FATIGUE, ANXIETY, OVERWHELM — JUST BECAUSE IT’S COMMON DOESN’T MAKE IT NORMAL.
Dr Oscar Serrallach states the becoming of the mother "Matrescence' is more significant than adolescence, and we go through it every time we are pregnant. Every time we are pregnant our brain and body gets 're-wired'.
Fun fact: A Radiologist can solely by looking at two MRI scans (without knowing gender) which one has gone through a full term pregnancy by looking at their brain scans. That's how much our brain change when we become Mothers.
The catch is, we support adolescents through their transformation, we give so much more levy to moody teenagers than we do to new mothers, mothers often aren't supported, especially in western societies. We are just meant to get 'on with it'.
Postnatal depletion is a word that Dr Oscar Serrallach put together, in his search for answers when he had countless mothers coming through his clinic that asked "how do I get my life and myself back after becoming a mother?".
Postnatal depletion symptoms:
- Fatigue (We often confuse tiredness with fatigue - if you are tired, you can have a couple nights of rest and be recovered - which doesn’t happen if you have fatigue)
- Hyper vigilance - hyper focused on smaller details/things being a particular way, feeling "always on" and the feeling of being "wired but tired".
- A lack of stress resilience i.e. not being able to cope with stress as easily as before
- The feeling of 'baby brain' e.g the symptoms of poor concentration, poor memory, general brain fog...
- The "Thingy" Syndrome - Yes, it's a thing, finding it hard to find the right words, especially nouns. Called Anomic aphasia, a mild, fluent type of aphasia where you have word retrieval failures and cannot express the words you want to say.
- Overwhelm, and a sense of not coping.
Note this - it's not that You're not coping, chances are You're depleted.
Dr Oscar Serrallach says "Postnatal Depletion doesn't just affect new mothers - it affects 1 in 2 mothers." If a new mom isn't allowed to fully recover from the demands of pregnancy and birth, the after effects can last for years to come.
So consider this: If you ever feel tired since having children, and tried to speak to practitioners or people around you, only to be met with a response like 'you are a mum now, being tired comes with the territory' only to feel disheartened and unseen, please know this doesn't have to be the case. Just because it's common doesn't mean it has to be normal.
How long does Postnatal depletion last?
Dr Oscar Serrallach says postnatal depletion can last up to 7 years if untreated. This is because the emotional and mental load is heightened with children up to 7 years.
In addition, when it comes to household responsibilities, women perform far more cognitive and emotional labour than men. If we included the unpaid labour of domestic work and caring for others including children, it would add more than 560 billion dollars to the Australian economy - of which women are responsible for nearly 2/3s of this work.
Needless to say, these are stresses that deplete us of key nutrients and vitamins.
Dr Oscar Serrallach's protocol to treat postnatal depletion
Having vitality and more energy is the end result of multiple body systems being in sync, they are in flow. Being fatigued is the result of these body systems being out of sync. Dr Oscar Serrallach finds a combination of addressing micronutrient deficiencies along with macronutrient imbalances being a good start.
Supplements can help with this, but everything is connected, so unless you implement other changes as well as increasing healthy fats and focusing on quality protein such as organic eggs, fish, and meats, and also being aware which are the healthier carbohydrates. Diet & supplementation is one thing, it will be hard to break the cycle of depletion and recover long-term, if we don't address depletion holistically, including lifestyle changes. Sorry, it's not a quick fix.
Dr Oscar Serrallach recommends to check and treat any deficiencies first and foremost, so that you are replenished in order to be able to do the lifestyle changes required to recover.
Step 1: Replenishing micronutrients and vitamins
The physical demands, the stress and toll of pregnancy, labor, and breastfeeding can deplete essential nutrients, hormonal reserves, and energy stores from You. When we are pregnant the mother is kind of the bank of nutrients for the baby, all the nutrients go to the baby, and what is leftover (if any) gets passed to the mother, or the mother becomes deficient herself.
- Choline: Choline is a neurotransmitter; essential for brain development, liver function, cognition and cell membrane synthesis. It can be obtained from sources like eggs, liver, meat, fish, and cruciferous vegetables. People with low folate levels may need more choline too. If you have trouble remembering and learning new things, chances are your levels of this very important neurotransmitter are depleted. Choline helps with sharpening your thinking process, memory, motivation, and concentration.
- Saffron: Master modulator. A double-blind, randomised, and placebo-controlled trial was conducted on 60 new mothers with mild-to-moderate postpartum depression. Furthermore, more existing evidence suggests that saffron has a potential to be efficicacious to alleviate the symptoms of depression in different conditions from pre-menstrual (PMS symptoms) to postpartum.
- B Vitamins: B vitamins, including B9 (folate), and B12 (Methylcobalamin) are crucial for energy production, brain function, and red blood cell formation. Leafy greens and legumes are excellent sources of B vitamins.
- Folate, in particular, is important for our mental health and energy levels, especially in mothers. Folate also works together with Vitamin B12 to keep our nervous system healthy and our DNA in top shape. Without it, we may experience symptoms like fatigue, hair loss and even depression. But here's the thing: while folate can be found in food, cooking it can actually destroy up to 90% of this essential nutrient. Why supplementation is key.
- Selenium: Selenium is an antioxidant that supports thyroid function and protects against oxidative stress. It can be found in foods like Brazil nuts, seafood, meat, and whole grains.
