You may have heard of maternal depression, but what about maternal depletion? Maternal depletion describes the condition where mothers are unable to recover nutritionally, hormonally, and emotionally after birth. 50% or more of postpartum women are suspected to have nutrient deficiencies that contribute to this condition.
Pregnancy takes a significant toll on your body.
A mother’s folate, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin B9, iron, iodine, selenium stores are used throughout pregnancy to provide the necessary nutrition for her growing baby (Serralach, 2018, King, 2003).
By the end of pregnancy, the placenta passes a whopping 7 grams of fat a day to the developing baby, which leads to the progressing depletion of a mother’s essential fat stores.
Studies have indicated a link between low omega-3 essential fatty acid levels and higher incidences of maternal depression (Hibbeln, 2002). As a result, mothers are left feeling exhausted, fatigued, and with what many call “mommy brain” or “baby brain,” which describes the forgetfulness, poor concentration, and general fogginess that is associated with the postpartum period.
A mother with maternal depletion may experience any of these symptoms:
Falling asleep without meaning to
Not feeling rested after sleeping
Loss of self-esteem
Loss of libido
Feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope
Feeling guilt or shame
What are the causes?
A combination of factors contribute to maternal depletion:
Short intervals between pregnancies (less than 6 months) that do not allow enough time for recovery from birth and lactation have been linked to an increase in the risk of negative outcomes for both mom and baby (King, 2003, Hibbeln, 2002).
Chronic sleep deprivation from caring for a newborn. Many women also do not have the necessary support to engage in self-care.
The trend in delaying starting families has associated health risks, including a higher incidence of multiples, which places more burden on the mother’s body.
Nutrient-poor food. Research indicates that the mineral content in U.S. soil has been significantly depleted due to modern farming practices. That means the food we eat is not as nutritious as it was generations ago.
Lack of support for postpartum women. Mothers often suffer silently from postpartum depression, anxiety, and isolation because of high societal expectations to “do it all.”
How long does it last?
The length of time that mothers experience maternal depletion largely depends on their ability to replenish their nutrient stores and support themselves in the postpartum period.
Research has indicated that it can take up to 18 months for the body to restore its nutrients after birth (King, 2003).
Unfortunately, if maternal depletion isn’t addressed and a new mom isn’t allowed to fully recover from the demands of pregnancy and birth, the aftereffects can last for years (sometimes up to 10 years!) after a baby is born (Serralach, 2018).
What should you do to recover from maternal depletion?
An important first step in recovery is replenishing the macro and micronutrients in your body through a conscious diet and supplementation. Having your doctor run blood tests to check your levels is a great way to determine which nutrients you are most deficient in, but the following are the most commonly deficient in postpartum women. Regaining these vital nutrients can help regain some of your energy.
Take a DHA supplement to help repair the nervous system and the brain, and to improve mood and cognitive function. Mother Nutrient has an Omega 3 DHA & EPA supplement that provides high levels of DHA and EPA, which can not only help a mother regain depleted stores but can also support her baby’s brain development.
Take a high quality multivitamin. Mother Nutrient also offers a comprehensive Prenatal/Postnatal and Nursing Support supplement that contains 20 essential vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and other nutrients that are important for the mothers. Only active forms of vitamins are used, which means they are easily absorbed and gentle on the body.
Up your intake of iron, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin C, and vitamin D, all of which tend to decline during pregnancy. (Serrallach, 2018, King 2002)
The following are recommended food sources for these nutrients:
Improve sleep - Changing the number of hours of sleep may be challenging, especially when your baby is little, but you can shift your actions leading up to bedtime to optimize the quality of sleep you’re getting. Stay off screens, use low light, and create a calming environment that is dark and quiet.
Get support - whether it’s through asking family or friends, hiring a babysitter, a house cleaner, a therapist, or a nutritionist to improve your emotional and physical well-being. You can’t have too much of it!
Mother Nutrient is here to be your support too.
We offer unique, holistic recommendations for lifestyle, diet, and supplements to improve your preconception, prenatal, and postpartum healing and self-care.
Start by taking our free Wellness Quiz to find out how we can help! You will get a customized nutrition report, as well as recommendations for specific supplements based on your results. Take the quiz here!
Did you know about or experience maternal depletion? Share in the comments below!
1. Serrallach, O. (2018). The Postnatal Depletion Cure: A Complete Guide to Rebuilding Your Health and Reclaiming Your Energy for Mothers of Newborns, Toddlers, and Young Children. New York, NY: Grand Central Publishing.
2. King, J. C. (2003). The Risk of Maternal Nutritional Depletion and Poor Outcomes Increases in Early or Closely Spaced Pregnancies. The Journal of Nutrition, 133(5).
3. UNFPA(1989) State of World Population 1989. Investing in Women: The Focus of the Nineties. United Nations Population Fund.
4. Hibbeln, J.R. (2002). Seafood consumption, the DHA content of mothers' milk and prevalence rates of postpartum depression: a cross-national, ecological analysis. J Affect Disord., 69(1-3):15-29