Pregnancy is not just something you do. It demands a lot from your body and mind. Many pregnant people can therefore suffer from postnatal depletion. It is not so strange to be tired after childbirth, your body eventually has to relax. With prolonged fatigue, however, there is more to it. You often feel irritated, overloaded, and can even feel guilty towards your children.

No scientific recognition

Fatigue After Childbirth1Anke Velstra is a childbirth counselor and doula who specializes in childbirth anxiety and trauma. She indicates that you can mainly recognize postnatal depletion by chronic fatigue and hypersensitivity. You can also suffer from depression, low libido, concentration problems, forgetfulness, and missing the bond between mother and child. These symptoms vary from person to person.

Postpartum depletion does not equate to being tired when your child does not want to sleep, or when he or she continues to cry. Postnatal depletion can persist for years after birth. Some people even report that they have lost themselves in parenthood. Like there's nothing else left for them.
Oscar Serrallach, an Australian doctor, coined the term “postnatal depletion” in 2018. He indicated that as many as 50% of pregnant people are affected by this condition, but the term is not yet scientifically recognized. According to him, this is very problematic, because in this way many people have the idea that depletion is part of parenting. When this term is recognized, these people can receive better care and are less likely to be labeled “postpartum depression” or simply “fatigue”.

Few options for recovery

According to Telstra, a traumatic birth plays a major role in the development of postnatal depletion. Normally your body goes into a “fight or flight” mode when you are in a fearful situation. Because you can't run away or fight against childbirth, your body switches to another mode: freeze. The parent seems to be cooperating from the outside, but inside they experience an awful lot of fear that they cannot express.
After that, your senses are constantly on “on”, so you can't relax, even when your child finally sleeps. Especially because childbirth places you in a very vulnerable position, the fear and trauma remain higher in the mind. You then feel very shameful as a parent. You feel that you should be grateful for a healthy child, while you feel very bad mentally. For this reason, many parents do not seek mental help when they experience these complaints.
Desirée Domacassé, nutritionist and postpartum therapist, states the following. After childbirth, your body needs a lot of recovery time. It has just gone through a very heavy change, so that's not surprising at all. Still, many parents pick up work fairly quickly after giving birth, causing your body to start using your reserves. The vitamins and minerals that you would normally use for yourself are made up by your child, leaving you with a lack of nutrients, which contributes to an extra tired feeling.

Can you prevent postnatal depletion?

Fatigue After Childbirth2Telstra indicates that postnatal depletion can never be completely prevented. Childbirth can always go differently, making it a traumatic experience. What you can do is learn more about the process and communication during childbirth in advance. This way you prevent things from happening with which you do not agree.

It also helps if you keep your body healthy before and during pregnancy. Your body then has more reserves, which can make you feel less tired. Domacassé indicates that the most important thing is that you take your feelings seriously and seek help when you need it. Talk about it. That gives your mind a chance to give the trauma a place.

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