The Wellness Library

Postnatal Depletion: What It Is + Tips to Support Your Journey

by | Feb 16, 2022 | Women's Health

A nurse practitioner stands next to a patient laying down on a table.

The postpartum stage is HARD. It is both physically and emotionally demanding. Some women struggle in this stage to the point of postpartum depression/anxiety. But what if you’re struggling somewhere in between prenatal and postpartum depression? That’s where postnatal depletion comes in.

What is postnatal depletion?

The term “postnatal depletion” was coined by an Australian doctor Dr. Oscar Serrallach, and made popular by Goop, the controversial wellness website. Dr. Serrallach describes “postnatal depletion” as a group of symptoms that stem from physiologic, hormonal, and psychological aspects after having a baby.

Although this is not a medical diagnosis and was made popular by a controversial website, it could resonate with many postpartum women. It definitely resonates with me, being just three months postpartum for the second time. I want to inform you, mama (or partner to a mama), on some tips to help you through this difficult and depleting stage. These are just a few things that I have found helpful but by no means is this an exhaustive list.

What you can do to support your body postnatal

1. Prevention

If you are planning on a pregnancy at any point in the future, be it next month or 10 years from now, start taking care of your body. Eat whole foods, exercise, decrease stress, and start a quality prenatal optimally one year prior to pregnancy.

2. Vitamins

Nutrient needs increase significantly during pregnancy and then even more during breastfeeding. Some vitamins come directly from your diet and others come directly from your body’s stores, whether or not you are getting them from your diet.

As you can imagine, this can completely deplete important nutrients. Nutrients are building blocks for not only your physical health, but also for your mental health. Some important nutrients include, but are not limited to, B vitamins, Omega-3 and iron. A quality vitamin should not replace a healthy diet—they are best together.

That said, there are cases where a tailored vitamin protocol is needed. For example, I developed something called atrophic glossitis (where I lost all my tastebuds) with my first pregnancy. This is a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency, so I had to tailor my supplementation. Work with your practitioner if you notice any new physical symptoms during or after pregnancy. 

3. Nutrition

Food is the best way to get nutrients; nutrients that are best absorbed when they come from yoru food intake. No one wants to cook anything fancy postpartum, but sticking with whole foods is ideal for you and baby if you are breastfeeding.

One cookbook I lived off of postpartum was from @detoxinista called The Fresh and Health Instant Pot Cookbook. The recipes are so easy, delicious, and nutritious. Also the Crockpot Freezer Meals from @fitfoodiefinds are perfect to make prior to delivery. (Of course veering off course is to be expected. My detours—yes there were many—happened in the form of those delicious dairy-free Magnum ice cream bars. Yum!)

4. Herbs

There are many herbs that can support a mama in the postpartum period. One thing I did for my second that I wish I did with my first was work with a postpartum herbalist (Amanda at @treemamaherbals). I told her about my symptoms of depletion after my first child, and she created a customized tea for me that I absolutely love.

The herbs she used focus on my adrenals and help my mind feel sharp—all important when you feel like you are in a depleted state. As one example, stinging nettle tea is really nourishing and high in vitamins and minerals. If you are breastfeeding, make sure you are working with someone who is well versed in herbs before self-treating.

5. Sleep

You likely have heard someone say “sleep when the baby sleeps.” This couldn’t be truer. You just completed the most demanding physical activity your body will ever experience and it needs rest!

A few tips to support your sleep routine:

  • wear blue light blocking glasses when the sun is down (more about creating a bedtime routine here)
  • make sure you have snacks and water at your bedside so you don’t sleep or wake up from being too hungry or thirsty
  • forget the to do list! Many cultures consider the first 40 days of the postpartum stage as sacred and a time of pure rest. I fully support this after going through it twice. 

At MIMC, we aren’t OBGYNs, so we don’t work specifically with pregnant patients. BUT, the postpartum stage is something we have experience with (personally and professionally) so we can support you there, as you take care of your new little, so you can recover too.

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