What causes postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression is directly associated with an imbalance between several components, including lowered BDNF and serotonin concentrations, widespread inflammation, an exaggerated stress response, and elevated oxidative stress.

How can Full Spec. CBD help?

CBD is studied to effectively support healthy serotonin activity, increase BDNF expression, inhibit inflammation and the stress response, and combat oxidative stress.

How can Immune Stack help?

Immune Stack is a potent antioxidant complex plus mushroom magic. Psilocybin mushrooms, Chaga, Cordyceps, Turmeric, Cinnamon, and Vitamin B3 balance an overactive immune response, support healthy inflammation, neutralize free radicals, and support the body during periods of stress. Cordyceps improves libido and fertility. Psilocybin helps restore functional brain connectivity in the hippocampus and pre-frontal cortex 3 ways: 1. by stimulating the creation and growth of new, more adaptable brain networks; 2. by promoting BDNF expression; and 3. by promoting healthy serotonin activity, especially in regions regulating executive functions.

Congratulations, new mama.

Your body is miraculous. It’s gone through physical and hormonal changes to bring life into the world, and it will continue to provide for your baby.

While postpartum changes to your biological chemistry are normal and expected, an inflammatory immune response, overactive HPA Axis, neurotransmitter imbalance, and overproduction of free radicals can occur.

These imbalances are exacerbated by the stressors of postpartum life. Ongoing, they can trigger baby blues or postpartum depression — which occurs in 15%–20% of women during the first year after giving birth.

In this article, we present our research on how the ingredients in two of our products — Full Spec. CBD and Immune Stack — work synergistically to mitigate postpartum stress chemistry and restore balance across several major biological systems. Find them both in Get Up + Glow, two of our most loved products paired for cellular care.

Together, they are clinically studied to support your body’s own ability to maintain homeostasis, balance a healthy immune response, promote healthy serotonin activity, upregulate the production of BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor), and neutralize free radicals and oxidative stress.

Let's dive in.

What causes PPD?

It’s Not You. It’s A Biological Thing.

Pregnancy, labor, and childbirth generate excessive free radicals, leading to an overwhelming antioxidant imbalance. It’s a natural byproduct due to increased metabolic needs, but certain factors can exacerbate ROS (reactive oxygen species, or free radicals) production. Overproduction of ROS and oxidative stress leads to apoptosis (cell death), and mitochondrial dysfunction.

Mitochondrial dysfunction in turn leads to decreased ATP production and causes neuronal inflammation and brain cell death. This can consequently lead to worsening depression and increase the probability of cardiovascular disease.

Serotonin levels also drop post-pregnancy. This essential neurotransmitter is involved in mood, cognition, energy, metabolism, gut health, immune function, and sleep. Also, without serotonin’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity, oxidative stress and inflammation continue.

PPD and the Stress-Immunity Axis

At the same time, there are two other systems that are critically implicated: your innate immune system and HPA Axis, which controls your stress response.

In healthy postpartum women, the inflammatory immune response is stimulated by labor and delivery. Over the next weeks to months, a woman recovers from childbirth, and inflammation regresses.

HPA axis function, although elevated early on, becomes hyporesponsive following delivery, normalizing stress hormone levels by about 12 weeks. With recovery, the HPA Axis assists in limiting inflammation. Together, these steps assure normal postpartum emotional regulation.

With women who develop PPD, the pro-inflammatory response is exaggerated, the HPA axis function is not adequately suppressed, or both conditions occur.

An exaggerated proinflammatory response is characterized by fatigue, poor sleep, poor appetite, and depressed mood. HPA axis hyperactivity would be associated with agitation, dysphoria, insomnia, and anorexia. And we see worsening symptoms because the HPA’s demands are now impacting the balance of other hormones (such as estrogen, progesterone and pregnenolone) in favor of creating more cortisol.

Everything is chemistry. Let us help you with yours.

Get Up + Glow is synergistic cellular care, formulated with ingredients that are clinically studied to support your body during periods of stress.

We listed the four most prevalent and disruptive risk factors that lead to postpartum depression below, along with clinical evidence on how our gold-star ingredients are studied to mitigate postpartum chemistry:

Functional Brain Connectivity

Stress, depression, and oxidative stress during postpartum life can disrupt neurotrophic factor production and impair links between regions that share functional properties, causing the brain to atrophy (shrink).

