“A mother continues to labor long after the baby is born.” Lisa Jo Baker
This quote couldn’t be more true. There is so much that happens to a Mother, mentally, physically, physiologically and soulfully, when she has a baby. Childbirth is only the beginning of the labor that goes into the role of a Mother. It is a true transformation that is wildly amazing yet can still be wildly depleting despite the reward. Not only does a Mother have to deal healing physically from childbirth but she also has to manage a new mental load that can be devastating on her as an individual. The mental, physical, and soulful connection is a cycle. If one of these aspects are depleted, it can roll into the other aspect’s decline. When a Mother has a baby, the mental physical and possibly the soul can feel so exhausted that it can turn into serious issues such as postpartum depression, pp anxiety, loss of self, pelvic floor/core issues, back pain, etc. Maternal physical and mental health are so important because there is a baby depending on her wellness. And while this may be a season that is intense, there are ways to set yourself up for the best possible experience for you and your baby. No matter how far from childbirth you are, it is never too late for healing.
First, there needs to an awareness of the difference between postpartum depression and postpartum depletion.
Postpartum depression is a serious mental illness that involves the brain and affects your behavior and physical health. It is important to note, postpartum depression can be treated. The hormonal changes that happen after childbirth may trigger symptoms of postpartum depression. When you are pregnant, levels of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone are the highest they’ll ever be. In the first 24 hours after childbirth, hormone levels quickly drop back to normal, pre pregnancy levels. Researchers believe this sudden change in hormone levels may lead to depression. This is similar to hormone changes before a woman’s period but involves much more extreme swings in hormone levels. Thyroid hormone levels dropping after childbirth can also trigger PP depression.
Postpartum depression is more than “Baby Blues”. It is not a weakness or flaw, it is a complication of childbirth. It is considered normal to have “baby blues” for up to two weeks after childbirth. If your baby blues don’t go away or you feel sad, hopeless, or empty for longer than 2 weeks, you may have postpartum depression. With baby blues, you can have mood swings, feel sad, anxious, or overwhelmed, have crying spells, lose your appetite, have trouble sleeping. Postpartum depression results in more severe symptoms including…
- withdraw from family
- difficulty bonding with baby
- intense anger or rage
- severe anxiety or panic attacks
- recurrent thoughts of harming yourself or baby
- Thoughts of suicide or death
- overwhelming fatigue
Symptoms of postpartum depression last longer than two weeks and usually begin within a year of childbirth. Ask your partner or a loved one to call for you if necessary. Your doctor, nurse, or midwife can ask you questions to test for depression. They can also refer you to a mental health professional for help and treatment.
If you or someone you know is in crisis or thinking of suicide, get help quickly.
- Call your doctor.
- Call 911 for emergency services or go to the nearest emergency room.
- Call the toll-free 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889).
Postpartum depletion is something so many go through. Postpartum depletion is a term used to describe the way new mothers, their bodies, and their brains, feel for months and even years after baby is born, according to Dr. Oscar Serrallach.
It is the combination of physiological changes, hormonal changes, and exhaustion that deplete moms including…
- Lack of Sleep
- Pelvic Floor Changes
- Body and it’s new center of gravity
- Hormones PP mood shifts, anxiety, depression
- The extra physical and mental exertion Nutritional depletion
- “Baby Radar”
According to Dr. Oscar Serrallach, Some symptoms that could be experienced with postpartum depletion are…
- Fatigue and exhaustion, the most common symptom of depletion.
- Tired upon waking.
- Falling asleep unintentionally.
- Hyper-awareness (a feeling that the “baby radar” is constantly on), which is often associated with anxiety or a sense of unease.
- The feeling of “tired and wired”
- Sense of guilt and shame around the role of being a mother and loss of self esteem. This is often associated with a sense of isolation and apprehension and sometimes even fear about socializing or leaving the house.
- Frustration, overwhelm, and a sense of not coping.
- Brain fog or “baby brain.”
- Loss of libido.
I have personally dealt with postpartum depletion and it is the sole reason I became a “Mom Coach”. Most women feel this at some extent. There is a lack of support and a societal stigma that makes women feel they are weak or not cut out for being a mom. That just isn’t true. As Moms, we need to UNITE! Our situations, in all aspects, may be different, but we all have the same initiative in life and that revolves completely around the best interest of our children.
There are no doubts that life after babies is tough and that does come with sacrifices we make along the way. There are so many aspects of motherhood we can’t control but there are tangible things we can do to help our minds and bodies be at their best. Doing this will make our experience that much better. Don’t let these steps overwhelm you, meet yourself where you are and approach these steps gradually. Prioritize your needs at this moment and take action where needed.
10 Steps to Replenish Your Mind, Body, and Soul After Baby…
1. Get help.
Contact your physician or even emergency services if needed. Be open about the emotional and physical feelings you might be experiencing. The thoughts you are having, the exhaustion, the pain you might have. Childbirth happens every day but that doesn’t discount the serious complications that can happen. There could be answers for what you are going through. Doctors can do blood work to check vitamin and mineral deficiency or any hormonal imbalances that may be a culprit. They can also refer you to a specialist if needed. Advocate for yourself and never hesitate to get a second opinion if you feel you need more answers.
