Blog

Balance, Mom Wellness, Self Care, Women's Health

Women’s Hormones: How to Naturally Balance Female Hormones

Hormones hold our personal superpowers.

Hormones literally make us who we are.

Hormones are so powerful, they influence so many aspects of our lives, including our behaviors, how we think, how we act, how we eat. All of this can be heavily persuaded by our hormone regulation. Hormones actually drive our behavior and personality and affect mood and emotions. Which is exactly why we want to keep them functioning at their best.

As women, our hormones get blamed for a lot of things during our periods, during pregnancy, postpartum, breastfeeding and then menopause. But the fact is, our hormones are pretty amazing for regulating and maintaining control of the different stages of our lives. We go through some intense hormonal shifts and adjust accordingly. And, they are actually fairly predictable in their natural cyclical state. But that doesn’t mean they can’t go awry.

What are hormones exactly?

Hormones are chemical messengers released from endocrine glands that travel through the blood system to influence the nervous system to regulate behaviors. The study of behavior and hormones, behavioral endocrinology, has been researched heavily for many years. This specific interaction that takes place is bidirectional, meaning hormones can influence behavior as well as, behavior can influence hormones. This can be similar to, which came first? The chicken or the egg? But either way, if you are experiencing negative effects that could be hormone related, action needs taken.

Because of the power hormones possess, it is important to practice self awareness by checking in with yourself often. You may notice yourself more lethargic, in a funk, less motivated, eating more, working out less, this could mean your hormones could be imbalanced.

We have multiple hormones in our bodies and each do different jobs but they all correspond with each other. So when one is imbalanced, others may be as well.

What are the signs of hormonal imbalance?

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Cystic Acne
  • Low libido
  • Brain fog
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss/gain
  • Irregular periods
  • Fertility issues
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings

All of the symptoms could be a sign of a hormonal imbalance and can lead to more serious issues if untreated. The one way to know for certain if you have hormonal imbalances is to get a blood test. So I always recommend to my clients to consult their physician, maybe even consult an endocrinologist, to see if a blood test is in order for your symptoms.

How to naturally balance your hormones…

  1. Eat a balanced macro diet.

Research has shown that the food we consume directly affects our hormones through our gut. When gut health is improved, so is your hormonal health.

Ditch the restrictive diets. It isn’t necessary and a lot of the time, not sustainable and can cause hormonal disruption. Make sure you are getting enough of each macro, proteins, fats and carbs. And make sure you are choosing nutritious rich foods most of the time, avoiding added sugars.

Most importantly!!!! Do not let FATS go under 20 percent of your total caloric intake. Fat is one of the most important factors for hormone balance. Fats are needed in the body for hormone production and proper hormone function. Eat a diet rich in healthy fats that include omega 3 and 6 to promote healthy hormonal balance.

  1. Practice regular exercise.

Physical exercise releases the following hormones…

  • Dopamine- or the “feel good” hormones- this can decrease stress and improve mood.
  • Serotonin- which promotes a good night’s rest and can also positively impact mood, social behavior, appetite, digestion, memory and sexual function.
  • Estrogen- Getting your heart rate up for at least a half hour every day helps boost estrogen levels, which promotes a healthy female reproductive system and can even help take the edge off of menopause symptoms.

A balanced exercise regimen that consists of strength training, cardio and yoga can maximize the benefits and boost healthy hormone levels.

  1. Manage stress.

Two hormones are affected by stress, cortisol and adrenaline. Cortisol is the most well know stress hormone that helps you cope with stress over the long term. Adrenaline is the “fight or flight” hormone that surges the body in response to stress or immediate danger.

Stress can happen daily and unfortunately we can become in a state of constant chronic stress that takes a toll on our lives in many ways including weight gain, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate and anxiety. I recommend finding what works for you and relieves stress but here are some stress relieving activities to try to add in daily.

