Postpartum health is a topic I am infinitely passionate about and there is not enough focus on in conventional care.
Even as a medical provider, I found the postpartum period to be difficult to navigate, especially after my first baby. Between nutrient insufficiencies, thyroid disturbances, adrenal dysfunction and hormone imbalances, many moms (myself included) don’t feel like themselves during the postpartum period. Throw in sleep deprivation and its a recipe for feeling quite dysfunctional.
And what’s worse? We are often told this is “normal.” Of course, it is normal to feel tired in the newborn days with around the clock feedings but has anyone mentioned trying to optimize these other areas of health? That nourishing the body and focusing on real recovery is going to lift that fog and help you enjoy motherhood? I was lucky to start working with a provider who dug deep and made sure that all of my labs were in optimal range, actually discussed diet and stress management and made me take a hard look at my approach to health.
Enter Functional Medicine. Functional Medicine in the postpartum period is the ideal framework to getting back to feeling like yourself, regaining energy and enjoying motherhood. It is getting to the root cause of symptoms instead of brushing them off as “normal” or giving a pill as a bandaid to cover up undesirable symptoms.
In my own quest to feel better postpartum and create postpartum wellness, I came across the work of Dr. Oscar Serrallach, a Physician in Australia working with women in the postpartum period, who coined the phrase Postnatal Depletion Syndrome. After reading his book, The Postnatal Depletion Cure and diving more into the literature on this topic, the postpartum experience started to make total sense. If you step back, it is not shocking that moms are depleted after growing a baby, going through birth and then continuing to breastfeed for months or years after birth but why aren’t we checking nutrient levels and encouraging replenishing these depleted stores? Why aren’t we giving more support to moms in this unique stage to create postpartum wellness?
Dr. Serrallach points out that Postnatal Depletion Syndrome arises from a few key factors: nutrient insufficiencies, sleep deprivation and the transition into the new role of motherhood. It’s interesting to note that Postnatal Depletion Syndrome is largely a Western phenomenon. This may in part be due to the fact that we commonly live in single family households rather than multi-generational homes. Family is often spread across the country so there is less support after birth from family. And unlike in traditional cultures, where communities rally around mom and help to take care of baby while mom is able to rest, moms, especially in America, have less support and often go back to work just weeks after giving birth. In traditional cultures, communities share nutrient dense, nourishing meals to help mom recover which helps to restore nutrient levels.
Postnatal Depletion Syndrome looks a lot like what we consider to be a “normal” postpartum experience:
- Brain Fog / “mommy brain”
- Depression / anxiety
- Easy bruising
- Hair loss and brittle nails
- Joint aches and pains
- Loss of self-confidence
- Low libido
- Weight gain or inability to lose weight
- Feeling ”tired but wired”
…But this can largely be avoided with the right guidance and focus on mom’s health after birth.
In the coming weeks, I will be discussing nutrient insufficiencies and how we can support moms in the postpartum period and beyond. I believe that by getting moms back to optimal health, the whole family is then able to thrive.
If you are a mom (or know a mom) who is struggling with any of the above mentioned symptoms and want to create a plan to achieve postpartum wellness, click the button below to schedule a free 15 minute consultation to see how I can help!