Motherhood is a beautiful journey, and it’s one that comes with its own unique set of challenges. One common struggle that many moms face is postnatal depletion- a condition that can affect both physical and mental well-being. In this post we’ll explore what postnatal depletion is, why it matters, and most importantly, actionable steps to overcome it and reclaim your vitality.
What’s postnatal depletion?
Postnatal depletion refers to the physical and emotional exhaustion many mothers experience after childbirth and is the result of the monumental miracle it is to incarnate human life.
What causes it?
The roots of postnatal depletion are multifactorial, but include:
The nutritional demands of pregnancy & breastfeeding
The physical toll of childbirth, whether vaginal or c-section
Sleepless nights (mom can lose between 350-700 hours of sleep in the first year): that's 40-90 nights!
A rapidly and constantly evolving learning curve that comes with parenting
The permanent change in identity (becoming a mom) & the integration of this new role with a woman's “old life”
An increased sensitivity to emotions- complete with a change in actual brain structure
Wow- that’s a lot, mama!
Understanding postnatal depletion is the first step to addressing it and ensuring that mom & the family system not only survive, but thrive in the postpartum journey and beyond.
Understanding the signs.
Postnatal depletion can often manifest as persistent fatigue, mood swings, overthinking, heightened stress, low mental clarity, “mom brain,” a weakened immune system, low libido, a sense of isolation, and a loss of personal sense of wellbeing.
While it’s common to throw your hands up in semi-defeat thinking “well this is just the way motherhood is!” it’s crucial to recognize that there is physiological phenomenon at play, and they CAN be addressed to feel better fast.
The impact on wellbeing.
If not addressed, postnatal depletion can affect all areas of a mom’s life including how present & alive she may feel in the early bonding period with her baby/toddler, how she relates to her new role as a mother, how she shows up to work (if returning), how she relates to her partner, how she maintains or develops friendships, and of course her personal health & vitality.
If not addressed it can take up to 18 months for a mom’s body to recover from a single pregnancy/birth, and it can take some moms YEARS to “feel like themselves” again if they have multiple children in close range and aren't nourishing themselves in body-mind-heart.
What to do if you’re experiencing postnatal depletion.
Prioritize eating nutrient-dense foods and consider supplementing to replenish essential micronutrients depleted during pregnancy & breastfeeding.
Ensure you’re eating enough healthy fats, protein, and complex carbs.
Consider asking your healthcare provider to do micronutrient testing, or even have your genetics tested to know the ideal profile of macronutrients for your DNA code.
Rest & recovery:
Prioritize quality sleep, making sure you get BOTH deep sleep & REM sleep
Prioritize quantity of sleep. 8-9 hours per day is ideal (naps count if your baby is still waking at night). Of course, that's not always possible. There are many resources on optimizing your sleep & circadian rhythm, even with a baby. We will be writing about that in an upcoming blog.
Embrace short breaks throughout the day, get some fresh air and make time to relax.
Incorporate simple mindfulness exercises like meditation, yoga, or a breath practice to manage stress, integrate the identity change, and foster emotional wellbeing.
Seek or create your community- whether that be neighbors, grandparents, or new mom friends. It truly takes a village to not only raise a child, but to raise a mother. We were not meant to parent in isolation, and you deserve to feel nourished in your journey.
Alternative & complimentary therapies:
Try acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, somatic therapies, or energy medicine. Many practices have thousands of years of history and demonstrated benefits to balancing our bodies, minds, and energy systems.
Keep in mind- implementing these changes doesn’t require a complete lifestyle overhaul. In fact, consistent, gradual changes are what build the greatest resilience and ability to navigate the demands of motherhood with vitality.
As mothers, our well-being matters because we cannot pour into our little one’s cup from an empty one. Understanding postnatal depletion is the first step toward reclaiming our vitality in modern motherhood. Let’s prioritize self-care, implement these actionable steps, and foster a community of support. Share your experiences and insights below, and let’s empower each other on this journey toward thriving motherhood and creating a beautiful world for ourselves, our children, and children’s children.