By Sarah Appleford
Postnatal depletion is a term you may have been hearing more lately, particularly if you are pregnant or a new mother. That’s because it’s become more recognised in the medical world and talked about in mainstream media.
What is postnatal depletion?
To grow and sustain the life of a baby requires a huge amount of nutrients. During pregnancy, the baby depends on the mother’s macro and micronutrients to develop and grow, and in the process, the mother’s stores are massively depleted.
The term “postnatal depletion” was originally coined by Dr Oscar Serrallach, a Byron Bay GP. He explains the condition causes persisting physical and emotional fatigue. Often the depletion post-birth is compounded with each pregnancy, particularly if they’re close together, breastfeeding, twin births or if you have suffered morning sickness, including hyperemesis.
Symptoms of postnatal depletion
If you’re feeling drained, experiencing brain fog and suffering from sleep deprivation, you may have postnatal depletion. Feeling overwhelmed, a sense of anxiety or lost are also often common signs of the condition, but it’s important not to confuse these with postnatal depression.
Common symptoms of postnatal depletion include:
- Low energy levels
- Brain fog or poor memory
- Low mood or self-esteem
- Feeling wired or hyper-vigilance
- Waking unrefreshed
- Weight gain
- Weight loss
- Loss of libido
- Poor hair or skin quality
- Impaired immune function
- Worsening of pre-existing conditions
Often new mothers experience hormonal imbalances during the postnatal period as the baby needs female sex hormones to maintain the placenta throughout the pregnancy.
Progesterone can decline rapidly and the result can be oestrogen dominance leading to additional symptoms such as abdominal bloating, tender breasts, irregular periods, skin issues and a general decline in well-being.
With an expansive list of symptoms due to hormonal changes and micronutrient deficiencies such as vitamin B12, iron and zinc, postnatal depletion can be a contributing factor in mental health issues including postpartum depression.