A new term of postnatal depletion was coined by an Australian Doctor, Oscar Serralach, MD a few years back. It describes constellation of symptoms that can occur after pregnancies (usually multiple pregnancies), where the body takes a long time to fully recover energetically, hormonally and emotionally.
The science behind the diagnosis is that during pregnancy, a mother’s body becomes depleted of several key nutrients especially iron, zinc, vitamin B12, folate, iodine and selenium, as well as omega-3 fats like DHA, in order to support the baby’s growth and development in-utero. This depletion is compounded with each pregnancy, especially if they are close together with extended periods of breastfeeding, you have had twins, or if you had hyperemesis (extreme nausea and vomiting in pregnancy).
Resulting symptoms can include:
- Feeling un-refreshed from sleep
- Exercise intolerance (meaning that you feel worse after exercise)
- Weight gain or loss
- Hair loss, dry skin
- Low mood or anxiety
The key here, is that these are new symptoms that have developed after having children, and were not present before. These symptoms are quite general, and there are also many other conditions that express similarly, so we must first rule out things like hypothyroidism, low-iron levels, insulin resistance and more. Please do not self-diagnose without checking things out with your healthcare provider.
On a positive note, this is an issue that can be largely prevented, and there is support for you wherever you are in this spectrum – whether you are just a few months post-partum and feeling depleted, or 5 years post-pregnancies and feel like your body still hasn’t fully recovered.