While not as commonly known as post-natal depression, post-natal or post-partum depletion is a very real thing affect 1 in every 10 Australian mothers. Australian doctor and author, Dr Oscar Serrallach has shared the issues surrounding post-partum depletion and how our modern Western culture has severely impacted mothers and their capacity to parent after birth.
What is post-partum depletion
You’re probably familiar with the symptoms but were unaware it had a scientific term. Post-partum depletion involves feeling hyper vigilant, foggy brained, frustrated, overwhelmed, anxious, little libido, isolated, vulnerable, exhausted but unable to switch off. Sound familiar?
Many women know they aren’t depressed, but something isn’t right so we tend not to get the help we need or go to the GP about it. When left without support, mothers with post-partum depletion are more likely to get post-partum depression and there is definite overlap of the two conditions.
What can you do to help?
If you have or think you might have post-partum depletion there are things you can do to help you recover.
- Eat as well as you can
During pregnancy and childbirth our bodies have gone through significant change and our baby was reliant on our nutrients and stores. If we aren’t replenishing our bodies, eating well and ensuring we get enough nutrients, our bodies simply can’t cope.
Angela Harris said, “After the birth of my baby I was exhausted and barely ate. Bread crusts, snack foods and soft drink were pretty much the only things I had. As a result, I became more exhausted. With a newborn, no sleep and no time for myself I couldn’t think straight. By the time Sam was a toddler, I was just eating whatever he left behind as a typical fussy toddler. With no real food or sleep, I began to feel like a zombie. This is when I knew something had to change.”
“I went to my GP, had some blood tests and sure enough, my iron level and other vitamin levels were quite low. I needed some supplements and a drastic change in my diet. I had always scoffed at the advice about what we eat, but it really had a massive impact.”
- Get Sleep!!!
As impossible as it seems, it’s essential! In ancient cultures and still today in many Eastern cultures, the weeks or months after birth are for the mother to rest and be taken care of. Traditions involving certain soups, teas and rest, along with massage are common across Korea, China, Japan and Indian. Ensuring the mother can rest and restore herself after the birth is viewed as sacred and necessary for the entire family and community or tribe as whole.
See if a friend or family member can watch your little one so you can get a full nights rest. If your baby isn’t sleeping well, get help with it. There are programs and clinics to help with sleep patterns. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture used in war! So get the sleep you desperately need and do not feel guilty about it.
- Get help
Sacrificing every part of yourself for everyone else is no way to live. Our mothers typically had communities around them supporting them. Ancient tribes supported entire families when they had a newborn because they knew how important it was.
Nihirika assumed it was homesickness since they had moved to Australia and had no support when their daughter was born. But after a few years of exhaustion, she knew something had to be done and finally went to her doctor.
“In India, after the baby is born, the whole community helps. Our families would have been there, I would have had time to recover, rest and be taken care of. It is an important time in our culture. Moving here to Melbourne, we were alone and both of us had to go back to work quickly to afford to live after our baby. After a few years I was so exhausted I could not even stay upright for long. I finally went to the GP and my iron levels were so low I needed treatment in hospital but the wait here was a few months. My husband and I decided it would be best to send my daughter and I back to India for a while and to get treatment there immediately but also to have family support.”
“As soon as I arrived, I had the support I needed. I was able to rest, had the treatment at the hospital and spent a month in India recovering. My family there connected me with more people in Melbourne and I made an effort to go to mothers groups when I got home to Australia, and find more of a support network for myself at home. Now, I feel so much better and can’t believe I let it go on for so long.”
Being a mother in today’s society can be an isolating experience leaving you completely depleted. It doesn’t have to though. Diana from Mother.ly knew this all too well.
“A little over a year ago, I was walking out of a play gym class with my toddler and newborn, when my toddler ran out towards the parking lot. Don’t worry, I caught him. But not without skinning both my knees (ps that hurts way more than I remember from my childhood) and almost dropping my newborn. It turned out fine, but all I could do in that moment was sit on the sidewalk and cry.
I was just so, so tired. I felt depleted, overwhelmed and quite frankly, a little lost.
And that’s when a mom—an angel—came over to me, bent down to help me up and said the words I will never, ever forget (and always appreciate) —
You’re not doing it wrong. It’s just that hard.
As mothers, we know it’s a hard gig. That’s why it’s important for us to support one another, recognise the signs and get help when needed.
What have you done or what do you recommend for post-partum depletion? What was your experience?