Postnatal depletion is something that has finally been recognised in the medical field which is probably why we are hearing more about it. Personally, I define postnatal depletion as the inability of women to recover —hormonally, nutritionally and emotionally—after having a baby. And when I say falling to recover, I don’t mean the first few weeks after birth, I mean months or even years after birth. I see some women who I would consider to have postnatal depletion with 4 or 5 year olds.
In this day & age many mothers-to-be are already depleted before conception and throughout pregnancy. Mother nature puts the developing baby first; a baby growing in utero will take what it needs from Mum. For example, during the third trimester, the fetal brain is undergoing the most significant stage of development. Approximately 7 grams of fat pass from mother to baby each day! This high transfer of DHA fatty acid is essential for the baby but can leave the mother depleted. This is why I have my clients on practitioner grade DHA.
So women are entering their pregnancy already depleted, spend nine months growing a baby, and then enter motherhood and become even more depleted thanks to a lack of sleep and the roll of being a 24/7 caregiver. Hence why so many mothers become low in iron, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin B9, iodine, and selenium. They also have much lower reserves in essential omega-3 fats like DHA and specific amino acids from proteins.
Why is it affecting so many women today?
We live in a society of continual ongoing stress and we literally don’t know how to relax or switch off. This has profound effects on mental health, hormones, immune function, brain structure, and gut health. We also don’t have the same village structure that we used to have, so a lot of women are raising their children away from close family and friends who they can call on for support.
How do you know if you’re depleted?
If your nutrient reserves are low going into pregnancy you will likely become depleted in basic nutrients required for normal human function. Here is a list of pretty generic symptoms that we can walk around with for years & they subsequently get worse & worse with each pregnancy.
- low energy levels
- tiredness and fatigue
- memory loss/brain fog/baby brain
- poor concentration
- moodiness and emotional instability
- poor gut health which might include constipation, increased gas or bloating.
- low immune function
- feeling run-down
- decreased libido
- loss of skin elasticity, dry skin, softer nails, thinning hair,
- increased translucency of teeth, receding gums and easier bruising
I would recommend that around 6 weeks postpartum, women consult a BHSC qualified nutritionist or naturopath and have the following blood tests done.
This is a general list and your health care professional may recommend additional tests depending on your personal circumstances and symptoms. There is no point taking vitamins of a whim. It is expensive and may be ineffectual. You are much better off having blood work done and getting a personalised supplement program. The other benefit of seeing a healthcare professional is that they will be able to supply you with higher quality supplements that will be much more effective.
- TSH T3 / T4
- Vitamin D
- In some cases the DUTCH test
How do we begin to heal our bodies + restore our energy + sleep quality
Find yourself a qualified practitioner, I graduated with a Bachelor of Health Science in Nutritional Medicine form Endeavour College. I also have a background in nursing and I am a mother to three young children – I get it, I’ve been there.
The great news is we can prevent postnatal depletion. Ideally women would start with a preconception care plan. This would mean that if you are planing on adding to your family, you would work with a qualified nutritionist to increase your nutritional reserves, before you fall pregnant. It is very hard to increase your stores once you are pregnant or whilst breastfeeding, so a pre-conception care plan can really ensure that you head into your pregnancy from a place of abundance rather than lack.
In saying that, no time is too late to start. I recommend to my clients a combination of supplements, lifestyle changes and meal planning. We have recently introduced a free postnatal meal plan within the NMP App so that women can use the recipes in the App to really nourish their bodies and feel healthy and energised again.
Postnatal depletion can affect all women, whether breastfeeding or not. But whilst you are breastfeeding, you do have special needs. Breastfeeding is a high energy exercise and requires more calories than pregnancy itself. Good quality fats like; avo, coconut, nuts, seeds, butter, full fat dairy, grass fed meats & oily fish are extremely beneficial at this time. As is a good quality DHA supplement.
Mumma, don’t underestimate the gift you’ve given to your children. Recovering from pregnancy is crucial. I believe it is my calling to raise awareness and educate the modern day mum to replenish after growing, birthing and feeding the perfect new life she has created.
With love & nourishment