It can be expected for a new mother, to feel tired – sometimes even exhausted. Growing a whole new human being and birthing a baby is a huge task. That baby is then nourished for months, sometimes even for years. And, like many of us, one would probably do it again. And again. Raising children can be exhausting and mothers are constantly on call. It’s a 24/7 job and hence it is not uncommon for mothers to feel completely exhausted even years after having their babies, which can potentially lead to what is known as postnatal depletion.
Postnatal depletion is often described as being mentally and physically tired – all the time.
We often hear some moms describe it as preggy brain, baby brain or even mumnesia, where she may feel run down, wired, lethargic and like she has nothing left to give, even long after giving birth. It is a condition where a mother feels so much more than fatigue, entirely different that the better-known postnatal depression.
Here are some signs to look out for in mothers, even years after giving birth:
01. Falling asleep unintentionally
02. A sense of unease
03. A sense of guilt and shame around the role of being a mother, and loss of self esteem
04. A sense of isolation, even fear about socialising or leaving the house
05. Frustration, overwhelm, and a sense of not coping
06. Poor memory or concentration
07. Loss of libido
08. Poor immune function and gut health
What causes it?
Several factors play a role as to why some mothers may feel depleted. One main reason would be the lack of postnatal support in places like the UAE, where the majority of mothers are expatriates, so most are away from their own mothers, sisters and other close connections, which can lead to a feeling of isolation, and of having little or no support.
This is one reason why Eleonora Fornelli and I founded the 1st Doula support agency in the UAE – Belly Baby Mom. We want to support women, not only during birth, but through the early postpartum period and the rest of motherhood.
Another issue is all the things we see on social media and read in the media, in some books and even hear from other people that make us feel we are supposed to be the perfect mom, when in reality there is no perfect mom – there is only a mom who is perfect for her child. New mothers feel an overwhelming pressure to get everything right in those first few months with a baby, and it shouldn’t be this way; as motherhood is a journey of trials and doing what is best for you and your baby.
There are studies that prove that postnatal mothers typically have low levels of nutrients in their bodies including iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and others, which may be responsible for why a new mother may feel depleted. What is interesting is that it occurs because a pregnant mother’s body will send several grams of these essential nutrients to her baby via the placenta to help grow and develop her baby.
Other reasons include ongoing life stressors – demanding careers, social schedules, sleep deprivation and others.
How to protect yourself
✱ Don’t ignore the signs! If you feel something is not right, talk to someone and explore your symptoms.
✱ Allow plenty of mom and baby bonding time post-birth; this can play a big part in how quickly women recover, due to the huge amounts of oxytocin being produced from birth.
✱ See a good health or nutritional practitioner (especially after birth) and get a comprehensive assessment of your nutrient levels to check for any deficiencies or low levels.
✱ Get support, get support, get support! You can never have too much support. Join prenatal and postnatal classes, workshops and coffee mornings and meet with other mothers and babies. Some moms find their life-long friends through these groups.
✱ Do some form of physical therapy such as exercise, yoga, meditation, even one of the buggy walks or runs with a local community group.
✱ Realise and understand that motherhood is a beautiful journey that can be very challenging at times, but also that mothers – and that means you – are strong.
Shereen Zarroug is a birth doula and hynobirthing practitioner, who together with Eleonora Fornelli founded Belly Baby Mom, a postnatal doula service in Dubai. They offer a range of pre and post-natal support services.es. For details on upcoming classes, workshops, free events & more, please visit bellybabymom.com or phone (058) 5123226