Post Natal Depletion

By Brittany Darling at Whole Food Healing

As a mother of 2 children under 3, feeling tired and overwhelmed is an all too familiar. I coped reasonable well though all the trying times of my first baby (you can read more about that here (link to baby story blog) but by the time by second baby was 6 months, I had developed a handful of symptoms that I swore were going to be some awful autoimmune disease. I had joint aches, mouth ulcers, was tired all the time but was too wired at night to sleep, was moody, losing my hair and absolutely completely stressed out.  I went to see my GP, who agreed that some of my symptoms were sounding very much like an autoimmune disease. We checked inflammatory markers, did an antibody screening, iron studies, vitamin D and B12 and checked blood glucose, lipids, thyroid, liver and kidney function. Fortunately there was nothing wrong with me except I was mildly iron deficient. This obviously didn't explain all my symptoms. My GP put it down to "burn out". After doing my own research and speaking to a tonne of other mothers, I came across the term "post natal depletion". This really hits the nail on the head for how I felt at this time.

So what are the symptoms of Post Natal Depletion? As this is not technically a "medical condition", the symptoms are varied and I feel like there is a bit of cross over with post natal depression but it's important to distinguish that post natal depletion does NOT include prolonged depression, loss of enjoyment, self esteem, or suicidal or harming thoughts.  If you are in doubt, please reach out to your medical doctor, beyond blue or the black dog institute.

  • Fatigue, exhaustion and tiredness
  • Feeling on edge, snappy, or "wired" 
  • Mood swings
  • Inability to fall asleep, frequent waking at night, light sleeping or waking unrefreshed
  • Forgetfulness, inability to make decisions or "baby brain"
  • Feeling of not coping, stressed and being overwhelmed
  • Loss of libido
  • Hair loss
  • Plus so many more

Are you thinking " Yes! That's me but what can I do about it"? I have complied a list of natural remedies and lifestyle tips to help you get back on track.

Prioritise Sleep

I feel like sleep is the most important thing. Once you have a good nights sleep, everything else can function properly. If you have a younger baby this might be difficult for the first few months. During this period I suggest sleeping when baby sleeps (day or night). If you have a older baby (6 months plus) that is a frequent waker, this needs to be addressed if it is problem. As a sleep deprived mum of nearly 12 months, I recommend Jo Ryan "the baby whisperer". She has a book called baby bliss and also does 3 night in home sleep training. If your baby is sleep through but you still have trouble sleeping, I recommend the following.

Wind down ritual

Just like your baby likely has a bedtime ritual, you should have one too. Have a bath or shower, a cup of herbal tea, turn phones, to and computers OFF 1 hour before bed.

Sleep Hygieine

Ensure your room is dark, cool, and quiet. Phones should not be in the bedroom so you may need to invest in an old fashion alarm clock. This also goes for computers, iPads and TV's.

Sedative Herbs

If all of the above fails, you may like to try valerian (this doesn't work for everyone), hops, or passionflower. These are available as sleep teas or you can get a herbal tincture from a herbalist (like me!).

Adrenal Tonics

If you are waking frequently, springing up in the middle of the night, or have racing thoughts, adrenal tonics may help alleviate some of the "wired" feeling. I like withania, rhodiola, rehmannia or liquorice. Caution with liquorice and hypertension.

Magesium

I like to have an Epsom salt bath but you can also try a Magnesium supplement specifically designed for sleep.

Stress

It's easy to get caught up in the day to day stress of being a mum. Sometimes the work feels never ending. Grocery shopping, cleaning, nappy changing, tidying toys, cooking, washing bottles, sterilising, pumping milk, the list goes on and on! I find I am the most stressed when I was multitasking. By multitasking I mean I would bath the kids while checking my emails or posting on Instagram or grocery shopping with both kids in the trolley (usually they are hungry/tired and screaming) while trying to chat to a friend or my mum on the phone. Multitasking was creating one big "busy" stressful mess and I was never living in the moment nor enjoying it. I always felt like I need to be somewhere else or be doing something else. "But how am I going to get everything done?", I hear you say. Trust me you will be far more productive doing one task at a time plus it will feel so much more rewarding. Live in the moment and be present. The same adrenal tonics, with admin, rehmannia, rhodiola and liquorice, as listed above are also very helpful for stress.

Hair Loss

When I was pregnant I remember my hairdresser complementing me on how thick and luscious my hair was. I absolutely loved being pregnant. I really felt as if I had the "glow". Then, at about 12 weeks after my son arrived, many sleepless nights, meals missed and an extreme amount of stress, I started to notice my hair was thinning and I had receding hairline. Naturally I was devastated. It's normal to have some hair loss post partum due to the changes in hormones, stress and depletion of nutrients. Here is a list of things I found really helped reduce the shedding and thinning of my hair.

  1. Have your haircut regularly. This is something my hairdresser told me and it really works! Every 6-8 weeks is ideal. 
  2. Head massages. I love a head massage, who doesn't! This will improve blood flow to the scalp and stimulate new hair growth. 
  3. Don't wear your hair in tight ponytail or bun. As tempting as it is to throw your hair up after a long night with baby, it actually can make hair loss worse. I suggest using a melrose clip instead as you are less likely to pull out your precious hairs.
  4. Vida Glow. I started taking Vida Glow after the birth of my second child. I wish I had known about it with my first baby. I had significantly less hair loss second time round and it helped heal my stretch marks too. 
  5. Stress less. I know it's hard when you have a new baby in tow but try to find ways to reduce your stress levels. Learn to say no and don't be so hard on yourself. Go with the flow and take everyday as it comes. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

Mindful Eating

It's equally important as eating healthy foods to eat mindfully. By this is mean, not picking at your toddlers’ leftovers, snacking while cooking family meals or picking all day long while you are breastfeeding. Sit down and eat a proper nourishing meal mindfully. You will digest your food better and avoid over or under eating. I'm a big advocate of sitting to eat with your children or as family if possible. I find doing this sets up good eating habits and has made my children want to explore a variety of foods (mainly what is on my plate). Look after yourself and be an example for your children. 

I hope all of the above might help you on your journey to a happier and calmer motherhood. If you feel like you need more support, you might like to consider an in clinic consultation. My nutrition and herbal medicine consulting rooms situated in Woollahra, Sydney (across the road from Bondi Junction Station).

Brit x


If you are interested in consulting with Brittany or have any questions for her, you can reach her at Brittany@wholefoodhealing.com.au
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