  • Exercise
  • Getting outside in fresh air
  • Yoga
  • Diaphragmatic breathing- check out this link to learn how to take a diaphragmatic breath
  • Practice good posture
  • Meditate
  • Journal
  • Talk to a counselor/therapist
  • Ask for help where needed in your life to alleviate some responsibilities.
  1. Get high quality sleep.

Did you know women are more likely to report not getting enough sleep and sleep issues, according to the National Sleep Foundation?

One possible culprit to this is our hormones. When their is a spike or drop in hormones such as during mentrual cycles, pre/postpartum, and during menopause, women are more vulnerable to sleep issues. Sleep issues may need to be consulted with your physician to get deeper into the issue but starting with creating a consistent, healthy sleep routine is key.

If you are a mother in your fourth trimester you may be thinking, how am I supposed to get high quality sleep?! I get it, those babies rule the sleep routine for awhile but you can still prioritize healthy sleep habits for baby that will result in healthy sleep habits for you.

  • Increase day light exposure during the day
  • Reduce blue light (screen) exposure during the evening
  • Try yoga/meditation/guided imagery prior to sleep
  • Stay consistent with a bed time and wake time.
  • Optimize the bedroom environment- cool, dark, relaxed, clean space.
  • Herbal/Mineral supplements that promote sleep- valerian root, magnesium, lavender, passion flower, etc.
  • Avoid caffiene in the evening.
  1. Be Consistent.

Consistency is key to optimal wellness in general and helps maintain balance overall. It doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. A good motto to affirm often is progress over perfection. Try to live a healthy lifestyle that is manageable and sustainable.

If you notice you just aren’t yourself, you may not be because of the fact your hormones drive a lot of who we are by our behaviors and personality. So implementing some of these steps may just get you back on track!

If you would like further guidance and a custom plan that fits your lifestyle contact me at this link! Together we can come up with a plan for what your mind, body and soul needs to achieve the ultimate balance while living life to the fullest.

P.S. If you are interested in more enlightenment on hormones at it’s natural state in the female body, check out this book link below, The Brain on Birth Control. It is a super informative and interesting read if you are a women’s health nerd as myself. 🙂 I would not be doing my duty as a Women’s and Perinatal Wellness Coach if I didn’t share this good read!

Exercise, Mom Wellness

Postpartum Exercise and Movement: 5 Ways to Build a Solid Foundation Before Starting a High Impact Exercise Routine After Baby

I remember being in the thick of the fresh postpartum period, not being able to relieve my stress through cardio or exercise and focusing too much on how I didn’t like my body. I know from experience, it can be a miserable if you constantly focus on what you can’t do versus what you can do. I also remember awaiting that 6 week appointment to get cleared for activity so I could start “bouncing back”, as “they” say. What I didn’t realize at the time, is that getting right back into exercise full force could do more harm than good and can lead to even more serious issues. I just thought leaking urine, pelvic pain and back pain was just a part of mom life. Society creates norms through these commonalities. While these mom issues may be common, they are not normal, and you do not have to live in misery.

It was only after taking multiple certifications specific to perinatal exercise and yoga that I realized the lack of education for mothers in this topic. I remember searching the internet for pre and postnatal exercise information and came up very short when I was pregnant and after birth. What I didn’t know is that while I was sitting waiting to have an exercise plan, there were tangible and quite necessary things I could be doing within 24 hours of birth to help build a strong, healthy foundation before getting full force into a routine. Taking a gentle, loving approach to healing your postpartum body is not selfish it is essential to your health. The little things you do during that fresh postpartum time period will determine how your body feels and functions later. If you aren’t in those early days, it is never too late to heal and having a strong foundation is still very important.

Reasons to Practice Mindful Movement and Exercise After Baby?