A 2021 study of 104 pregnant women and 60 non-pregnant women as controls found significant changes in BDNF levels in depressed pregnant women. BDNF was also lower in the postpartum depression group at 6 weeks after delivery compared to other groups. In the postpartum depression-recovery group, BDNF concentration increased at 6 weeks after delivery.

A 2022 study of 138 women with PPD, some with anxiety, demonstrated that altered functional connectivity was closely associated with the degree of depression and anxiety. It is the first study to identify common and disorder-specific neural disruptions in PPD.

Decreased BDFN expression and functional connectivity can manifest as:

  • brain fog
  • impaired cognition
  • disrupted memory formation
  • mood disorders
  • inability to concentrate
  • low mood or depression
  • anxiety
  • nervousness
  • irritability
  • oversleeping
  • weight gain

Studies on CBD and Psilocybin, found in Immune Stack, demonstrate their ability to upregulate neurotrophic factors, stimulate neurogenesis, enhance neuroplasticity, and amplify synaptic plasticity to restore functional brain connectivity and improve mood, memory, focus, mental stamina, alertness, and processing.

A 2013 study also showed that Cinnamon, and its metabolite sodium benzoate upregulate the neurotropic factors BDNF (brain-derived neurotropic factors).

Serotonin Levels

As stressful events like pregnancy and childbirth occur, the brain can struggle to make enough serotonin to meet the new demands.

This can reveal itself as:

  • cognitive decline
  • mood disorders
  • fatigue
  • anxiety
  • poor memory
  • depression
  • slow metabolism
  • gut issues, including IBS
  • dementia
  • irritability
  • impulsive behavior
  • aggression
  • inflammation
  • insomnia

Psilocybin and Full Spec. CBD promote serotonin activity in the gut and brain to promote cognition, brighten mood, bring calming energy, support gut health, and improve sleep quality.

CBD has a particular affinity for serotonin 5-HT1A receptors, whose activity is greatly reduced postpartum. In addition to playing a role in mood and cognition, they mediate neurogenesis and neuroplasticity in the hippocampus — which has a major role in learning and memory.

Many studies demonstrate this affinity for 5-HT1A, along with its potential benefits and clinical applications. A 2013 study found that CBD significantly reduced anxiety by activating 5-HT1A receptors and rescuing impaired receptors under neuropathic pain conditions.

Psilocybin, on the other hand, has a particular affinity for 5-HT2A receptors. In addition to playing an essential role in learning and cognition, 5-HT2A receptors mediate neurogenesis in the hippocampus and pre-frontal cortex (PFC). The PFC plays many roles, one of the most important is executive function, or the ability to self-regulate and plan ahead. Examples of executive function include:

  • controlling your behavior and impulses
  • delaying instant gratification
  • regulating your emotions
  • planning
  • decision making
  • problem-solving

In a 2021 study, researchers discovered that the density of new brain structures in both the hippocampus and PFC were dramatically increased after a single large dose of psilocybin. They believe that the spontaneous burst of 5-HT2A activity led to the sudden and rapid growth and restructuring of new brain networks, with effects observed past the trip itself.

Innate Immunity and the Stress Response

The stress response is made up of two parts, both of which CBD helps restore balance to:

  • Innate immunity, which is general, non-specific, and is your first line of defense against stress — physical and psychological. When you're stressed or your body detects a threat to its survival, your innate immunity triggers inflammation as your first line of defense.
  • Your Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) Axis, which triggers cortisol to help regulate inflammation, balance energy, and enhance cognition.

However, sometimes the stress response can be inappropriate, excessive, or prolonged; in which case, it can hinder rather than help in coping with the stressor, impair normal functioning, and increase the risk of somatic and mental health disorders.

These two biological systems remain in flux postpartum.

It impacts mood, brain, hormones, skin, gut, and immunity, and can reveal itself as:

  • fatigue
  • poor sleep
  • poor appetite
  • depressed mood
  • agitation
  • dysphoria
  • insomnia
  • eating disorders

Full Spec. CBD is clinically studied to activate, align, and restore systems that inhibit the stress response, support a healthy immune response, and bring your body back to homeostasis.

