What Is Post Partum Depletion?

Before my son was born, I had no idea how intense early motherhood would be, how exhausted I would feel and how the affects of sleepless nights and stress would affect me. At six months post partum I was diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism (over active thyroid) which was discovered after I went to my doctor and expressed concerns about how exhausted and anxious I was and how I kept on loosing weight. At this point I was down to 45kg and just felt so weak and tired. Not much was offered in terms of treatment but I knew from this diagnosis that my mind and body was completely depleted and struggling to adjust to motherhood. So with the support of my partner, family, herbal medicine, nutritional supplements and lifestyle changes I was able to start to re fuel and gratefully recover. Pregnancy and Childbirth take so much out of a women, there is such a massive requirement for extra nutrition during this time and then when we have our child there is extra demand on our body to heal and recover as well as feed and nurture our newborn.

Most of us are familiar with the term post partum depression, which refers to low mood in the first year after a mother has given birth, but what is post partum depletion? This term was coined by Dr Oscar Serrallach and refers to an ever increasing experience affecting more and more mothers. Post Partum Depletion can occur up to ten years after the birth of a child and has many debilitating affects such as:

  • Fatigue and Exhaustion
  • Low Mood/Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Brain Fog
  • Poor Memory

So what is the cause and why is it becoming so common amoungst women? From my own experience and my experience in treating mothers, it’s a range of dietary, lifestyle and social factors which can contribute to this condition. Because it is unrecognised as an issue and often palmed off as ‘oh that’s just motherhood’, the affects can last many many years beyond the post partum period and become worse with each subsequent pregnancy and birth. The main contributing areas include:

  • Nutritional Deficiencies – Women are often faced with multiple nutritional deficiencies after the birth of a child if they did not have adequate stores and intake during pregnancy. The most common include Iron, Iodine, Selenium and Zinc. This is further exacerbated by poor post partum diet, sleepless nights and breastfeeding, as amazing as breastfeeding is, it does require a significant increase in nutritional intake to sustain.
  • Inadequate Diet – Poor diet post partum is very common because when your busy giving your all to your baby, and perhaps even older children too, it’s often considered quicker and easier to reach for processed foods and coffee to fill your body and boost your energy. When this becomes a habit over nurturing your mind and body with wholesome foods your going to end up with not only a host of nutritional deficiencies but issues with your digestion, hormones, immunity and blood sugar levels. So it becomes a vicious cycle where mothers feel too tired and depressed to prepare nutritious meals, so they instead consume nutritionally void processed foods, only to end up feeling more tired and more depressed.
  • Lack of Movement – Many mothers say their number one reason for not exercising is because they don’t have time and that they are too tired. Lack of exercise always means you are going to feel more sluggish and less energised as a result. So once again it’s a cycle where mother’s are too tired and busy to exercise yet avoiding exercise means that they end up feeling even more tired and sluggish as a result.
  • Lack of Support – This is a huge one, especially because so many women don’t live near their families like they used to in previous generations, they often feel alone and disconnected from the greater family network that is traditionally so important in childrearing. Not only are more women not getting family support but even having support from friends can be an issue if your friends don’t live local, if they don’t have children or if you have different parenting styles and schedules.
  • Stress – There is so much pressure placed on women these days to be everything to everyone and fulfil many different roles and responsibilities, so often women are not only responsible for raising children but also financial responsibilities, juggling motherhood with work or study alongside housework.

As you can see, all of these factors combined is a recipe for disaster, no wonder so many women are feeling depleted for many years after their child is born. Often women are entering motherhood with nutritional deficiencies which are sustained and worsened post partum, coupled with poor post partum nutrition, lack of movement, lack of support and increased stress from the pressure and responsibilities put on women by themselves and/or partners plus society.  So how can you overcome Post Partum Depletion? What is the solution?

Below you will find my top tips on beginning to heal yourself as a mother, whether you have a newborn or a ten year old, if you are feeling exhausted, depressed, anxious and having difficulty concentrating then please try these suggestions:

  • Start to rebuild your nutritional stores with high quality vitamin and mineral supplements
  • Get a blood test to check your iron stores, thyroid hormones and blood sugar levels
  • Start including as many superfoods into your day via soups, smoothies, broths and soups which enable you to pack as much nutrition into a single serve. Think high protein and nutrient rich foods such as sweet potato, spinach, legumes, nuts and seeds, fruits and berries
  • Do a pantry and fridge overhaul and get rid of the junk. I know it’s convenient and gives you a temporary feeling of comfort and energy but it’s making you feel worse long term. Get rid of the processed and sugary stuff and start to stock up on wholefoods such as healthy sugar free museli bars, nuts, seeds, oats, berries, eggs and greek yoghurt, hommus, brown rice crackers etc
  • Consider seeing a Naturopath to get a custom herbal remedy made up to support your thyroid and adrenals to help reduce your stress hormones, elevate your mood and support energy production.
  • Make movement a priority. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Even 15min of yoga at home per day or a walk to the shops with the pram can do wonders for making you feel lighter, happier and more energised. Try and get some kind of movement into everyday whether it is at a gym or studio if you have the family support and finances or even just utilising what you have at home and in nature for a free alternative.
  • Ask for help and don’t feel embarrased. If you don’t ask for help people will think you don’t need it. Talk to your partner, your family and your friends and ask for help. Make connections with like minded mums and catch up regularly, this is where the internet is a wonderful resource as you can find local playgroup meet ups to attend.

As a Naturopath and Post Partum Doula I love supporting mothers to feel their best. A great way to start is by heading to my ‘Free Gifts‘ page and grabbing your copy of my ‘Post Partum Healing Toolkit’ and my ‘Less Overwhelm, More Clarity Toolkit’ + implementing my above tips.

If you would like individual and customised support please contact me for a Naturopathic Session via email at kate@littleyarrow.com

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