2. Connect with your body.
I talk more about this in my last blog, How to Connect with Your Body for Complete Postpartum Healing After Baby. This step is important for optimal postpartum healing and a practice you can start building on. This involves checking in with yourself. Taking a moment to note how you are feeling in that moment. Journaling can help organize your thoughts. These check ins encourage self awareness to stay in tune with your body. This will help you take care of your needs before you get too depleted.
3. Assess your nutrition.
Nourishing your body by eating a balanced diet filled with wholesome, vitamin rich, colorful foods is the best way to receive and absorb micro nutrients. Eating for your health will help eliminate inflammation, promote faster healing, increase any vitamin deficiencies, improve your overall health and lessen your risk for postpartum depression.
Research has shown there is a link between nutrient depletion and postpartum depression. Nutrient depletion can affect the production of key mood-regulating neurotransmitters, like serotonin. It also shows lower levels of folate, vitamin D, iron, selenium, zinc, fats, and fatty acids have all been associated with a higher risk of postpartum depression. Making sure you are not only consuming foods rich in vitamins but also taking a prenatal vitamin with folate to ensure you are getting what you need.
4. Get Support.
You can’t have enough support. Rely on your family. Allowing dads to have one on one time with baby allows for extra bonding time that helps them navigate fatherhood. Not only can loved ones help, but think professional support as well, therapist, Life coach, Counselor, Psychologist, Ob/gyn, Women’s Health Physical Therapist, even a Babysitter. Emotional well being is worth the price, every time!
5. Communication is Key!
Being clear about your needs to yourself and your loved ones is essential. Stop saying you are fine, when you aren’t! Communicate exactly what you need and let your support system know how they can help. A lot of times we create a narrative in our minds like we are burdening them, when in actuality, they want to help where they can. When you stop communicating, you can start to become irritable, anxious, and even resentful of others, falling deeper into stress and depletion. Just because, as Mothers, we can do it all, doesn’t mean we should! This goes for all aspects of life not just postpartum depletion.
6. Enhance Activity/Exercise
Research has proven many benefits to movement and exercise such as…
- Improves mood
- Improves cardiovascular health
- Improves bone/muscle/brain health
- Encourages optimal pelvic floor health
- Assists in drawing the pelvic bones back together after childbirth
- Reduce risk for diseases
- Helps relaxation and sleep health
Take walks, plan a gentle approach to postpartum exercise/healing, plan active activities with your children. Make it fun and try new things, this will make it feel less like something you have to do.
7. Self Care
Self care is not selfish, it is a necessity, especially in your postpartum journey. Self care before children might have looked a little different, a little more luxurious. Simplify the meaning of self care. What do you need in this moment? Maybe it’s a hot shower, 10 minutes alone, a phone call to a loved one, breath work, or maybe it’s a nap. Get down to the basics of what is going to give you the refresh you need to make it through the day. When you fill yourself up with love, you will have an abundance to give to the ones you love.
8. Optimize your sleep as best as you can.
Sleep after having a baby can be few and far between for months or even years. Sleep is vital for maintaining wellness and with an extreme lacking of sleep, it can cause a multitude of issues. Prioritizing sleep for you and your baby will help set up healthy sleep habits for the future. This means listening to your body and doing your best to choose rest over less pressing responsibilities. This can be difficult and maybe impossible depending on your circumstances.
Some other things you can do to establish healthy sleep habits…
- Prioritize Sleep
- Setting a bedtime routine
- Unwinding- meditate, read, essential oils, herbal teas
- Minimize screen time towards bedtime
- Take naps if and when you need them- communicate your needs to your support system.
- Consume protein and fats closer to bedtime rather than carbs/sugars
- Instill healthy sleep habits for baby- this could mean hiring a sleep consultant to assist
9. Manage Stress
Stress comes along with the motherhood territory but if it doesn’t get managed it can cause severe implications on your mental health. The mental load a mother bears is heavy, prioritizing you own way of managing stress is key.
A stress management practice looks like this…
- Letting go of expectations put upon yourself
- Stop comparing yourself to other mothers
- Go with the flow
- Progress over perfection
- Meet yourself where you are
- Allow self compassion, give yourself some grace
- Deep, diaphragmatic breaths
- Express daily gratitude
10. Trust your instincts
All of these steps will help you become more clear on your needs and it will bring you closer to your instincts. Listening and trusting your instincts as an individual and as a mother can allow confidence and freedom as you navigate your journey. You know yourself and your baby better than anyone. Don’t let other’s journeys make you second guess your own. Inspiration is one thing but allowing societal stigmas and comparisons to run your life will draw you further away from optimal wellness. You do you and don’t look back!
Each woman’s postpartum journey is unique but each mother’s ultimate goal is the wellness of their baby. The wellness of a baby depends deeply on the wellness of the mother which is why each mother should prioritize replenishing her mind, body and soul during this intense season of life. The triad of mind, body and soul are synergists that rely on each other to thrive. These steps can be the element you need to be your best for your baby.
The Ultimate Postpartum Wellness Recovery Online Course goes into deeper detail of this topic and more. Feel free to message me for more details.