  • Reduce Back Pain –
    • Research has estimated that about 50% of pregnant women will suffer from some kind of low back pain at some point during their pregnancies or during the postpartum period.
  • Reduce Risk of Injury
  • To prevent or treat any pelvic floor issues.
  • To improve sexual function, sexual pain, and sensuality.
  • Helps strengthen and tone abdominal muscles
  • Boosts energy
  • May help prevent postpartum depression
  • Promotes better sleep
  • Relieves stress
  • Can help in drawing back pelvic bones that shifted during pregnancy
  • Can assist in losing fat that can be gained during pregnancy (although shouldn’t be the focus in early postpartum time.)
  • To find our center of gravity
  • Improve blood flow circulation to promote healing and healthy reproductive, gastrointestinal, and urinary systems.

What you can focus on to set your body up for proper postpartum healing…

Whether you are 24 hours after birth or 2 years postpartum you can always come back to these foundational basics to improve how your body looks and feels.

Changing Perspective

Just as I discussed in my last blog, Nourishing Nutrition to Heal the Postpartum Body After Baby, it is important to focus on the way your body feels, rather than how it looks. Mindfully moving and exercising to reward your body, rather than punishing it by exercising. It took 9 months to create, carry, and birth your baby, allow time and grace to rebuild and heal your body. Goals I focus on with my clients are switching physical appearance goals to functional goals. Momming is tough on the body and just as we train for marathons and competitions, we should be training our bodies to handle Motherhood like a Champ. Mothers don’t have time to be ill or injured and the best way to prevent that is to have a manageable, appropriate plan.

Self Awareness and Posture

Self awareness is key to having a strong mind body connection. It is also what gives us signals for what’s going on with our bodies so we can stay ahead of any problem. Adding children into the mix, especially early on in postpartum, our self awareness can become distant due to the mental load that is now happening. This is a practice that needs to be consistently done to stay in tuned.

A quick and easy way to check in with yourself is a posture check. Are you continuously slumped over, feeding baby, sitting in an odd position? Are you tired, not feeling your best? If yes, your posture could be lacking. If you are constantly in a bad posture, it keeps you shallow breathing which keeps you in a stress mode. This enables anxiety and low mood. So just a quick alignment check can make all of the difference.

  • You can sit or stand.
  • If you are sitting, make sure both hips are seated evenly with both feet on the ground. If you are standing, grip the ground with feet, spread the weight evenly, with hips stacked over ankles.
  • Then, stand or sit tall, allowing your spine to elongate.
  • Head over your heart, heart over your pelvis.
  • Chest open.
  • Draw your shoulders away from your ears.
  • Focus on your breath.
  • Check in often with this alignment to keep optimal health.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing can be done anytime, anywhere to ease any emotion; trauma, anxiety, stress, grief, irritability, or just because…life. There really doesn’t need to be a reason because there are so many benefits to a regular breath work practice. There are also many different breathing techniques but diaphragmatic breathing is a great starting place. It has been studied that this type of breathing can have beneficial effects on physical and mental health, stress and negative emotions can be counteracted, and can enhance sustained attention.

Not only can diaphragmatic breathing lower stress responses the body produces but it can also improve pelvic floor musculature which should be a focus for a postpartum mother. The diaphragm and the pelvic floor are synergists, they work together with inhalation and exhalation. They are both hammock like muscles that do the same thing at the same time. So, with inhalation, the diaphragm and the pelvic floor both drop, creating space in both the lungs and the pelvis. With exhalation, these muscles lift with the vacuum effect that takes place in the body. These two important muscles work best when the body is properly aligned. So, this is where posture becomes important for the pelvic floor and lungs to work autonomously.

To learn how to take a Diaphragmatic Breath, go to one my older blog posts, Diaphragmatic Breathing: The Most Under Utilized Tool to Counteract Stress.