- Iodine: Iodine is essential for thyroid function and plays a crucial role in the development of the baby's brain and nervous system. Good source of iodine include seafood and seaweed.
- Vitamin D: Often referred to as the "sunshine vitamin," vitamin D is essential for bone and immune health, as well as mood regulation. Vitamin D actually acts like a hormone, sending out signals to cells.The result is that it helps increase genetic expression, which is critical in controlling inflammation. In other words, the better the vitamin D, the better and more quickly information can get into the cells. This really is a big deal, especially when you're depleted. It can be obtained through sunlight exposure or dietary sources such as fatty fish, fortified dairy products, and supplements. You can make vitamin D from the sun's UVB rays, but many don't know the sun needs to be at least 45 degrees to the horizon do make sufficient vitamin D. There are apps available that actually tell you the angle of the sun in your area so you can maximize exposure.
- Magnesium: Magnesium plays a crucial role in our nervous system. Magnesium deficiency can trigger a range of things like muscle cramps, fatigue, anxiety, poor sleep, and delayed physical recovery - amongst MANY other things. It turns out magnesium deficiency is fairly common; studies show as many as 75% of us aren’t getting enough magnesium in our diets.You can read more about it here.
- Zinc: Zinc is crucial for immune function, wound healing, and hormone regulation. Good dietary sources of zinc include oysters, lean meats, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
- Turmeric: Turmeric is probably world's most studied herb. It contains a compound called curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties; it actually works like inflammation modulator. Great for your postpartum neuro-inflammation.
- Iron: Iron is necessary for the production of red blood cells and the prevention of anemia. Good dietary sources of iron include liver, beans, and leafy green vegetables. Iron absorption can be enhanced by consuming vitamin C-rich foods such as citrus fruits. If you looking to supplement, the latest health advice and research findings is not to take iron everyday, instead every second day, for optimal absorption. Which is why we didn't include it in our Flow State-formulation.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, are vital for brain health and the development of the baby's nervous system; this gets depleted from the mother’s brain, about seven grams of fat a day is sent from a mother’s body via the placenta to feed the fetal brain’s huge energy and fat requirements... Supplementing with a high quality DHA as well as making sure intake of fatty fish like salmon, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids for a depleted mother.
- Manganese: Manganese is involved in the production of enzymes that support bone health, metabolism, and antioxidant defense.
- Vitamin A: Vitamin A is important for immune function, vision, and cell growth. It can be found in orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, and liver.
Having experienced postnatal depletion and burnout firsthand, we teamed up with Dr. Oscar Serrallach to create a solution that would empower us mothers to reclaim our vitality; as it sometimes be hard to meet your daily nutrient requirements from diet alone.
But instead of carrying around all those boxes of pills and powders and ordering from different providers all around the world, we worked hard to make it as simple yet effective as possible.
That's why we created our debut supplement Flow State, to be in a convenient daily dose, to help you see that it's possible to experience a calm, energetic and revitalised state again. Just three capsules in the morning. Powerful, non-invasive, and (most importantly) simple.
How long should You use a postnatal depletion supplement?
Consistency is key, it takes about 6-8 weeks to feel the full effects of a supplement. Dr Oscar Serrallach recommends to supplement for a minimum of 3 months and then take a break to assess how you feel without it, that will be a good indicator do you need to continue.
Most women don't need to take the full dose of Flow State for more than 6 months. The goal is to help you feel your best so that you can start doing other things that improve your well-being, like exercise, nutrition, and spending time on the things you love and fills up your cup.
If you have a demanding job or lifestyle, you may want to continue taking Flow State at a maintenance dose of 1-2 capsules per day after 6 months. This will help you maintain your progress and prevent burnout.
Step 2: Activities that support Your Nervous System
When we have a million moving parts in our life, it’s easy to neglect ourselves for something or someone else, like work or family.
But. Taking care of ourselves cannot be understated in its importance. For ourselves and for the people around us.
As You are starting to feel better, think more clearly, and have more energy, you will have the headspace and resilience to consider other activities that will have a compounding effect on your wellbeing.
Dr Oscar Serrallach has a great framework that is easy to implement to your everyday.
- Tiny things frequently (20 sec or so)
- Small things daily
- Big things once a week
- Bigger things once in a while
Step 3: Support vs Help
Many of us Mothers find that attention naturally flow in our direction while we're pregnant, and yet when postpartum, the focus by friends, family, care providers suddenly moves to the baby.
In our culture of isolation, the shifting of the attention alongside a general lack of support structures for Mothers, means that in order to get the kind of support we need, we'll have to reach out and ask. And that feels uncomfortable to most of us.
Let's change this together, let's support each other where we can, whether it's dropping of meals, taking turns to do pickups and drop offs, ask each other 'can I do anything for you?' and when we get asked, we say 'yes please'. We need to create our own village, it won't be instant and it will take practice from all of us.
We founded The Tenth Co because we wanted to challenge the prevailing narrative that mothers should accept isolation, exhaustion and self-neglect as the norm. We believe that every mother deserves to thrive and feel seen and heard; most importantly feel supported. Our mission is to provide a comprehensive solution that not only addresses the physical and mental well-being of mothers but also empowers you to redefine your own narrative.
Image copyright Emily Abay Photography. Used with permission.