What is Postpartum Depletion?

January 7, 2024
January 7, 2024
January 7, 2024

by Alyssa Mancini, RN, BSN, CLC, Founder of Mālama Mama

Pregnancy is a time of massive expansion. You are utilizing a lot of energy and resources in your body to grow and then birth another human. Once a baby is born, your body is healing from birth: it is trying to replenish its nutrient stores that it has utilized and the tissues that stretched are coming back into themselves. This is all happening while you are likely massively exhausted from childbirth and an erratic sleep schedule— and if you are breastfeeding you are continuing to use your nutrient stores to nourish your child from your body.

Many traditional cultures have specific postpartum traditions that all include support from the community so that the mother can have an extended resting period, nutrient dense and easy to digest foods, and healing bodywork. The only job for these mothers is to rest, replenish, and care for and bond with their baby. The community comes around her to protect this special time. 

In our modern society, many of us arrive at motherhood with a partner who may only have one or two weeks off (if we are lucky). Then we are expected to go at it alone; caring for a newborn, the tasks of the house, and cooking meals, all on very little sleep. Many of us are not fueling our bodies properly for pregnancy and postpartum. Eating traditional, nutrient dense foods like liver or bone broth might not be on our radar. Even if you are aware of how to provide your body with the proper nutrients for postpartum healing and nutrient repletion it can be extremely difficult. Many fruits and vegetables that are conventionally grown are also not as full with vitamins and minerals as they used to be due to depletion of our topsoils. Not to mention that even remembering to drink water or find a quick snack with a newborn is a major feat. Add into this the massive lack of postpartum support and you have the perfect recipe for postpartum depletion.

The effects of postpartum depletion can last for years after the birth of a child. This can be compounded by more pregnancies without proper repletion between. You may experience postpartum hair loss, extreme fatigue, or brain fog. All symptoms that are normalized but are not our physiologic norm if we are properly cared for in pregnancy and postpartum.

So what can we do about it? 

-Acknowledging how massive an undertaking motherhood is is a great first step. The culture around bouncing back and being expected to return to life as it was “before” motherhood is a huge disservice to mothers and families. It takes a lot to become a mother and raise a child. 

-Eating a nutrient dense diet and supplementing. It is extremely difficult to get all of the nutrients needed with the modern American diet. Even if you eat a well balanced diet, supplements can help boost you during this time of immense nutrient utilization.

-Rally a support system. Having others around you to help is essential. Ask family, friends, or hire someone to support you. This can help you get the food and rest you need to recover. It is no joke that it takes a village to raise a child. We can not (and should not) try to do it all.

Thank you for the work you are doing raising the next generation. You deserve all the support for this monumental task.

Learn more about this topic:

Mālama Mama - Providing Holistic Postpartum Care to nourish your mind, body, and family. 

The Postnatal Depletion Cure - Dr. Oscar Serrallach

Real Food for Pregnancy - Lily Nichols, RDN, CDE