Hayley’s BLOG

Why ‘post-natal depletion’ is an epidemic and what you can do if you have it


I read an article when I was pregnant with my second baby that really resonated with me. In fact, it immediately inspired a new focus in my work with women. The fact that it was written by a doctor in my local area was spooky, and his clinic is in the same town as where I birthed that baby!

The doctor’s name is Dr Oscar Serrallach, an Integrative GP on the Far North Coast of NSW. I’d heard of Oscar before as he was well respected in the area and several of my clients had also been to see him. When I read his article describing the myriad of physical, emotional and mental symptoms mothers often present with, a shiver of recognition went up my spine. I’d experienced most of these myself after I had my first child AND so many of my female clients were going through similar things.

Symptoms like extreme fatigue, foggy thinking, thinning hair or falling out in clumps, insomnia, anxiety, depression, general crankiness and irritability, crazy hormones, weight gain, thyroid issues, autoimmune diseases

All things that started (or got worse) once these women became mothers.

So many modern mothers are struggling to regain their health and vitality post-baby – physically, emotionally and mentally.

These aren’t just new mums, either. Often, it’s women with kids in upper primary school who suddenly fall to pieces after years running on nothing more than the whiff of an oily rag.

What society may say is ‘just what happens when you become a mother’, Dr Serrallach (and ME!) understands is NOT normal but rather is the result of massive nutritional deficiencies and not enough rest.

Thing is, chronic nutrient deficiencies and too much stress can build up over time and manifest as Thyroid problems, Adrenal Fatigue, Autoimmune conditions…

The pressures us modern mamas are under has never been seen before in human evolution.

Here’s my take on the matter:

1. We come into motherhood already depleted:

Our food is not as nutritionally dense as it once was, due to farming methods, long storage conditions, supermarket shelves full of lifeless food etc. Medications like the oral contraceptive pill (OCP) deplete our stores of B vitamins, magnesium and zinc. Most of us don’t get enough Omega 3 fats, or important minerals like Iodine. We eat on the run, sometimes skipping meals altogether, crave sweets to keep us going and probably rely a bit too heavily on coffee.

Many women have poor digestive health, so they aren’t absorbing their nutrients. And stress depletes our nutrient stores too.

Then, we fall pregnant and whatever precious nutrient stores we have go into growing a baby. Good news for baby, not for mum! Breastfeeding requires even more good nutrition, and so many mothers I see in clinic don’t eat enough, or miss out on the right foods, to keep up their stores.

Most of the pre-natal multivitamins in supermarkets and pharmacies are completely inadequate too, by the way. They tend to use cheaper forms of nutrients that are poorly absorbed and give women a false sense of security. It’s going to take way more than one or two little tablets a day to turn around your health.

2. We push ourselves to ‘bounce back’ too quickly:

If I see one more silly article about ‘getting your body back’ post baby, I think I will scream! Too much pressure is put on women to bounce back – and none of it actually talks about good nutrition, it’s all about firm bums and thigh gaps – when really we could be celebrating the miracle that our body grew another human. One who doesn’t care that we no longer look 22.

We stress about returning to work, how to cope with very little sleep, how to keep up with our work deadlines, daycare drop offs and interstate travel. We feel pressure to keep pushing ourselves in our careers and don’t take enough time (if any at all) for nurture and nourishment.

And often this is a financial necessity, it’s not like we WANT to punish ourselves like this.

The World Health Organisation recommends a mother breastfeeds her infant for 2 years. Yet our paid parental leave in Australia is for 18 weeks. Dads get 2 weeks, but they don’t have boobs.

Anyone who has returned to work and tried to express milk once or twice in work hours knows how fun that is.

There is such an incredible disconnect between what we know is good for a mother and baby’s health and what our society demands of us.

Given that so many of us go into motherhood already undernourished and adrenally exhausted,  what hope is there for mothers to regain energy without good nutrition and rest?

And which organ needs nutrition and rest the most… our brain! Stress is so damaging to our noggins.

I would often use the expression, ‘sorry, baby brain!’ as a funny way to excuse my vague behaviour from time to time. What Dr Serrallach is suggesting, however, is that this ‘baby brain’ phenomenon should only be a temporary thing – and may not need to happen at all if we nourish ourselves before, during and after pregnancy.

So, what’s the answer for all the mothers out there feeling overwhelmed and undernourished?

In my Naturopathy and Nutrition practice here in Newcastle, I most love working with mamas who come to me overweight, overwhelmed and totally worn out. I’ve been there and I know how to help them get out of it.

I use a very similar protocol to Dr Serrallach’s – tweaked a bit to my own experience as a mother who recovered.

It’s all about NOURISHING your body, mind and soul. You need a wholesome, nutrient-dense diet, with quality supplements (like THESE incredible ones) and natural medicines to help get those stores up fast, you need to stress less, improve digestion, sort out any niggling health complaints and you need SUPPORT.

That’s my job 🙂

If you would like my help to regain your energy, vitality and health, then please call the clinic today to book in a FREE 15 Minute chat to see if I can help you: (02) 4965 4881. Skype consults are available too 🙂

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