Many cultures have/had a saying related to the "why's" of postpartum care. Something that summed up why it was so important to care for new Mama's in the first month or so after birth. "40 Days for 40 years" is one of them. This may sound like a huge exaggeration, but bare with me while we explore this further and why it may be serious in a number of ways. Also how easy it may be to prevent and/or heal from postpartum depletion if certain actions are taken early on.
The Ideal: The revolution in postpartum care largely looks to our ancestors knowledge and practises to create a framework for modern postpartum care. There are many wonderful books that explore the details and I have added a few below. 40 days of complete nurturing with meals, teas, cleaning, childcare and massage all done by someone else may seem like a luxury but up until recently it was a necessity. Mama's only job was to fall in love and bond with baby, breastfeed and recuperate from 9 or so months of pregnancy and birth all of which is optimal in a peaceful, slow, relaxed environment. The old rumours of a woman giving birth in the fields and then returning straight back to work are just not true.
Ideally we can create a postpartum experience as close as possible to traditional care. Sure we may not have all of our Sisters, Aunties and Mother close by but we may pay someone to clean, massage or care for us and we can also rally our friends and family together. We may choose to shower and wash our hair everyday whereas many traditional cultures did not but rather had herbal "washes" or similar. We may not sit on a bed of warm coals, but we may rug up with our hot water bottle, heater or fireplace and watch netflix.
If we truly slow down for the important recuperation phase of the first forty days then we allow our nervous system to relax, in turn allowing for our "love hormones" to kick in assisting with breastfeeding, bonding and healing. We also allow our stress hormones to wind back, or remain at a healthy level. By eating delicious and nutritious meals and herbal teas we begin to replenish our body with required nutrients to recover from pregnancy, birth and nurture our baby in arms. All of these elements are going to give Mama and Baby the best start to thrive and possibly minimise the chances of postpartum depression. Which leads me onto postpartum depletion... note postpartum and postnatal are often used interchangeably, however postpartum generally refers to the Mother and postnatal to the baby.
Postnatal Depletion: A term coined by Dr Oscar Serrallach after practising as a GP he noticed a pattern of Woman coming to him in the years after childbirth, anywhere from one to ten years, depleted with associated negative health consequences. After testing and working with these Women he has prescribed a general postnatal depletion cure, addressing common nutrient deficiencies.
Cases varied from mild, moderate to serious, depending on a large number of factors including time in between birth and treatment. Also diet, sleep, stress, past and present health issues. Many Mama's were running on empty, leading to over-stress of adrenals, adrenal fatigue, weakened immune function and hormone imbalance. It's no wonder really with the load that most modern Mothers carry. Importantly, Dr Oscar acknowledges that some Women are truly experiencing from postpartum depression but outlines the difference between depletion and depression and why the similarities can lead to incorrect diagnoses.
I have just read the book and am currently seeing a local Naturopath to address my own depletion, the similarities in my own test results and treatment with Dr Oscar's observations are uncanny. Notably my iron stores were extremely low, no wonder I have been so fatigued. Conversations with a number of people including GP's all sounded the familiar "you're a Mum, that's why you're tired". Luckily I followed my instinct that there was something more going on. Tiredness and depletion may be the norm in today's western society, but they shouldn't be and there are some easy enough steps to prevent and treat this. I will keep you posted with my experience as I embark on the exciting replenishing journey.
So please Mama start the journey of valuing yourself, your body and soul by embarking on a journey of self-care and replenishment. You will become an even more amazing Mother, Partner, Friend, but most importantly YOU will feel better for it and you deserve that. It's time break old yet modern paradigms of the Super (depleted) Mum.
I will be writing in detail soon about planning your postpartum but for now some simple steps you can take:
- Eat at least one highly nutritious meal a day include a good dose of healthy fat, avocado, olive oil, butter or ghee, bone broth, protein sources such as eggs, nuts, chemical free meat and lots of fresh green veges, healthy wholegrain carbohydrates to name a few. I will post more on this and share some of my own favourite recipes. Smoothies and herbal teas are a great simple way to get daily nutrients. For now if you'd like Julia Jone's from Newborn Mothers offers a free recipe from her book here.
- Invest in getting tested by a Naturopath or Holistic GP, find out if and where you are deficient or how to prevent becoming so. The right practitioner will also be able to provide you with high quality supplements and dietary advice.
- Practice self-care, get a massage, start a yoga class (usually 2-3months postpartum and if you are ready for it), ask for a sleep in, hire a cleaner.
If you're a professional working with New Mama's or considering becoming one, check out the amazing Newborn Mothers Training that I myself have done.
The Postnatal Depletion Cure, Dr Oscar Sellarach, 2017
Julia Jones, www.newbornmothers.com