Postpartum care seems to be something that is starting to become more recognised in our Western culture. There is change in the air which is exciting, but there is still work to be done!
Check out my previous article Missing Postpartum Traditions, where I unpack some of the cultural traditions from countries all over the world and make suggestions about how we could adopt them here in Australia to honour the new parents more and allow them that time to fully connect with baby, whilst also giving mama space to rest.
The Depletion Cycle
If we take a closer look at what is actually going on, it becomes clearer as to why we need to be more prepared and have a thoughtfully curated plan to help pave the way towards a more enjoyable postpartum period.
From the moment we start building a baby in our bellies, that process requires our body to call on nutrient reserves and rely on what we are consuming to see that process through.
Speaking from experience and the social conditioning so deeply ingrained in our society, prior to conceiving, most females are preoccupied with exercising more and eating less and use their body composition as a gauge for their success. I was certainly guilty of that before I knew better and learnt to love myself more.
My point is that in some cases, it can be assumed that we are already in a nutrient depleted state when we conceive, which is then followed up by a cocktail of further depletion with growing a baby, birthing a baby, healing after the physical act of said birth, then breastfeeding this hungry and growing tiny person.
So with all this depletion happening, and not enough replenishment, it’s no wonder why so many women struggle in their journey from pregnancy all the way through to postpartum. If we want to change the narrative and mamas-to-be are serious about wanting to shift the paradigm then there must be a plan in place.
Dr Oscar Serralach has written an amazing book called The Postnatal Depletion Cure where he talks about the role of inflammation, its relevance during pregnancy and how it can impact the postpartum period if not addressed well before conception occurs. Excess amounts of inflammatory load during pregnancy paves the way for further nutrient depletion to occur after baby comes.
Preconception Plan of Action
At The Natural Nutritionist we have a saying: ‘test, don’t guess’, and the preconception phase is no exception. We have put together a comprehensive list of bloods including nutrients like B12, iodine, vitamin D, MTHFR, zinc, iron studies, haemoglobin plus many more so we can meet our clients where they are at and put together a plan that is relevant to them.
Markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP), histamine and homocysteine are ones we always test for and help us identify if there is excess inflammation that needs to be addressed.
Being aware of nutrient deficiencies early in the piece allows us enough time to work on improving them through simple nutritional and supporting supplementation strategies, focusing also on detoxification and gut health.
To give you one example, we know that there is a normal level of anemia induced during pregnancy from hemodilution to help transfer nutrients across the placenta. If this is only identified towards the end of the second trimester, sometimes later, it doesn’t leave enough time to put strategies in place to improve it.
If however, it is identified in the preconception phase, or in the early stages of pregnancy (we usually ask to see bloods at least three times throughout the pregnancy journey) then there is a much greater chance of building up the stores and avoiding conversations about iron infusions.
If you are currently pregnant and reading this and you didn’t take a deeper dive into your nutrient status before you conceived, do not despair. We can definitely still work on things during your pregnancy and help bring about a more enjoyable postpartum period.
Let’s Get Money in the Bank
Perhaps you are about to start your preconception journey or you are in the early stages of pregnancy. Here are my top recommendations to help you get ‘nourished up’ so you’ve got more ‘money in the bank’ for when it’s time to start (ex)spending (see what I did there).
- Include ‘bang for your buck’ nutrient powerhouse foods like:
- Offal: this can be done via pate, grated livers in a spag bol or a blended powder mix like this. Offal contains nutrients like iron, zinc, B vitamins and choline;
- Good quality animal protein in the form of slow cooks: iron, amino acids, magnesium, B vitamins, easily digested nutrients (psssssst fattier cuts of meat also have cholesterol in them which help with hormone production);
- Eggs: fat soluble vitamins like A, D and E, B vitamins, choline and folate just to name a few.
B2. Foundational supporting supplements: I prefer to take a tailored approach but a methylated prenatal, vitamin d and a good quality probiotic are a great place to start.
- Improving absorption: the latest saying is ‘we are what we assimilate and absorb.’ Taking things like cod liver oil and apple cider vinegar are also a great way to help us get the most out of what we are consuming.
- Increasing your current portion sizes by 10% to begin with, especially if you have a history of calorie restriction or a suspicion that you might not be consuming enough calories at the moment.
It’s all well and good to be conscious of consuming more foods that contain the important nutrients we need, but let’s also remember to avoid or reduce the ones that may actually deplete us of nutrients. The main ones to avoid include improperly prepared legumes, soy, and even some vegetables (especially if they are raw). They contain compounds such as phytic acid, tannins and lectins which pull out stored nutrients from our bodies and inhibit the secretion of necessary digestive enzymes.
A Note About Birth
I come from a personal training background and I can honestly say that I know what it means to work hard. Birth is hands down the most physically demanding and rewarding experience I have had to date. Twice. I put in a concerted effort that focused on nourishment, mindfulness, movement, empowering resources only, and assembling a care tribe that allowed me to have two natural home births with zero complications and a slightly exhausting yet totally manageable and enjoyable postpartum journey.
Could I have done it if I didn’t take a multifaceted approach that included me ‘nourishing up’ and being able to call on these nutrients when those first pangs of labour kicked in? I think not.
This is by no means the only thing that matters and I will definitely do a separate article shortly on what I believe helps us to cultivate the birth experience we so desire. But our nutrient status matters.
Take Home Message
Just like if we committed ourselves to a physical event like a triathlon or a crossfit competition, we would put together a plan to set us up for success to perform at our best on the day and recover well so we could perhaps do it again in the future. The same can be said for birth and postpartum. We must be prepared if we want to shift the paradigm, and give ourselves permission to thrive.
Get in touch if you’d like to know more or book in a complimentary chat with me. I’d love to hear from you!