Looking after yourself, so that you can look after your baby.
It only takes a small amount of time searching Google to understand that most support for mothers during and after pregnancy revolves around the baby. What nutrients does the baby need? How much sleep should your baby get? How to tell if your baby is under stress?
But what about the mothers?
“We're rushing around, busily ticking off the to-do list, feeling guilty, putting ourselves last on the list, beating ourselves up for not being 'perfect', listening to that incessant inner critic. We're feeling tired, overwhelmed and disconnected from our true selves, often with anxiety bubbling under just under the surface. I'm on a mission to help you be kinder to yourself. I want you to realise the truth of who you are - a perfectly imperfect mum trying her best in every single moment”- Zoe Blaskey, Motherkind
You’ve probably heard the well known proverb that you can’t pour from an empty cup. We need to look after ourselves before we can look after anyone else - most importantly, growing babies.
And now, it’s not just ancient proverbs telling us to do so, it’s doctors and scientists, too.
What is Pre & Post Natal Depletion?
Your pregnancy is more than just three trimesters: It’s creation, it’s growth, and ultimately, it’s change. And these stages all need support.
During and after pregnancy, your body is experiencing many changes - of which you require substantial nutrition to support growth and recovery - and if you’re breastfeeding to give you essential nutrients that you and your newborn need.
Postnatal depletion presents as a variety of symptoms affecting all aspects of a mother’s life after she gives birth. These symptoms can arise from physiological issues, hormonal changes, and the interruption of the circadian day/night rhythm of ones sleep cycle, layered with mental and emotional components. Postnatal depletion involves many mineral, vitamin and nutrient deficiencies, meaning your cells, organs, and body are not able to run properly. AKA you can’t cope. Sound familiar? Maybe you’ve said or experienced one or more of the following:
- Baby brain
- Insomnia/non-restful sleep
- Loss of skin elasticity
- Thinning hair
- Soft or brittle nails
- Mood imbalance and irritability
The postnatal period can last for 6 years post-natal, even decades after a woman has given birth, if not addressed properly. Thankfully, doctors and scientists are addressing this concern and the stigma around it is being discussed in the open. Treatment is simple and the benefits are endless.
Pre and Post Natal Depletion is the real life, major concern for many mothers. In raising our future, it’s vital that mothers can thrive, not just survive this amazing period of their lives. Education and support is needed (for both mother and father, friends and family, and the workplace) to address and tackle this problem, starting with more open dialogue and an understanding of Matrescence - a women’s transition into motherhood and all the psychological physical change that comes with it.
“It is a time in a woman’s life when everything changes - her whole identity shifts. When a woman becomes a mother, she splits in two: who she used to be, and the Mother. And unless we honour that radical shift, she will get lost trying to figure out who she is now”. - Amy Taylor Kabbaz
So what is that a mother needs? How can she be supported through Pre and Post Natal Depletion? The answer is Vitamins, Minerals, and Aptogens, alongside mental and physical wellbeing advice and support. According to Dr. Oscar Serrallach, Principal at Mullumbimby Integrative Medical Centre, there are 3 important steps to combatting Post Natal Depletion:
Step one: repletion and rebuilding of micronutrients and macronutrients.
We often find mothers are low in iron, vitamin B12, zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, magnesium, and copper - being deficient, insufficient, or out of balance. Starting mothers on DHA (an omega 3 fatty acid), is vital in repairing the nervous system and brain. This can be found in a number of supplements and is typically sourced from fish or algae. The most important initial micronutrients for any new mother include iron and vitamin B12, zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin D. Alongside this, macronutrients including healthy fats and a focus on quality protein such as organic eggs, fish, and meats. The best quality carbohydrates tend to come from “above-ground” vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage.
Step two: Recovery
- Optimising sleep (Sleep Hygiene)
- Optimising activity and exercise
- Education around the healthy home and the healthy kitchen
- Recovering and optimising relationships
There are several responsibilities that any parent undertakes with the welcoming of a newborn - not only around the baby, but also the house, kitchen, “self time” and in some cases “couple time”.
Fatigue is the most common symptom in postnatal depletion - but sleep is easier said than done - many mothers are simply too tired and too stressed and busy to sleep well, and trying to tackle such seems like a useless battle when your baby requires your attention.
But we have to start somewhere. Just like driving drowsy can lead to an accident, so too can drowsy parenting. Sleep hygiene is an important place to start, where what you do in the hour before sleep can make a huge difference. This can involve soft light exposure, calming music, and minimal computer and TV use. Natural sleep enhancers include: GABA, 5-HTP, melatonin, and magnesium salt foot baths.
Another way to sleep better is to increase your exercise levels so that you are more tired when it comes to your resting periods. For mothers, the best type of exercise is activity, and if it is fun and social, we are much more likely to make it a habit. Restorative yoga and acupuncture, in addition to a life coach, counsellor, or psychologist to support your emotional well-being are important.
Step three: Realisation
Understanding motherhood as part of the heroine’s journey and discovering self-actualisation. Sharing this with those around you and reaping the reward.
Are you interested in learning more about Pre & Post Natal Depletion?
Goop’s most read article: Postnatal Depletion - Even 10 Years Later.
Mamamia’s podcast: Me After You.
Dr. Oscar Serrallach’s Book:The Postnatal Depletion Cure
This pearler: Get support, get support, get support. You can’t have too much support (and a babysitter is a lot cheaper than a divorce).