Postnatal Depletion Could Be Why You're Feeling So Tired

These are the signs to look out for.
Malte Mueller via Getty Images

If you feel tired, zapped of energy and like your brain is full of mush – and you also happen to be a relatively new (or maybe not even that new) parent – you could be experiencing something dubbed ‘postnatal depletion’.

The term, coined by Dr Oscar Serrallach in his book The Postnatal Depletion Cure, describes the physical, emotional and hormonal changes that a new parent can experience after giving birth.

Poor nutrition, lack of sleep and the constant juggle of motherhood can all contribute to the issue – although it’s worth noting it’s not a recognised condition by the NHS.

While you might associate this overwhelming tiredness and fatigue with those first few years of being a parent, Dr Serrallach suggests it could last up to 10 years after giving birth – so if you still don’t feel yourself all these years later, this might explain why.

It’s not uncommon for mums to experience this

Dr Serrallach estimates about half of mums suffer with postnatal depletion to some degree.

Sara Jackson, a nutritional therapist, says she sees “so many mums” who are struggling but haven’t been able to find the answers to niggling health concerns they have.

“When we delve deeper, they realise these symptoms have mostly been exacerbated by having one, two, three babies even as long as seven to 10 years ago.

“It was more than likely their ‘never well since’ moment. We’re expected to bounce back immediately after having a baby. And when we don’t, no one truly understands what’s wrong.”

What are the signs of postnatal depletion?

Some of the key issues women experience include:

  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Self-doubt
  • Low energy
  • Moodiness
  • Loss of confidence and self esteem
  • Digestive issues
  • Hair loss
  • Feelings of guilt and shame
  • A sense of frustration, overwhelm and anxiety

What’s causing this?

Motherhood is not only demanding in the sense that it takes a huge toll on your body – particularly from a nutritional perspective, and especially so if you’re breastfeeding or have multiple children around the same age.

But we’re also navigating ridiculously hectic modern lifestyles. It’s not unheard of for mums to be back at work two or three months after giving birth – especially if they’re self-employed. Some are even juggling multiple children and jobs.

No wonder we’re so zapped.

Can you do anything about it?

Yes, mainly with lifestyle changes – but also seeking support, where possible, from family members and friends. After all, it takes a village!

Experts at Kin Fertility recommend making sure you’re getting enough nutrients – so we’re talking a balance of fruit, veg (leafy greens are a must!), protein and healthy fats. Postnatal vitamins and supplements can also help your body replenish what’s been lost.

Sleep is another way to help your body recover. Getting enough of it can be pretty hard in those first few months – and even years – so it can often feel out of your control. Where possible, trying grabbing naps and sharing childcare responsibilities (like feeding) so you can get an early night.