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postnatal depletion

Exhaustion, the feeling of being overwhelmed, struggling to shower and keep up with your beauty routine—these are all common things new mothers may deal with after giving birth. But what if these feelings don’t go away and are coupled with even more symptoms that you never had before baby, thus debilitating you as a new mom? It’s possible that postnatal depletion is to blame.

Dr. Oscar Serrallach, a Doctor of Functional Medicine with a special interest in postnatal wellbeing, coined this term after numerous women came to his practice suffering from these symptoms. While prenatal care is of utmost importance, once the baby is born, most of the focus turns to them, leaving the mother vulnerable to a lack of support and proper treatment. What’s even more concerning, postnatal depletion has the ability to stick with a new mom for multiple years. In Dr. Serrallach’s new book, The Postnatal Depletion Cure: A Complete Guide to Rebuilding Your Health and Reclaiming Your Energy for Mothers of Newborns, Toddlers, and You Children (excerpted below), he offers up the essential roadmap for regaining your health.

What Exactly is Postnatal Depletion?

Postnatal depletion is a constellation of symptoms affecting all spheres of a mother’s life after she gives birth. These symptoms arise from physiological issues, hormonal changes, and interruption of the circadian day/night rhythm of her sleep cycle, layered with psychological, mental, and emotional components.

Think of your body as a plastic bag full of water. The more water in the bag, the better you feel and the better you are able to cope. Each day of pregnancy, the birth, each sleepless night, each long day of breastfeeding, is like putting tiny pinpricks in the plastic bag. You can repair these holes, but it takes a little time. When there are only a few sticks of the pin, only a very small amount of water escapes the bag. The trouble, though, is when the holes start to come more quickly than you can repair them. Such is the body after childbirth; when there are too many stressors and not enough time to recover, your levels become depleted.

Depending on the severity of depletion, the postnatal period can last for years after the baby is born—you can be left with a bag so filled with holes that it takes a long time to repair and refill. In the worst-case scenarios, I’ve even seen the depletion pattern occurring decades later. None of this suffering should continue for so long!

At its core, postnatal depletion is the understandable outcome of a series of less-than-ideal events leading to depletion of a woman’s well-being at multiple levels. There are three primary factors at play here:

  1. The nutrients given over to making, incubating, and birthing the baby are enormous, and this depletion continues after the birth for women who are breastfeeding. 

  2. Bone-gnawing exhaustion can occur from sleep deprivation—the result of never having a good, refreshing night’s sleep. 

  3. The drastic change of a new mother’s role is often accompanied by social isolation, which can have a deleterious effect on a woman’s psychological well-being. 


All hope is not lost though. In fact, understanding the symptoms is just the first stop on a mom’s road to recovery. Dr. Serrallach’s cure includes a tailored plan for rebuilding physical and emotional wellness which he details in his book, coming out in June of 2018.

Excerpted from The Postnatal Depletion Cure: A Complete Guide to Rebuilding Your Health and Reclaiming Your Energy for Mothers of Newborns, Toddlers, and Young Children. Copyright © 2018 by Oscar Serrallach MBChB FRACGP. Reprinted with permission of Grand Central Life & Style. All rights reserved.

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