Those first few months with a newborn can be so incredibly beautiful, challenging, and exhausting all at once. Our health postpartum is a second thought – or if you have multiple kids – a very last thought. And it’s not intentional! It’s easy to get caught up in that baby love bubble, and if you are juggling looking after a tribe, we often pop our needs to the side while we get on with things. While that might work for a time, pregnancy and child birth, takes a significant toll on our bodies, and it takes time to restore and recover.
Symptoms such as fatigue, forgetfulness aka “baby brain”, mood swings such as crying for no reason, struggling to concentrate, and feeling like you’ve got nothing left for you – among others, can creep up on you, leaving you feeling extremely depleted. The term postnatal depletion was created by Dr Oscar Serrallach, a family practitioner in Australia. He suggests that if you’ve had a child within the last ten years, these symptoms can hang around if left untreated.
What causes postnatal depletion?
There are many reasons, and the root cause will always be individual, but some examples are:
– before we have a baby we are often so busy getting everything ready for the birth, some Mum’s have a demanding job, and we forget to take time to switch off and rest. And when the baby arrives, we can feel like we literally have not time at all for ourselves. We can feel like we have to be everything to everyone, which is exhausting. Living in this high cortisol state constantly has a huge impact on our hormones;
– before baby women may be building their career, enjoying a busy social life, but end up burning the candle at both ends, so they are already in a depleted state pre-pregnancy;
– falling pregnant again before the body has fully recovered from the pregnancy prior;
– sleep deprivation of having a newborn;
– eating a higher amount of processed food, as opposed to focusing on nutrient dense whole foods;.
This new life, as wonderful as they are, comes with many demands, and while it’s a time women most need support, some can feel that asking for help means they are not a good enough Mum.
What can women do to feel like themselves again?
It’s critical for a mum to work with a health professional who can support them in postpartum recovery, and ensure their nutrition is meeting their daily needs to prevent the symptoms of postnatal depletion as described above.
In clinic I focus on supporting women through nutrition, movement and mindfulness. While I love to share information, I’m cautious not to overload my Mum’s who are feeling fatigued and foggy. So I carefully provide education and support them through several phases of treatment.
The first phase of treatment involves completing a health assessment and tests to determine their current health status and replenishing any nutrients. If they have been experiencing frequent low moods and fatigue, typically iron, zinc and vitamin D will be too low for the body to make the substances required to feel happy and positive. Other nutrients they may need to focus on include vitamin C, vitamin B12 and magnesium. The omega-3 fats DHA and EPA are essential for a depleted mum as they play a vital role for nervous system function and hormonal balance. Oily fish, algae, flaxseeds and chia seeds are good sources of omega-3’s. Other nutritional support is guidance on preparing easy meals made from nutrient dense whole foods.
The next step is to focus on optimising sleep, daily movement, and mindfulness. Restorative practices such as yoga, walking, meditation, and acupuncture can be beneficial for supporting mood and calm. Learning how to relax can be really important to activate your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), rather than the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) constantly dominating. Babies are unpredictable with sleep / feeding patterns in the first few months especially, so establishing these habits early can be beneficial for Mum’s as babies grow into toddlers and older kids.
Mum’s often feel too tired, stressed and busy to sleep restfully. There are many ways we can optimise their sleep, even if it is broken from the baby waking. Dimming lights at night; avoiding any computers, phones, or tv in the hour before bed; keeping the bedroom cool, quiet and dark; soaking in a magnesium salt foot bath; a shoulder massage from your partner. Supplements may also be used to support restful sleep.
Seeking emotional support from a psychologist or life coach, can be helpful in evaluating life as a Mum, as some can feel they have lost themselves in the process of becoming a Mum, so understanding how to create a balance between family life and personal growth can be really important.