There have been seven double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trials of CBD for stress on a combined total of 232 participants and one partially controlled study on 120 participants.

All showed that CBD was effective in significantly reducing the stress response and was non-inferior to pharmaceuticals, when included.

The clinical trial results are supported by the established mechanisms of action of CBD (including increased anandamide levels) and extensive real-world and preclinical evidence of the effectiveness of CBD for treating stress.

Traditionally known as "Himalayan Viagra," Cordyceps is known to improve libido and fertility. These actions are attributed to its potent antioxidant activity, in addition to its ability to support adrenal function and inhibit an exaggerated immune response. We present the clinical evidence in an article on Cordyceps and libido. Find it in Immune Stack.

Chaga in particular is studied to support healthy immune function and inhibit an exaggerated immune response, which is characterized by fatigue, poor sleep, poor appetite, and depressed mood. Find it in Immune Stack.

Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress is the root cause of accelerated aging and degenerative disease, and plays a role in more than 100 diseases, including cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and psychiatric problems.

Excessive oxidative aggression and free radical formation occur during pregnancy, labor, and childbirth. Oxidative stress follows, playing a significant role in the development of major depression due to damage and cell death it causes.

A 2018 study investigated the effects of an antioxidant imbalance on 80 pregnant women. They assessed participants for postpartum blues and postpartum depressive symptoms 3 days, then 4 - 6 weeks after delivery, then analyzed the relationship between oxidative stress and depressive symptoms.

Results showed that oxidative stress plays an important role in the pathogenesis of postpartum depression and suggests the importance of antioxidants use in diet among high-risk pregnant women.

Mitochondria dysfunction is also directly associated with increasing levels of oxidative stress, impacting ATP production (cellular energy currency), and with it cardiovascular and respiratory health. Depression is associated with decreased activity of enzymes involved in respiratory chain, decreased ATP production, and other mitochondrial dysfunctions.

Oxidative stress also:

  • Affects BDNF expression, a protein that creates, grows, and protects new brain cells.
  • Lowers serotonin receptor sensitivity, impacting mood, cognition, and inhibiting the creation of new serotonin receptors

A 2020 study showed that CBD was able to reduce oxidative stress by reversing mitochondrial dysregulation and reactive oxygen species generation. Another 2020 study showed that CBD also reduces oxidative stress by preventing the formation of superoxide radicals.

A 2010 study showed that CBD attenuated myocardial dysfunction, cardiac fibrosis, oxidative/nitrative stress, inflammation, cell death, and interrelated signaling pathways. And yet another 2011 study reports that the antioxidant properties of CBD prevent cell death in cultured human and mouse cells.

Immune Stack delivers a potent antioxidant complex to neutralize free radicals and restore mitochondrial function. We've written extensively about the antioxidant benefits of the two bioactive adaptogenic mushrooms, Chaga and Cordyceps, in the articles below:

Related Reading: 5 Reasons to Use Cordyceps for Daily Health, Backed by Science

Related Reading: Horny Science: How Cordyceps Boosts Libido and Fertility in Men and Women

Related Reading: Chaga Mushrooms: Are They Healthy?

Why Get Up + Glow?

Get Up + Glow delivers critical nutrients to help alleviate the emotional, mental, hormonal, and physical manifestations of postpartum life. Just two products — Full Spec. CBD and Immune Stack — help promote your body’s ability to cope with stress and recover from it, restore vital brain chemistry, and bring you back to homeostasis.

It helps -

► promote neurogenesis and synaptogenesis
► protect from oxidative stress and inflammation
► balance an overactive immune system and stress response

It supports -

► mood, memory, concentration, and healthy cognitive aging
► reduced irritability, anxiety, and depression
► cell health, metabolism, and energy balance

Take 2 – 4 caps in the AM for 4 days, followed by a 3 day break. Commit and you should see transformational results in your mood, cognition, and vitality within 6 weeks.

Final remarks.

Postpartum depression is associated with an imbalance between several components, including lowered BDNF concentrations and serotonin, elevated oxidative stress, an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines, and decreased concentrations of anti-inflammatory cytokines.

Everything is chemistry. By targeting issues at their source, we're hoping we can help you with yours.

Discover Get Up + Glow.

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