Estimated Reading time: 8 minutes
Nursery ready? Check!
Baby bath? Check!
Car seat? Check!
Birth plan? Sort of…
Postnatal Recovery Plan?
Postnatal recovery plan…Uhm. Say what?
Yes, a postnatal recovery plan for mom. I didn’t have one either. Knowing what I know now that seems absolutely crazy.
For 9 months you have been growing a human being. Although we get fuzzy feelings when thinking about this, the system set up by biology is pretty violent. No other animal on the planet allows the foetus to take over mom’s blood supply. This allows your innocent little baby to get all the nutrients and oxygen it needs first. Regardless of how this might harm you.
If your aren’t eating a nutrient-rich diet – which face it we aren’t always doing consistently before and during pregnancy – and your vitamin and mineral stores aren’t big to start with, your baby will empty those storage rooms. Whatever is left, is yours. A lot of times that is not enough to start of motherhood blissfully.
Ancient societies knew this and have different practices that take care of the new mother just as much as the baby is taken care of in the first weeks and months. Sounds pretty great to me! Both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda provide a postpartum plan that incorporates a lot of rest and nourishment for mom. This to counter the depletion that takes place during pregnancy.
The symptoms that follow a poor recovery are probably very familiar to you:
- low energy levels
- tiredness and fatigue
- memory loss
- poor concentration
- difficulties losing the pregnancy weight
- poor gut health
- being susceptible to the flu and other contagious diseases
- feeling run-down
- brain fog
- feeling overwhelmed
- painful menstruation
- unreasonable guilt
- decreased libido
I think you get the idea.
Stop Ignoring The Signs
Since these symptoms are pretty generic, it’s not uncommon to walk around with them for a long time without looking for help. Usually you think that a good night’s rest is all you need. But you might already have found out that waking up tired seems part of the deal (even if you manage to magically get 8 hours or more).
After my own pregnancy my biggest symptoms were brain fog, anemia and the accompanying low energy levels. The most surprising thing about it all was how little attention this side of motherhood receives. It wasn’t discussed at the doctor’s office, I did not have conversations about it with my awesome midwife who was more like a doula to me nor did it come up with friends who were also mothers. I thought it was just me. And I tried really hard to act as if everything was fine.
It wasn’t an immediate realization, it took me more than a year to figure out the connection with my pregnancy and inadequate recovery. When I put one and one together after a lot of conversations and research all I wanted to do was raise awareness and help mothers who might suffer from these same issues. I started working with women on their nutrition, lifestyle choices and I was finding many commonalities with the symptoms they faced.
Supermom Doesn’t Exist
When I ran into the interview with Dr. Oscar Serrallach in Goop my A-HA moment came to a completion. Dr. Serrallach is a family practitioner from Australia who heads an integrative medical centre where he has treated a lot of women with these symptoms he calls postnatal depletion.
According to Dr. Oscar Serrallach 50% of the women might be suffering from some form of postnatal depletion, with postnatal depression being on the end of the scale. Think of all the mothers you know with children up to the age of 7. Half of them are doing less than great!
What to do?
Do You Suffer From Postnatal Depletion?
Find Out Here With The 3 Minute Self-Assessment
First of all, you are not crazy for not feeling like yourself. Having a name for it felt like such a relief, I hope you experience that too! So now lets take some consistent action on a few fronts.
1. Go see your doctor
If it was your baby walking around in a lethargic state or all fuzzy brained you would have been on the phone with the doctor months ago! Why aren’t you taking your health as seriously?
It is so important to get your blood work done and find out what your deficiencies are. Even a basic panel will give you an idea if your thyroid is not functioning properly, if other hormonal imbalances exist or if you’re deficient in iron, B12 or have depleted mineral stores, which are all very common when it comes to postnatal depletion. Don’t take this lightly, any old multivitamin won’t do in this case.
You need a healthcare professional and some actual test results to proceed. They might not be familiar with postnatal depletion, but they’ll be able to give you tools to recover. So go make that appointment, no excuses about being too busy (think about how pro active you would be if the roles were reversed between you and your little one).
2. Sleep quality
Read again: not sleep quantity, but sleep quality.
I know it can be hard to get the amount of sleep you are craving right now. But it is possible to take steps to improve the quality of sleep. Sleep deprivation and I would argue this is in line with poor quality sleep is associated with weight gain, emotional volatility, brain fog and looking like a vampire. Much in line with the symptoms of postnatal depletion.
You have a routine for your little one to get him or her to bed. My son starts rubbing his eyes the moment he gets out of the shower, even when he seemed full of life before getting in. He just knows his bedtime routine, his body knows what to expect and surrenders to the fact that these are the steps before he goes to bed. We need a routine just as much. It doesn’t become less effective with age. Read a book before you go to bed, take a shower, turn off technology, have a few steps preferably an hour in advance to prepare your body for sleep. Be as consistent as you would be with your baby.
If you want more tips on how to improve the quality of your sleep, read my post on sleep quality.
3. Skipping Meals
Stop skipping breakfast and other meals, bread crusts or other leftovers from your little one don’t count as a meal.
Should I say more?
There is a time and place for fasting and you can learn more about that in my post on intermittent fasting (coming soon). Going hungry wreaks havoc on your system. Especially the female body and female hormones react really badly to feeling deprived and hungry. That’s why I dislike dieting so much. The long-term consequences are usually hormonal imbalance and weight gain. And even if you manage to keep the weight off, you don’t feel awesome, but grumpy and moody. This only worsens the state of postnatal depletion.
I really want you to eat! Have 3 meals a day where you add a lot of vegetables and fruit.
Stop being so hard on yourself.
It’s the most counterproductive thing you can do. We have this idea that we need to be the perfect parent with the perfectly kept house while looking perfect as well. I use the word perfect so many times to prove a point. There’s no perfect, asking for help is a sign of strength.
What would you tell a friend in your position? To not get help, keep feeling horrible, keep trying to do everything by yourself and resent your partner for it? No way! That conversation would be totally different. Grant yourself the grace you would a friend, it start being nice to yourself in your self-talk!