Before I gave birth to my daughter in the summer of 2021, I knew I was predisposed to postpartum mental health issues.
My common sense told me, the books I was reading told me, and my birthing team told me. I have a history of depression and anxiety issues that stem back at least two decades; running the spectrum from social anxiety to several suicide attempts.
This made me tremendously more likely to develop issues after giving birth, they said. They also said that if it happened within the first six weeks of the postpartum time period, that was normal and to-be-expected. Baby Blues, it’s called. But if it happened after that first six weeks? Well, that was much more serious.
Just how serious, they couldn’t say. And could they do anything to prevent it? No, they could not.
“It” was severe Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, and after the initial six-week postpartum time period had come and gone, it was clear I had a bad case of it.
When I was checked out of my last birthing appointment, my midwife gave me a form called the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and had me check little boxes that stated I had support during this time and no, I wasn’t feeling like harming anyone I loved, including my precious newborn daughter. It asked how often I was feeling happy and whether I’ve been sleeping and do I blame myself when things go wrong?
I answered truthfully. Yes, I’ve felt sad or miserable much of the time. YES, I’ve been so unhappy that I’ve been crying. And no….who the heck is able to laugh and see the “funny side of things” when you are waking up every two hours to feed a tiny, fragile little creature, who then won’t go back to sleep on her own and who is too little to sleep with you?
I was barely surviving.
Still, my midwife checked and signed the release sheet on her clipboard, made certain that I had good support at home (namely, my also-exhausted husband) and sent me on my (not-so merry) way.
“Is this normal?” I asked myself the whole way home. “Should have I checked the box that asked me if I felt like harming someone? Would that have changed this medical professional’s response?”
Who actually knows. Maybe I’d have been put in touch with a mental health professional. Maybe.
But supplement recommendations? No. Helpful exercises? No. Herbs to help with mental issues that are okay for breastfeeding? No. A friend group for other moms like me; the not-so-joyful, crying-half-the-day ones? Nopety nope nope nope.
It all came to a head when my daughter had just turned one. I wasn’t better mentally; I was worse. After spending one particular long evening in the bathtub, determined to never emerge from it again, my husband and I decided to get real help.
Real help looks like many different things for people. For us, having tried so many other things, this was trying intravenous treatment: IV therapy.
The major nutrient I was signing up for NAD+, a coenzyme that is used in every cellular function in the body. We are born with a finite amount of it, but by the time we are fifty, half of it is depleted, gone, caput, usually aided by stress and sometimes traumas. If you’ve had a lot of traumas or stress in your life, it’s a high chance that your NAD+ levels are much lower than an age peer with a low-stress lifestyle.
I have a high ACE score of childhood trauma, so going into this, I knew my levels were likely very low. Low levels of NAD+ are strongly correlated with addiction issues as well as mental health issues of PTSD, anxiety and depression.
Per most things in my life, once I decided on NAD+, I decided to go all the way. I settled on high-dosage treatments of 500 and 1,000 milligrams per treatment, which are typical dosages for treating issues like depression. I was warned repeatedly that high-dosage treatments can cause detox symptoms, but with the suffering I was already enduring, what was something more if it helped in the end?
Cue the “suffering”.
The first thing I noticed (literally while the fluid was still chugging into my veins) was a sense of calm that began to come over me just several minutes into the treatment. That calm turned into—for lack of better description—what felt like a light buzz from a glass or two of wine. But as every cell in my body began to detox, I started to feel sick.
The detoxing continued for a few hours after that first high treatment. It knocked me on my back, making my body feel like it had the flu and making my mind wonder if I’d made the right decision to replenish my NAD+ levels. Maybe the levels taper off for a good reason?
And then, after the few hours, around ten ‘o clock at night, I started to feel as if a cloud was lifting off my very body. A lightness emerged, down to my chronically tired joints. Suddenly I felt as if I could clean my bedroom, clean the house, do some laundry—which, although usually unheard of for me at that time of day—I did. In fact, I had so much energy that I told my husband he was probably going to have to go to bed without me.
