27 May “Postnatal Depletion”: Part 2
What can prevent this common and biologically based phenomenon from having a negative long term health impact?
- Ensure health and excellent nutrition before becoming pregnant
- Commit to supporting pregnant women to become or continue to be well-rested, well nourished, and active. This support can come from the inside, from partners, friends, family members, employers, care providers.
- Closely review sources of supplemental nutrition, pre-conception, prenatally, and postpartum. For example, current guidelines emphasize use of Folate over Folic Acid; recommended vitamin D levels have shifted, recommendations for consumption of Magnesium have shifted –we are constantly learning more about how different supplemental vitamins work (or don’t work) and how they impact the way we can absorb and process nutrients from food.
- Support women to have the healthiest birth experience for herself and her baby. If she desires and can have a drug-free birth, this often leads to a a healthier recovery time.
- Allow more time for recovery postpartum. Strive for a 2 week lying-in period! Many traditions encourage or even require that new mothers rest for 30-40 days after the birth, and focus their energy on healing, eating, feeding their child, and resting. Very few women stay off their feet more than 1 week. Very few women rest for even a few days following giving birth. Even if you are feeling great, allow your body time to heal. Partners, even if you are feeling tired of caring for your children and household, encourage this woman who has just grown and birthed a baby, and is still growing that baby, to take sufficient time to rest and recover. Ask for support from friends and family, and allow others to care for you so that you can care for yourselves, and more effectively care for your kids in the long run.
- Keep taking vitamins while breastfeeding! A nursing mother is still the only source of nutrition for this child, who is requiring more nutrients than during pregnancy.
- Make postpartum meal plans well into the first year. Get together with friends and do some batch cooking, so that on the days where no one has the energy to cook, you can take a healthy dish out of the freezer, rather than dining on chips or ice cream.
- Be gentle with yourself. Make mistakes, have lousy days, have superb days, be the best parent or not, and allow that to be just what it is, in that time. It will not last forever – both the great, the uncomfortable, and the downright lousy days will pass.
- Ask for help. When life is feeling overwhelming, and you feel your well has run dry – you are not alone. Partners, family, friends, midwives, community members – we are all here to help through this journey. We all want to be in best health and to see children in best health, raised by healthy, whole people. Reach out to your community.
- Look at creative ways to increase your sleep. This can involve daytime naps, for breastfeeding mothers expressing milk and having someone else take over a feeding to allow for a 5 hours stretch, bed sharing. Change your expectations about what sleep looks like (it really can help!).
- Exercise and be active once you have recovered. Get outside, in the sunshine, and go for a walk.
If nothing else, I hope this information on Postnatal Depletion, baby brain, mamnesia or whatever we call the experience of feeling foggy and run-down after giving birth helps generate thoughtful conversation and changes in how we as individuals can change our postpartum support habits. Having a name for these postpartum experiences helps, in that it can help us all realize that what is considered normal experience of early parenting does not have to be that way.
Always remember – a mother’s happiness, health and well-being are an essential part of a family’s happiness, health and well-being. While some of these conversations and suggestions can feel big and far-reaching, I hope that women who read this will take what is possible and make it happen, to drop that which is not possible, and to expect good, better and best health. After all, wouldn’t the world be a better place of more women felt fabulous in their bodies, in their souls, and in their mothering?
Next blog – more on the lying-in period
AnnMarie Rian LM/CPM