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Postnatal depletion: everything you need to know

There’s no getting around the fact that a tiny human exiting your body is a life altering moment. It can bring all the emotions all at once, as well as a lot of other mental and physical changes too. So it’s probably not that surprising that, after a little while of doing the motherhood thing, you might start to feel like you’re running on empty. If this is you, don’t worry because you’re not alone. There’s actually a term for it: postnatal depletion – and it’s a lot more common than you think. Here’s what you need to know…

What is postnatal depletion?

Postnatal depletion is a relatively new term in the vocabulary surrounding postpartum life. It describes the physical and emotional exhaustion that many mothers experience after giving birth. It’s different to postpartum depression, which is a specific mental health condition, but more of a broader term.

Postnatal depletion reflects the overwhelming sense of fatigue and weariness that slowly develops from keeping up with the demands of pregnancy, childbirth, and caring for a newborn.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of postnatal depletion can vary widely but often include:

  • Extreme fatigue: Feeling tired all the time, even after a full night’s sleep.
  • Brain fog: Difficulty concentrating, memory issues, and feeling mentally sluggish.
  • Mood swings: Experiencing irritability, anxiety, or feelings of being overwhelmed.
  • Physical aches: Muscle pain, joint pain, and general physical discomfort.
  • Poor immune function: Getting sick more often or taking longer to recover from illnesses.

What does it feel like day-to-day?

Living with postnatal depletion can feel like you are constantly running on empty, struggling to meet both your own needs and those of your baby. Some women describe it as living in a brain fog and a general sense that they have no time to mee their own needs. The combination of physical, mental, and emotional fatigue can make it challenging to enjoy the early stages of motherhood fully. That’s why it’s so important to check in with yourself and make little, daily changes to boost your energy needs.

What causes postnatal depletion?

Now, it’s not groundbreaking new that growing, birthing and raising a baby requires effort. However, it’s only recently that research has started to show just how much effort is involved. A recent study published in The New York Times found that pregnancy demands 50,000 calories over the nine months of growing a baby. That’s the equivalent of 100 boxes of Cadbury chocolate fingers. In addition to to all the physical changes of pregnancy, there’s also the mental and emotional changes as well as the small detail of birthing and raising a newborn.

Here are just a few things that can add to the feeling that your energy reserves are slowly slipping away…

  • Nutrient deficiencies: Pregnancy and breastfeeding require huge amounts of energy and can quickly deplete you of essential nutrients such as iron, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Sleep deprivation: Newborns require frequent feeding and care, leading to lack of sleep and total exhaustion.
  • Hormonal changes: The body undergoes significant hormonal shifts after childbirth, affecting mood and energy levels.
  • Emotional stress: The demands of caring for a newborn, combined with changes in identity and lifestyle, can be emotionally taxing.

How do I manage it?

It’s difficult to target just one aspect when talking about postnatal depletion because often it affects all areas of your life. Taking a step back and seeing what small changes you can make to your day-to-day routine is a good place to start to slowly build up your reserves.

  1. Prioritise nutrition:
    • Balanced diet: Focus on eating a balanced diet rich in whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
    • Nutrient supplements: Consider taking supplements, especially for nutrients commonly depleted during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplements.
  2. Rest and sleep:
    • Rest when you can: Seize opportunities to rest whenever possible. It doesn’t have to be sleeping but even if it’s just lying down for five minutes or sitting on the couch.
    • Sleep support: Create a sleep-conducive environment and establish a bedtime routine to improve the quality of your sleep.
  3. Emotional support:
    • Seek support: Don’t hesitate to reach out to family, friends, or support groups. Talking about your experiences can provide relief and a sense of connection.
    • Professional help: If you’re struggling with your mental health, consider seeking help from a therapist or counselor.
  4. Movement:
    • Gentle exercise: Although it feels counterintuitive when you’re so exhausted, exercise can actually boost energy levels and improve your mood. Try any form of movement such as walking, yoga, or postnatal exercise classes.
    • Listen to your body: Keep it chill and avoid strenuous activities if you’re feeling particularly depleted.
  5. Self-Care:
    • Me-time: Dedicate time to activities that you enjoy and that help you relax, such as reading, taking a bath, or practicing mindfulness.
    • Avoid perfectionism: Remember that it’s okay not to be perfect. Focus on small, manageable goals and celebrate your achievements.

What supplements can help?

A lot of postnatal depletion is caused by an imbalance of nutrients within your body. Often this is a result of your body not being able to meet up with the energy demands required to grow and raise a baby. Taking supplements are a quick, easy and effective way to provide your body with what it needs so it can function as well as possible. We love Wild Nutrition because the brand focuses on women’s health, particularly during the pregnancy and new mother era.

Conclusion

Postnatal depletion is a common experience for many new mamas, but you don’t have to stay feeling de-energised. By recognising the symptoms and taking proactive steps to manage them, you can support your recovery and well-being so that you feel like the best version of yourself.

Sources

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/16/science/pregnancy-energy-costs.html
  2. https://www.gdx.net/files/livegdx/2021/LiveGDX-June-2021-Postnatal-Depletion-Syndrome.pdf
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6628029/

Birthbabe does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The resources on our website are provided for informational purposes only. You should always consult with a healthcare professional regarding any medical diagnoses or treatment options.

Birthbabe is supported by the beautiful babes who enjoy our content. We only recommend products used and approved by mamas, however we may receive an affiliate commission.

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