My brain was so used to being tired that I figured I’d better make use of this rare energy spurt.
That “rare energy spurt” continued for a few days, making even sleep difficult at first. After those few days, sleep returned to me, easier than ever before. I found that I was exhausted by 10 pm. However, when 7 am rolled around the next morning, I was bouncing out of bed. And this has never, never happened for me. For most of my adult life, I’ve been the person staggering to the kitchen at eight in the morning, trying to fumble my glasses on and make a decent cup of coffee which I proceed to down in just a few gulps.
But here I was at seven in the morning, unsure I even felt like drinking coffee. I even switched to mushroom coffee, which has far less caffeine, and I only drink one cup of it, once a day. Before my treatment, I was drinking coffee in the morning, coffee in the late morning, and at least one caffeinated drink in the afternoon.
Now that’s a story belonging to my past.
It’s been several weeks since my last high-dosage treatment of NAD+. I can honestly say, hand on my heart, that my life has been changed for the better.
Do I still have depressed moments that hit me like a freight train? Yes. Yes, I do. NAD+ is no magic bullet or substitute for spiritual and emotional healing. It’s not your therapist in an IV, even though it may feel that way.
But what has changed makes NAD+ worth more than its weight in gold to me: when I do have a surge of panic or a depressed episode, it doesn’t last nearly as long or feel quite as disparaging. Now my episodes last thirty minutes to an hour, with much greater control, than my episodes of the past that lasted sometimes multiple days, during which I felt I had very little control indeed.
I will never forget the night I finished my first high dosage treatment. I was sitting in the bathtub still feeling like I had the flu, when suddenly my now fourteen-month-old daughter began screaming in the other room. It wasn’t an I’m Bleeding and I Need to go to the Hospital scream. It was just an ordinary scream. But even ordinary screams were enough to send me into a mild panic attack—palms sweating, heart racing, nausea building. Almost every day since she was born, I’d experienced at least one episode like this. But this night, for some weird reason, I felt a strange distance from the screaming. I wasn’t disassociated from my child; I was disassociated from the panic. I felt a space within which I was able to decide how to react. So I evaluated the scream, decided that she was not injured, and reasoned with myself that her father was taking fantastic care of her, all in the space of a few seconds. And then, of course, I marveled at what I’d just done.
As if that wasn’t life-changing enough, though, I soon realized I had buckets more energy than I used to, all day long, until the clock reached ten pm.
And then I realized I can be present for my daughter without wanting to stay in bed or in the bath crying all day and night.
I regained the desire to work out and it’s no longer like pulling teeth for me to make plans and follow through on seeing my friends.
The dreaded brain fog has lifted and not returned, not even a little bit.
My metabolism has sped up to the rate of my mid-teens; no longer do meals sit in me for days, even if it’s pasta I’m indulging in. I have a sense of lightness that’s more than just a lightness in my gut; it’s a lightness for life itself.
I’m sleeping better, eating better, waking easier, working with greater clarity and laughing a whole lot more.
Now that I think about it, life-changing might be an understatement.
It was more like life-shattering for me.
I feel like my spirit is caught up in one of those corny TV commercials for antidepressants, running through fields of flowers and swinging on a hammock in a forest, only without the dreaded side effects. Because unlike many drugs, there are no long-term side effects. NAD+ is simply a cellular nutrient that we had in copious amounts as babies.
The best part of all is that I don’t feel dulled or hyped in any way. I don’t feel like the artificial version of myself; I feel like the authentic me who got stuck for awhile, just a little voice screaming while drowning beneath the proverbial waves of the postpartum period, but who received a life raft just in time; the me who always wanted to feel capable, and who now is capable.
While it may not be this way for everyone, for me, intravenous NAD+ was the liferaft I needed. I now feel strong enough to handle anything thrown my way, whether that thing is postpartum hormones, anxiety, depression, or just pesky old childhood trauma.
For the first time in my life—as a wife and now as a mother—I’m not only surfing those waves; I’m commanding them.