Being a mum is exhausting. More often our ?tiredness? is put down to our babies waking frequently, our toddler running around and the many things we try to do each day. But it is important to look out for signs and symptoms of when it is something more and help is needed.
Today I will explore ?Post Natal Depletion? – Dr Oscar Serrallach describes it as a phenomenon of fatigue and exhaustion combined with the on-going feeling of ?baby brain?. It is thought that this condition affects up to 50% of mothers and can present any time from birth of a child, until the child is 7 years of age. Other symptoms include being tired (or feeling unrested after waking), loss of libido, anxiety, feelings of frustration and loss of self esteem. Sound familiar? Has anyone already self-diagnosed?
The cause of post-natal depletion is multifactorial. It can take a significant toll on our bodies to grow, in some cases breastfeed and then care for a baby. Also factor in the countless hours of lost sleep in their first years and the constant physical and emotional demands of raising a dependent. But there are even more factors impacting our bodies ability to recover. Often our bodies are depleted before we even have a baby (stress, work demands, social lives, poor sleep habits), our food supply is lacking crucial nutrients (think processed foods and convenience meals), our environment is filled with toxins and chemicals we need to constantly eliminate and we are also having babies later in life. All of these factors when combined, create a state of post-natal depletion. (Note that post-natal depression is an overlapping condition and often one of the more severe manifestations). The biggest thing to remember about this condition is not just to ?keep on going?, without investigating your symptoms with a trained practitioner who can develop an individualised treatment plan. I would recommend that all mums have regular check ups (just as they take their babies too) at least once per year. Comprehensive blood tests should be done to measure b vitamin, iron, zinc and copper levels. A range of hormone tests such as thyroid and adrenals should also be considered if symptomatic.
How to address this?
Mums need to take time to look after their own health. Without their own health, their whole family will suffer. It is not selfish or unrealistic to prioritise your needs, however can be challenging due to the time and cost of these things. Just getting a babysitter to attend an appointment childfree can be a hard enough task. Try to make sure you talk to your support network and try to gradually consider some of the things below.
Things that can be done to counteract post natal depletion include:
- Addressing and preventing nutrient deficiencies.
It is important to prevent deficiencies developing in the first place by continuing nutrient supplementation, once a baby is born and by eating a nutrient dense and plentiful diet. Going on a diet to lose weight after a baby, can often be more harmful than good. The amount of food needed the year post childbirth (especially if breastfeeding) is so often underestimated – you actually need more than when you are pregnant. Of course it is all about balance and making smart choices – please seek help if you find this a hard balance to achieve, as it is no easy feat.
If nutrient deficiencies are identified it is important to get advice regarding appropriate supplements to ensure correct restoration of nutrient levels are achieved
- Ensure adequate sleep.
Now this can be very dependent on your child?s sleep and that is way bigger than this article and out of my scope of practice (my child currently wakes ridiculously early). Doing little things to improve the sleep you are getting such as having your own sleep routine and good sleep hygiene (avoid screens before bed, dim lights), can have a very beneficial impact. TheMothersHat-PostNatalRepletion
- Have some health relaxation time.
Do you actually relax? I know I find it hard to just ?relax?. Whenever I get a spare moment without my kids, it is like a crazy rushed around opportunity to get everything done. Lots of people need to work hard to make sure they relax – this might mean a special relaxation routine like stretching and music, going for a swim or walk, a yoga class, meditation or even a good old netflix series or book.
- Get support.
This can be support to look after your child or support in terms of a health professional (counsellor or psychologist). This can also be in the form of positive social interactions.
- Clean up your lifestyle and home.
Make sure your body is not dealing with more than it has to by reducing exposure to chemicals and toxins found in cleaning products, beauty products and poor quality foods.
I hope this article, reminds you of the huge journey motherhood can take on the body and makes you think about what your doing for yourself during this time.
Kim Lawler is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Functional Nutritionist who specialises in women?s health. She lives locally on the northern beaches and is Mum to two little girls aged 3 and 1. Her nutrition practice, ?Explore Nutrition?, has rooms in Mona Vale and Hornsby.