What is Postpartum Depletion?
Written by Alana Mulhall
The combination of pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and sleep deprivation is something else and something that all new mothers will have to learn to manage. Without the tools and skills on how to support health, mothers are left defenceless against becoming depleted from the burdens these processes have on their body.
Symptoms of Postpartum Depletion:
New mummas can often feel overwhelmed but postpartum depletion goes beyond the odd day of overwhelm. Some symptoms of postpartum depletion can include:
- Anxiety or feeling like you are running on adrenaline
- Lack of motivation and difficulty concentrating
- Irritable or on edge
- Feeling of helplessness and overwhelm
- Difficulty sleeping (even when the baby sleeps)
- Weight gain or loss
- Low milk supply
- Digestive issues
- Loss of libido
The Missing Link:
In modern western cultures, it is common for both the new mum and their physicians to predominantly focus on infant care in the postpartum period. Many women do not receive the attention postpartum that is needed surrounding their own health and how they are adapting to motherhood.
Traditionally many cultures including Asian, Arab, Oceanian, Latin American, and Africa practiced postpartum rituals and postpartum care through organised support, dietary practices, hygiene and warming practices, infant care and breastfeeding. New mothers had longer term care and support for up to 8 weeks following the birth of their baby and the main role of the mother was to care for her baby and recover. All other tasks such as cooking, cleaning and work were left to other members of the family.
That sounds like a dream, right!? How many of us actually received that kind of support for 8 weeks post birth?
In modern western culture, many new mums are expected to “bounce back” and adapt to being a mother without additional organised support. Many mothers are told that feeling overwhelmed and fatigued postpartum is completely normal but just because it is common, doesn’t mean we should normalise this.
How to prevent postpartum depletion?
Let’s be real... Pregnancy is a pretty hard time and post birth many women can become deficient in key nutrients which support recovery, breastfeeding and overall health.
We recommend a 6-8 week postpartum follow up blood test to have key nutrients tested, including:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
Working with a naturopath or holistic nutritionist can be beneficial to ensuring you are receiving the right macro and micronutrient balances within your daily diet.
Post birth we recommend including foods high in nutrients like iron and DHA. Some of our favourite post birth meals include:
- Slow cooked stews containing cuts of meat that include high amounts of collagen.
- High fibre vegetables like dark leafy greens.
- Fatty fish like salmon, sardines or barramundi, which are high in DHA.
Other tips to support healthy nutrient levels post birth include:
- Sunlight exposure in the morning or at lunchtime can be beneficial to supporting healthy vitamin D levels, sleep onset and day time mood.
- Consider lifestyle practices to allow for rest and recuperation post birth and a chance to establish a bond with your new born baby.
If you are experiencing any symptoms that are persistent and impacting your quality of life we recommend checking out the below resources or speaking with your healthcare provider. There is no shame in struggling with managing the postpartum period and it is always best to get your symptoms checked out sooner rather than later.
- Beyond Blue: https://healthyfamilies.beyondblue.org.au/pregnancy-and-new-parents
- Gidget Foundation: https://gidgetfoundation.org.au/
- PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia): https://www.panda.org.au/