Proper Body Mechanics

A few rules to move by…

  • Always use your legs when lifting. Bend at the knees, not from the waist.
  • Squat down or kneel to pick up your baby and other items off the floor.
  • Hold objects close to the mid line of your body as you carry them.
  • While holding your baby (or other items) in your arms, avoid twisting from the waist. Turn your entire body instead.
  • When seated, be aware of posture, tuck chin, elongate spine, avoid hunching over and anchor both hips to seat.
  • Avoid carrying your baby on one hip. This creates poor posture.
  • Adjust your stroller and work areas, such as changing tables, to a height that allows you to stand up straight without leaning over. *Use a step stool to ease low back pressure.
  • When breastfeeding, bring your baby to the breast (not your breast to the baby). Use a pillow or arm rest so that you can sit upright in a relaxed posture without slouching.
  • Exhale and tighten your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles as you lift.
Left- Improper body alignment with holding baby. Right- Correct way of holding baby. Notice the tall spinal alignment.
Wrong way to hold baby carrier, notice the shoulder alignment.
Proper baby carrier holding

Pelvic Floor/Core Exercise

This can be started within 24 hours after birth. The pelvic floor muscles take the brunt during pregnancy which is why it should be the epicenter of proper physical healing. It takes a delicate approach to stabilize the pelvis after delivery. The pelvis and core needs to come back together after widening and that takes an intentional approach. The pelvic floor is a made up of many muscles and just like any other muscle it needs strengthened, stretched, and softened. It is vital to address, prevent and heal pelvic floor issues such as pelvic floor weakness, incontinence and pelvic floor prolapse before returning back to high impact running, jumping or lifting.

  • Kegels or Pelvic floor activation and release. This takes practice and the release is just as important as the contraction. The pelvic floor is comprised of both slow twitch (for endurance) and fast twitch muscles (for quick bursts) just like the rest of the body. They have different exercises for each
    • Slow twitch exercise: Starting with a 1:2 hold to release ratio working your way up to a 10 second hold/ 20 second release.
    • Fast twitch exercise- fast, pulsating contractions for up to 10 seconds with double the time in release and relaxation
    • Goal- repetitions of 15, 3 times a day
    • For video instructional guidance: Kegels Part 1 and Kegels Part 2.
  • Core Exercises
    • Mula bandha engagement– Engagement of the pelvic floor and transverse abdominis muscles. Can start this within the first 24 hours after birth.
    • Cut out ALL flexion exercises such as, front planks, crunches, push ups
    • Focus on lower abdominal/transverse abdominis exercises such as mula bandha engagement, pelvic clocks, cat cow yoga flow, table top posture with mula bandha, etc.
    • Make sure to get clearance on more intense core exercises but when cleared start with oblique exercises like side plank, side plank with hip dips, side plank with cross body row, russian twists, band walk outs, band pull in and out. *cutting out flexion exercises is key and will also help with any diastasis recti, if any.
  • First 3 months Postpartum- Focus on drawing in pelvic bones and muscles. Avoiding any lateral side leg stretching

Contraindications for High Impact Exercise Include…

  • Urinary or fecal incontinence prior to or during high impact exercise
  • Pressure/bulging/heaviness prior to or during running
  • Vaginal bleeding (unrelated to menstrual cycle) during or after physical activity
  • Musculoskeletal or pelvic pain before or during activity

Always consult your physician or a Women’s Health Physical Therapist if you have any of these issues.

Going straight into an exercise routine that you did prior to getting pregnant will increase your risk for injury and no Mom has time for that! Doing these 5 activities can greatly improve your physical body and create a stronger mind body connection, improving your mental state as well. Moms have a big job and training for it will give your mind and body the upper hand.

If you are interested in a custom postpartum healing and exercise plan contact me HERE.

For more detailed information about Postpartum Exercise and Movement, check out the Ultimate Postpartum Wellness Recovery Online Course.

Balance, Mom Wellness, Nutrition, Self Care

Nourishing Nutrition to Heal the Postpartum Body After Baby

Healing from birthing a baby is necessary for optimum well being postpartum. A part of that healing can heavily rely on the foods that are consumed. The foods you eat can determine how well you feel, how depleted you are, and your risk for postpartum depression.

Because of societal pressures and stigmas, new mothers can find themselves focusing on “bouncing back” and comparing their postpartum bodies to other mothers. As a “Mom Coach”, I am here to encourage you to change your perspective. Healing is not about your size, weight, or what your abdomen looks like. Proper healing comes from within and nourishing nutrition rather than “restrictive dieting” is a key to doing just that. Changing perspective can ease this journey and encourage your body to function at the best it can in that moment.

