After celebrating Mother’s Day last weekend it felt like a fitting time to talk about the process of growing and providing nourishment for a baby.
The female body is incredible in what it can do. It can grow and sustain another life. However, it’s important to acknowledge what this process does to a woman’s nutritional status so that we give thanks to the amazing mums in our lives, while also providing the support they need to feel vibrant and healthy.
Are you thinking, “what is it?” Great, I'm glad you asked. Postnatal depletion is a term that explains the sheer amount of nutrients required from a women's body to grow a baby and the resulting depletion of these key nutrients after birth.
"In the nicest way possible, when you are pregnant, you basically have a parasite living inside you with no regard for its host!"
A mother can experience postnatal depletion following the birth of her child and even into the early years of the child’s life. This is not to be confused with post-natal depression, however, it can be a contributing factor in a new mum’s emotional and mental health following birth.
In the nicest way possible, when you are pregnant, you basically have a parasite living inside you with no regard for its host!
The baby will strip out any of the nutrients from the mother that it needs to grow. However, in this process the mother massively depleted. This is why, for the most part, despite the intricate process of growing a human and the many different approaches pregnant women around the world have to nutrition and lifestyle – most babies turn out perfectly healthy.
The outcome of this process is a mother with massively depleted levels of key nutrients. This includes many essential micronutrients such as zinc, vitamin D, iron, magnesium, B12 and many other micronutrients needed for all the systems in her body to work optimally.
I spoke about this in the Essential Health and Wellness for Women seminar I ran last year. You can watch my clip on pregnancy below.
Most commonly we see imbalances in the hormonal system of the mother. Not only does the baby need the mother’s nutrients to thrive, it also requires high levels of female sex hormones to sustain the placenta for nine months.
Following birth, these levels - particularly progesterone - rapidly drop off and the sudden change can result in oestrogen dominance. Coupled with our modern, toxic environmental factors and our high-stress lifestyles, the mum is then unable to clear this oestrogen through her liver.
Oestrogen dominance then leads to symptoms such as bloating, breast tenderness and, when they return, irregular menstrual cycles.
Low levels of micronutrients such as iron, B12 and zinc can also result in fatigue –exacerbated by the disrupted sleep patterns of having small children. In extreme cases, postnatal depletion is a contributing factor in low mood or mental health issues, as low levels of serotonin can result in neurotransmitter issues.
The link between nutrient deficiencies and mental health is a field that is ever evolving. I myself am currently studying the role of nutrients in mental health for my PhD at University of Canterbury.
Dr Julia Rucklidge from the University of Canterbury has also undertaken research which suggests we need to ensure good nutrient-density in our diets and use therapeutic doses of micronutrients to support mental health conditions. She has been using micronutrients such as zinc, vitamin D, Omega 3 Fish oil and many more in open label trials for anxiety, sleep issues, bipolar disorder and ADHD. Across the board, she has had significant reductions – response rates have ranged from 50-80% improvement – in these psychiatric and psychological symptoms.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of a cure.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of a cure. This saying is incredibly true for postnatal depletion. (Where possible!) ensuring good nutrient status, gut health and liver health in the 3-6 months before conception is important.
I recommend taking BePure One, BePure Three and a probiotic, to support your nutrient stores. You will also need to speak to your Lead Maternity Carer about additional support for iodine, folate and iron.
The first thing to note is that the postnatal period can actually be a long time. In some cases, it can take years to recover from growing and feeding an infant. Given women tend to have more than one child in relatively quick succession, the issue of postnatal depletion is often compounded.
My first advice is to be really gentle on yourself and acknowledge the amazing feat you have gone through.
My first advice is to be really gentle on yourself and acknowledge the amazing feat you have gone through. There is a huge pressure on women to do everything perfectly – from keeping their houses immaculate for guests to exercising away their "baby body!" In addition to the new responsibility of your child's wellbeing the list below is really enough to focus on!
If you or someone you know would like some help in the postnatal period, or is looking to rediscover their energy and vitality please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to share this article with all the amazing mother’s in your life to show them how incredible and selfless they are. Happy Mother’s Day!
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