Those sweet weeks immediately post-partum are the best AND the worst; a mixture of baby bliss and bonding, sore cracked nipples and a baby constantly attached, frequent waking’s, a million overnight feeds and simply trying to figure it all out. We may feel a mixture of elation and exhaustion but generally feel ok with this, as the saying goes ‘this too shall pass’.
But what happens if as time goes on, you don’t feel like you’re ‘bouncing back’ and it starts to feel like things will never change. You may feel exhausted (even though baby is sleeping), frazzled, forgetful and overwhelmed. You see your doctor and they tell you this is ‘normal’ and to give it time, but something in the back is telling you that it's more than this. I can say from my experience of working with so many mothers experiencing these symptoms that it may be common, but it is far from ‘normal’.
In my naturopathic practice, I am endlessly discussing these symptoms, using the phrase ‘post-partum depletion’. It is my number one goal to educate as many women as possible about what it is and how to beat it so that more women can not only enjoy parenthood but can also thrive and enjoy their whole lives.
Whilst it is not a diagnosed ‘condition’, post-partum depletion refers to physical, emotional and mental exhaustion or fatigue. It’s that feeling of running on empty, of having not ‘bounced back’ or having ‘baby brain’ after your babies have grown into toddlers or even children.
What are the signs?
When women come to see me in the post-partum period, I immediately focus on addressing nutritional deficiencies and ‘filling the tank’.
Whilst all nutrients are important for good health, and most work together to keep things ticking along nicely, there are key nutrients that are depleted during pregnancy that can have a massive impact on energy, mood and mental health and much more.
Micro-minerals (needed in small amounts):
Macro-nutrients (needed in much larger amounts):
Where are these nutrients found?
Zinc: red meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, nuts (especially cashews), seeds (especially sunflower and pumpkin seeds), chickpeas and other legumes, brown rice, spinach and mushrooms
Iron: red meat, poultry, eggs, leafy greens, legumes, tempe and tofu
B12: animal products (meat, poultry, eggs, dairy), small amounts in tempe and algae like spirulina
Folate: leafy green veggies, avocado, chickpeas and other legumes, brown rice, asparagus, citrus, banana, broccoli
Vitamin D: sunshine is the ultimate way to get vitamin D, however some foods also contain vitamin D including sardines, salmon, eggs and cheese
Magnesium: leafy greens, chickpeas, brown rice, nuts, banana
Protein: red meat, poultry, pork, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, wholegrains and legumes
Carbohydrates: go for complex carbohydrates found in wholegrains and pseudo-grains (quinoa and buckwheat), nuts, seeds, potato, sweet potato, legumes
Omega 3/DHA: oily fish such as salmon, sardines and anchovies, walnuts, hemp, chia and flax seeds
Water: obviously drinking water is the way to dramatically increase your water intake, but if you are struggling, don’t forget that herbal teas count towards your water intake! Increasing moisture rich foods will also help, go for: cucumber, celery, zucchini, soups/broths, berries, melon and citrus
Sounds great but how do I get these foods my day as easily as possible?
Start with what I like to call ‘healthy enough’ eating:
My top nutrient dense foods:
Eating for more energy
Eat a source of protein with each meal:
Now I feel like a good percentage of you will read this and think ‘ah I just need a good multi-vitamin and I’ll be sorted’! Before you head over to the chemist or supermarket to get yourself some cheap supplements, I want to you think about where you’d like to be health wise and if a band aid ‘solution’ ties in with these goals.
You will save yourself a TON of money by going to your GP and asking for bloods covering some of these key nutrients covered above (zinc, iron, vitamin D) at your 6 week post-partum check-up (or anytime if you are beyond 6 weeks post-partum), grabbing a copy of them and booking yourself in to see a naturopath for targeted and individualised advice. This is where those other factors that may also play a role in supporting post-partum depletion (gut and digestive health, stress, mental and hormone health) will be addressed to lay the foundation for good health now and beyond.
Renee is a Naturopath at Westside Wellness, based in Yarraville [Melbourne]. Renee offers face to face or online sessions. For more information, visit www.westsidewellness.com.au