A few things to focus on to change your perspective…

  • Your body is healing from creating, carrying, and birthing your beautiful new baby.
  • Focus on healing, not the weight.
  • Every BODY is unique and is on their own journey.
  • Allow grace, love, and compassion towards your body.
  • Reward your body with nourishing foods, do not punish it for it’s amazing work.
  • This is a season that requires a different prioritization of self care.
  • Focus on fueling your body for healthy function, rather than aesthetics.
  • Do not waste valuable mental energy on self loathing.

This change in mentality is the release you need to move forward with a healthy mindset. Our mental load is so heavy in the postpartum period, flipping the script can lighten this mental load enough to allow you to focus on what is really needed. Self loathing is a useless energy that can lead you down a despairing rabbit hole. We live in a world that pushes a certain way we should look and feel, so it is tough to be immune to certain feelings. Flipping your script is a practice that gets better with consistency.

Just as I discussed in my last post, 10 Steps to Replenish Your Mind, Body and Soul After Baby, consuming the right foods can help improve postpartum depletion and reduce your risk of postpartum depression. Consuming nutrition that is vitamin and mineral rich can improve mood, which sometimes is what’s needed to not only make it through but thrive through motherhood.

Most mothers don’t seem to struggle with the actual eating the right things but the preparation it can take to understand what your body needs, planning, shopping and making meals. As mothers, we are busy and our mental load is heavy, so the thought of adding in nutrition can seem overwhelming. My main message that I try to convey to all mothers is allow yourself grace. Your nutrition doesn’t have to be perfect to meet your nutrient needs. Life happens and our day is usually driven by our children’s needs so if you have had a sleepless night, and a long day ahead of you, you probably aren’t rushing to make yourself a 4 course balanced meal. If you like creamer in your coffee, enjoy that cup, girl! If you like a glass of wine here and there, drink it! You make the rules and you know your body.

So, what does your postpartum body need? A healthy balance in macro and micro nutrients. It’s important to note that a normal calorie intake varies from person to person but early postpartum is not the time to focus on restricting calories. A person with an average weight, an estimate of 2000 calories is a good place to start but can heavily vary depending on a variety of factors.

Understanding Macronutrients– Protein, Fats, and Carbohydrates

Proteins consist of amino acids. Amino acids help build and repair muscle and tissues in the body. Because of this protein is important for postpartum recovery. Protein also helps keep you full longer, which is helpful for busy moms. And that postpartum hair loss, that creates our fly away baby hairs, it can help with that too, since hair is made up of proteins. All in all, it’s important. Proteins come from meat, eggs, and certain plant based proteins such as soy, quinoa, and buckwheat. Striving to eat protein with every meal is a good goal to have.

Fats are an important source of energy for the postpartum body. Fats help regulate hormones which is why they are so important to consume. Fats are a carrier for the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and supports their absorption in the intestine. Consuming sufficient amounts of fatty foods are essential for proper vitamin absorption which plays a huge role in postpartum depletion. Fat intake should fill 20-35% of your total caloric intake. Some examples of fats to add to your diet are; oily fish, including anchovy, salmon, tuna and mackerel, peanut butter, oils, avocados, nuts, chia seeds, cheese.

Carbohydrates is another good source of energy for the body. There are two types of carbohydrates, complex and simple. Complex are the healthiest form of carbs (unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans) promote good health by delivering vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a host of important phytonutrients. Simple, highly processed, refined foods, include white bread, pastries, sodas, and other highly processed or refined foods. These items contain easily digested carbohydrates that may contribute to weight gain, interfere with weight loss, and promote diabetes and heart disease. Consistently choosing complex carbohydrates to add to your meal is going to give you the healthy energy you need to keep up with baby.

Wellness starts from within. Eating a diet balanced with these macro nutrients will improve your overall wellness and how you feel.

