaging the head and soles of her feet twice a day with Brahmi oil and two pills of Manasamritvatakam taken with warm milk at bedtime did the trick to help her sleep like a baby once again. With the help of Ayurveda Gunjan was able to cure postpartum depression naturally. 

Prof. Dr. G.G. Gangadharan

Ayurvedacharya, FAIP (USA), Ph.D., Master of Mgmt. (McGill, Canada).
Prof. Dr. G. G. Gangadharan, a practicing Ayurvedic physician who is currently the Director of Ramaiah Indic Specialty Ayurveda - Restoration Hospital (R-ISA), Bengaluru, India. He is an expert on authentic Ayurvedic methods of diagnosis, especially the pulse diagnosis.