By contributing writer: Clare Young, Registered Nutritional Therapist and Founder of Seed Nutrition.
You have most likely heard of postnatal depression, clinical depression involving the lack of pleasure or joy from a situation. Your midwife may have discussed the signs and symptoms with you and your doctor may have asked you a few questions surrounding your mental health in your six week check-up. But has anyone discussed postnatal depletion with you? And what even is it?
Postnatal depletion is a relatively new term coined by the Australian Doctor Oscar Serrallach. He describes a collection of symptoms from hormonal, physiological, psychological, mental and emotional changes that happen to a mother after she gives birth. Although the term is relatively new, I bet every single Mumma reading this can relate to at least one, or more, of these symptoms included in postnatal depletion even if you gave birth
10 years ago:
– Intense fatigue and exhaustion
– Hypervigilance (feeling constantly wired)
– Easily startled and sensitive to bright light
– Difficulty concentrating (baby brain)
– Poor libido
– Poor Immune function (mastitis, catching every cold going, reoccurring infections).
– Loss of confidence and self-esteem
– Feeling overwhelmed, unable to cope
Your body goes through immense changes externally and internally from the moment of conception. The nutrients used while your baby grows, during childbirth, the postnatal healing process and breastfeeding are on a much larger scale than pre-conception. If your baby is taking your stores of nutrients in the womb and you don’t replace them with nutrient dense food, supplements and rest, you are likely to feel exhausted once your baby is born. This is also coupled with sleep exhaustion, which has a huge affect on your physiological and emotional health. Then topped off with adjusting to your new Mum life, potential social isolation and looking after a tiny human.
Our Western culture attributes pressures to the modern mother that other cultures do not. We are expected to open our doors to friends and family days after baby is born. We feel we must lose the baby weight and bounce back to our original jean size in a few months. We must be super mum and keep the house tidy, make cake and tea for visiting guests, appear
in control at all times, and look after a new-born baby! Other cultures employ traditional practices that involve the new mother resting for up to 40 days whilst she takes care of her baby and relatives take care of her.
So how can we prevent postnatal depletion in our modern Western World?
The key is in the preparation before the postnatal period, known as the fourth trimester. Ensuring you have a nutrient dense diet during pregnancy will not only supply your baby with the correct nutrients to grow but it will keep your stores topped up so you are not running on empty after the birth.
Our current health care system classes ‘postpartum’ as 6 weeks after childbirth, but actually postpartum recovery can take up to 2 years and postpartum depletion can exist for even longer.
These are some tips to consider for positive postnatal health:
Help you can organise before the birth;
– To ensure you get some rest and time with your new family pre-warn friends and family that you don’t want any visits in the first few weeks.
– Ask close relatives to drop off food parcels for you. You will appreciate having a nourishing meal ready prepared.
– Someone to help do your house-hold chores. Anyone who visits needs to bring a meal or do the washing up!
– You may receive endless bunches of flowers and cards but why not plant the seed to friends and family that they could contribute towards a gift voucher for a postpartum massage or acupuncture and osteopath appointment.
– Sign up to a regular an online food delivery service to ensure you have a constant flow of ingredients to keep you going.
– Employ a doula who can help with many of the things listed above as well as emotional support and a wealth of knowledge. https://doula.org.uk/
Everyone’s health is individual but here are some general tips to support post-partum recovery:
– Replenish depleted nutrient stores with a multi vitamin from a reputable company. I like Terranova, Wild Nutrition and Cytoplan as these all have high quality food source supplements.
– Eat when you are hungry and when you need it. Don’t wait until breakfast time if you are hungry at 3am. Keep some oatcakes or an apple by your bed so you can eat something nutritious that will keep you going until breakfast.
– Think nourishing foods – soups, broths, protein smoothies, overnight bircher muesli, dahl.
– Reduce sugar, caffeine and processed foods as these spike blood sugar levels, which if regular will contribute to hunger, tiredness and weight gain.
– Snacks like nuts, seeds, oatcakes with nut butter or guacamole, vegetable crisps, hummus, energy balls and natural fermented yogurt will nourish you and provide energy.
– Focus on the macronutrients in every meal – protein, healthy fats and slow release carbohydrates.
– Replenish important micronutrients -Vit D (supplement), Zinc (nuts and seeds, lamb), Iron (spinach, red meat, lentils – eaten with Vitamin C rich foods), B Vitamins (beef, chicken, yogurt, eggs), Magnesium (spinach, kale, nuts and seeds, legumes), Calcium (leafy greens, oily fish, dairy)
– Stay hydrated, especially if breastfeeding.
– Gentle exercise like going for a walk, yoga, pelvic floor exercises (if signed off by a doctor)
– Introduce a sleep hygiene routine with ways to wind down before bed (Epsom salt bath, lavender essential oil, sleep tea, eye mask, yogic breathing, black out blinds).
– Nap when you can to restore energy especially in the early postpartum phase.
– 4-7-8 Breathing technique to vitalise and improve energy
– Keep socialising to a minimum in the first few months and spread out meet ups to allow rest days in between.
Clare is a Registered Nutritional Therapist and founder of Seed Nutrition, focused on supporting women during pregnancy and postpartum with personalised nutrition plans which tackle common health complaints in motherhood.
She is also the founder of The Nourished Mumma Box, a new venture creating supplement and wellbeing boxes to support pregnant and new Mumma’s that Nourish, Relax and Restore.
You can find more information and recipes for postnatal recovery and free downloadable wellbeing guides on Clare’s website at www.seednutrition.space.