Important Micro nutrients After Baby

Micro nutrients are vitamins and minerals that are vital for so many different functions and systems of the body. The best way to ensure you are receiving and absorbing micro nutrients is eating a balanced diet filled with wholesome, nourishing, colorful foods. Also taking a multivitamin or prenatal to ensure you are getting enough for your body. Research has shown that nutrient depletion can increase your risk for postpartum depression.

Vitamins and minerals to focus on consuming postpartum…

  • Iron

Due to the loss of blood that happens during delivery it is recommended to eat 18 mg of IRON per day. (most important in the early days after birth). Iron can be found in red meat, beans, lentils, oatmeal, iron fortified cereals.

  • Vitamin C

Vitamin C is used to form collagen (protein found in skin and connective tissue) Important for healing c-section scar, vaginal tearing. Vitamin C can be found in Peppers, citrus fruits, berries, spinach, broccoli, garlic, pumpkin seeds.

  • Fiber

Promotes a healthy GI tract and keeps stool soft. The first urge to poop after baby can be frightening, but with extra fiber you can go with a little more ease! Fruit, beans, lentils, oats, quinoa, sweet potatoes are good examples of fiber.

  • Vitamin D

Vitamin D is one of the micro nutrients linked to an increased risk of postpartum depression with a deficiency. It is the key nutrient in bone health, promotes calcium absorption. Sun exposure can help produce vitamin d. If breastfeeding, high levels can enrich breast milk adequately for baby. Foods that contain vitamin d include; cod liver oil, fish, such as mackerel, tuna, and salmon, egg yolk, beef liver, Fortified dairy product.

  • Zinc

Zinc deficiencies have been linked to an increased risk of postpartum depression. The body does not produce zinc, zinc comes from consumed foods and supplements. Zinc aides in wound healing, growth and development, decreases inflammation immunity, protein synthesis, etc. Zinc is in a lot of foods including, oysters, crab, mussels, lobster and clams, beef, pork, lamb, bison, turkey chicken, flounder, sardines, salmon, sole, chickpeas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, pumpkin seeds, cashews, hemp seeds, milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs, oats, quinoa, brown rice, mushrooms, kale, peas, asparagus.

Selenium

Research findings suggest that supplementation with selenium during pregnancy might be an effective approach for the prevention of postpartum depression. Selenium is an antioxidant, improves immune function, and thyroid health.Selenium rich foods include eggs, cheese, mushrooms, oats, Brazil nuts, chicken, beef, pork, wheat, tuna, oysters, whole grain rye, salmon, brown rice, turkey, shrimp, soy.

Nutrition for the Breastfeeding mother

All of the above applies to you, but with some extra bullet points to note. It takes your body more energy to produce milk which in turn means you need more food to fuel your body.

  • Add 450-500 extra calories (divided between fats, proteins, carbs) to your diet to make breast milk. Your baby will take in calories and nutrients before you. A Normal range weight would strive for an estimate of a 2500 calorie intake.
  • All of the foods that were off-limits during pregnancy like sushi, certain cheeses, etc, can now be ate! Pathogens like salmonella can still make you sick but won’t pass through breast milk like it does the placenta.
  • Avoid fish with high mercury levels- limit to 6 oz a week. examples include, shark, swordfish, albacore tuna.
  • There are no off limit foods like dairy, unless instructed by your pediatrician. If you notice baby has excessive reflux, fussiness, or blood in the stool, contact the pediatrician immediately.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep up with your milk supply and your own hydration. I always go with the goal to keep your urine light, if it’s dark, drink more.

Whether you are breastfeeding or formula feeding these are nutrient basics to add to your normal diet. This may seem overwhelming but try to keep it simple and evaluate how you feel as you add in some of these foods. Think of your baby as you nourish yourself. Nourish your body as you want to nourish your baby’s. Treat your body as lovingly as you do your baby. Keeping this mindset establishes a healthy mentality when it comes to your postpartum nutrition.

