Whilst it is not my place to demand anything from your doctor or health care team, however, I do feel like ascertaining baseline blood work is a great and important part in;
+ identifying other possible underlying health conditions
+ underlying deficiencies or
+ underlying imbalances that may be corrected, in order to help you as a person in your entirety.
I definitely would advocate for requesting one in order to help the differential diagnosis process to help correct any imbalance from the outset to treat you holistically.
It almost feels like seeing all of your cards on the table so you know the full picture of the game (not a fun game though!)
What could they possibly find?
The symptoms of anxiety, depression, low energy, rage and insomnia of post-natal depression (amongst others of course!) may be caused by an underlying health condition, medication or nutritive imbalance that may be seen from blood tests.
Some examples can include;
- hypothyroidism (low thyroid) or hyperthyroidism (over active thyroid)
- nutritional imbalances; such as iron or B6
- alcohol and illicit drug use/misuse
- adverse effects of certain medications (such as corticosteroids)
- adrenal related conditions or imbalances
Doctors can rule out other underlying conditions that may be causing your anxiety and depression symptoms. They can review your medications and past medical history and make a diagnosis from all of this information provided to them.
I would also say that it is imperative to be completely honest with each and every symptom that you have, and to not hide or embellish the truth of your situation…as every piece in the puzzle they can connect, will help look at your situation as a whole and help you walk towards your recovery.
Whilst mental health conditions may not always have a ‘black or white’ type aspect with biochemical markers as other conditions, however, being able to rule out other causes is a great way to ascertain exactly what is happening or removing any possible causes for how you are feeling.
Whilst I did not undertake extensive blood testing prior to pregnancy, during or after giving birth whilst being unwell; I recently did embark upon seeing an Integrative GP where I had a number of biochemical testing completed.
The results indicated a whole host of ‘potential’ markers as possible predispositions for my post-natal depression, though not scientifically proven…hence the word potential. Theoretically and logically a lot of the markers illustrate an underlying nutritive picture, that may have been early warning signs of my ‘candidature’ of falling prey to post-natal depression.
I wonder (with my pharmacist and scientific mind), what would it have possibly looked like if I had corrected these underlying imbalances prior to falling pregnant?
Would I not have had post-natal depression? (Not that I am going to experiment by having a third baby!)
Would it not have been such a hard and dark fall into it?
Would I have recovered sooner?
Were they levels, that had they been ‘normal’, would not have sent my system into a ‘crash and burn’ once the hormonal changes from pregnancy to breastfeeding came on?
All questions in my mind that remain to be answered.
I would love to see more research and investigation into this, for our women moving forward.
I know that I had all of my ‘standardised tests’ that were mainstream for pre-pregnancy and pregnancy screening, but I am so curious as to what in-depth screening may have found…and what difference to the outcome it may have allowed.
Or were my levels only at this point after birthing both children and as a result of the impact of PND and motherhood on my system? Without knowing baseline pre-pregnancy levels, we will never know this answer!
However, my tests were very costly and most were not subsidised by Medicare, so until the cause and effect correlation can be ascertained, it still is a ‘theory’ and its benefit over cost ratio would need to be finalised.
Having said that, if there was a way to minimise or mitigate the depth of darkness, suffering and hell I was in (and therefore my whole family), then I would have jumped on board in accepting it!
Each moment of suffering in my PND felt like days, my days felt like a lifetime…and my weeks felt like an eternity…for all of us.
It could also have been what took my precious life…this is the reality (and unspoken truth) of post-natal depression; which is why I am doing what I am doing. To shine the light on a condition that is not spoken about with honesty and transparency, in order to prevent any more lives being lost or families being torn apart by this condition.
So, what exactly did my in-depth biochemical markers indicate?
- low levels of GABA (inhibitory neurotransmitter); which has been correlated with being produced by our gut microbiome, and low levels can be associated with anxiety
- low serotonin
- low tryptophan
- low morning cortisol
- low magnesium
- low zinc
- low iodine
- low selenium
- pyroluria (producing excess kryptopyrroles that bind to vitamin B6 and zinc to cause low levels of these; this is a hugely contentious topic in the medical field, so acknowledge this)
- MTFHR mutation (causing trouble with methylation of B-group vitamins)
- gluten intolerance/sensitivity
- high oxalates
- low B6
- oestrogen dominance
- two strains of high levels of bacteria in my gut that required treatment
As to what specifically in these biochemical markers could have been rebalanced prior to pregnancy and what effect it would have on the outcome post-birth, is so fascinating!
Imagine the change in landscape moving forward in this whole arena, if measurable and quantifiable markers could be shown and managed. I am truly so excited about this potentiality! (now to find some researchers to undertake this…anyone?!)
I guess for now, until we can research more into this aspect…my short answer (haha I don’t often give those!), about having blood tests would be, to chat with your doctor and/or obstetrician as to whether blood tests may offer more insights into any underlying conditions that may be causing or contributing to your post-natal depression symptoms.
After having gone through it twice, my aim is to share all of my information, however big or small, to give you even tiny pieces of wisdom, insights, clues or respite into how you are feeling!
I remember, I would have listened to anyone who could have helped me because of how alone…isolated…and stuck I felt. I remember thinking I was the only person in the world going through this, because I had not known anybody who went through the same experience.
I then vowed upon my recovery, that I would do everything and anything I could to help SHINE THE LIGHT on a condition filled with so much darkness…silence…and pain, to do everything in my power to help as many women and their families walk through this journey of recovery with so much more ease and grace than we did.
Hopefully this has been helpful!