This is covered in deeper detail in the Ultimate Postpartum Wellness Recovery Online Course launching soon! And if you are interested in a custom postpartum nutrition plan, contact me by email at balancebuilding@brandimills.net.

Resources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5104202//

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3564601/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/zinc#sources

Mom Wellness, Self Care

10 Steps to Replenish Your Mind, Body, and Soul After Baby

“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

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
  • insomnia
  • 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

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
  • Affirmations/mantras
  • 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.

Mom Wellness, Self Care

How to Connect with Your Body for Complete Postpartum Healing After Baby

Our bodies are so amazing, creating, carrying, and birthing life. But once our baby is here, we can have feelings of disconnection to this new body that had gotten really used to housing a little one. Our bodies now need time to settle in to a body without the extra being and that in of itself is quite the process. Our bodies will never be the same as it once was and that is OK, actually it’s just a part of the process. We need to give our bodies time to heal properly and not rush to “bounce back”. Bouncing back is a false perception pressured by society that is an unreasonable goal for mothers to attain. Focusing on our mind body connection and giving ourselves what we need in that moment should be the priority. Often times women get impatient with their healing, compare themselves to others, and plan their healing ahead of where their mind and bodies actually are. Proper postpartum healing takes intention and starts with a mind body connection.

Connection starts by meeting yourself where you actually are. Not where the latest social media influencer is in their postpartum journey, or where your mom or friend were during their pregnancies at your stage, this is about you and your unique journey and doing your best to be your best. Keep in mind, it is never too late to start healing.

So, how do you start to connect with your body after baby?

1. Self Awareness

Check in with yourself.

  • Do you need rest?
  • Do you need nourishment?
  • Do you need space?
  • Do you need help?
  • Who can help you with your needs?
  • How is your body physically feeling?
  • How are you mentally feeling?

Self check ins are the first step to connection but also becoming more self aware. Self awareness might not be physical but it is key to connecting to the physical. When disconnected from our bodies, we can become neglectful of the things our body’s need. If we listen to our body’s, they are the best compass to navigate us through life. Going through the motions or ignoring our body’s cues can result in back pain, pelvic floor issues, depression, anxiety, fatigue, resentment, exhaustion, the list goes on.

These are the questions that need attention often during the postpartum period of life. In the arms of a flourishing mother you will find a flourishing baby. There are so many changes physically, mentally, and mostly physiologically that happen and then we are sent home with a new little being that needs just as much attention. We end up sacrificing our own health for theirs. I am in no way saying we should take away from a baby’s needs just saying, a little self check in will go a long way for your overall well being in this intensified season. Self awareness is a practice that gets better with consistency.

2. Self Care

Self care looks a little different after having a baby. Self care might look like a hot shower, a nap, 30 minutes alone, the more simple things that feel good in that moment can be just what you need to make it through that day. When you start truly listening to the cues your body gives you, you can act, and it eventually turns into a positive routine.

Ask yourself…

  • What do I need to feel refreshed?
  • What will help your mental and/or physical health in this moment?

3. Self Compassion

Babies have a flow of their own and we have to learn to align with that flow which can be a total 180 from what we are used to. Because of this, we don’t always get to act on the self care we need but rather, doing our best when we are able. It is a balancing act that takes a practice of self compassion, allowing grace and love for our bodies, minds, and emotions. Practice self compassion during the raw moments when you think you won’t make it until nap time, practice self compassion when you have negative thoughts about the body that created that beautiful being, practice self compassion when you don’t see the light at the end of that very long tunnel. YOU ARE HUMAN.

  • Allow feelings to come up but actively try to turn it to a positive. This will encourage a natural routine where our thoughts flip to the positive without so much work. Example: When you find yourself impatient with your postpartum body, remember exactly what that body did for you, how strong it is, how it was made for this and how you are doing exactly the things you need to do to heal properly.
  • Use Motherhood Mantras to affirm positivity to get you through your day. Find 30 Motherhood Mantras HERE.
  • Forgive yourself and move forward from the moments that occurred due to the pure fullness of your mental load.

4. Implement Diaphragmatic Breathing

There are so many different tools that can help us navigate tough times but the one that I believe is most underutilized is simply breathing. Intentional, diaphragmatic breathing that is. Diaphragmatic breathing can be done anytime, anywhere to ease any emotion; trauma, anxiety, stress, grief, irritability, or just because…life. There really doesn’t need to be a reason because there are so many benefits to a regular breath work practice. There are also many different breathing techniques but diaphragmatic breathing is a great starting place. It has been studied that this type of breathing can have beneficial effects on physical and mental health, stress and negative emotions can be counteracted, and can enhance sustained attention.

Not only can diaphragmatic breathing lower stress responses the body produces but it can also improve pelvic floor musculature which should be a focus for women’s wellness. The diaphragm and the pelvic floor are synergists, they work together with inhalation and exhalation. They are both hammock like muscles that do the same thing at the same time. So, with inhalation, the diaphragm and the pelvic floor both drop, creating space in both the lungs and the pelvis. With exhalation, these muscles lift with the vacuum effect that takes place in the body. These two important muscles work best when the body is properly aligned. So, this is where posture becomes important for the pelvic floor and lungs to work autonomously.

Using this as a tool to calm, relax, fall asleep, use during exercise and yoga, whenever you need a little refresher to re center. This tool can keep the mind and body functioning at optimum health. Breathing is something that we don’t have to think about doing, but when we, occasionally, put a little intention behind our breath, it can create less resistance in the flow of life.

Learn how to take diaphragmatic breaths HERE.

5. Focus on the Physical Work you CAN do

Why is the Physical Work So Important?

  • To find our center of gravity, to be centered and confident in our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual states.
  • To prevent or treat any pelvic floor issues.
  • To prevent or treat any back and hip pain.
  • To improve sexual function, sexual pain, and sensuality.
  • Improve blood flow circulation to promote healing and healthy reproductive, gastrointestinal, and urinary systems.
  • Cultivation and balancing of Shakti- the divine feminine energy that represents the Goddess within you.
  • We can’t necessarily change the external world around us but we can change our internal state which radiates outwards to help create a better world.

Carrying baby carriers, breastfeeding, putting baby in the car seat, caring for other children, the list goes on.Carrying and delivering a baby is HARD WORK and tough on the physical body. It took 9 months to carry baby, it takes much longer than just the 6 week check up to be properly healed, especially if you have had a c section.

The pelvic floor muscles take the brunt during pregnancy which is why it should be the epicenter of proper physical healing. It takes a delicate approach to stabilize the pelvis after delivery. The pelvis and core needs to come back together after widening and that takes an intentional approach. It takes physical strength to be a Mom (carrying baby carriers, breastfeeding, putting baby in the car seat, caring for other children, etc). so starting with the foundation as early as day 1 after delivery can set your body up for optimal function. When we feel well parenting seems easier.

Pelvic floor/core stabilizing, softening, and strengthening exercises that can be done from as soon as 24 hours after birth…

  • Kegels or Pelvic floor activation and release. This takes practice and the release is just as important as the contraction. So starting with a 1:2 hold to release ratio working your way up to a 10 second hold/ 20 second release.
  • Mula bandha engagement
  • Diaphragmatic Breathing
  • Mindful movement

When we can focus our attention to tasks that will set our bodies up for an ideal healing environment we allow ourselves to make the most of the process. We can find peace in knowing we are doing our best while our mind and body benefit.

While you may be day dreaming of the day you can run again, lift again, or just feel like yourself again, there are important things you can be doing to enable healthy healing. Postpartum healing is unique to each individual but most of all be patient and loving toward yourself. Your body depends on your mind and your mind depends on your body and you can control the cycle. You can be the best Mom by just doing YOUR best!

If you would like further information on Ultimate Postpartum Wellness Recovery for the mind, body, and soul, check this LINK out.