Updated: Feb 16, 2021
The book I have chosen to begin this new section about what to read during pregnancy and the postpartum period is The Postnatal Depletion Cure by Dr Oscar Serrallach.
This week, I’ll begin by talking about Part I - Defining Postnatal Depletion, which includes three chapters.
Quotes will be put in italic and I will include the page on which each quote can be found, so that you may revert back to the book for further information.
My aim through this ‘book section’ is to provide you with what I would have hoped to have read during my first pregnancy so that it may help you on your own journey.
In the introduction of his book Dr Serrallach says that “If a new mom isn’t allowed to fully recover from the demanding requirements of pregnancy and birth, the aftereffects can last for years.” (p. ix) This rings so true because the ‘demanding requirements’ can be of a physical, emotional, social, mental & /or nutritional nature and unless we’re made aware of this beforehand, how are we to know what to do about it?
In Chapter 1: ‘What is Postnatal Depletion’, Dr Serrallach gives a definition of what postnatal depletion is, including the 3 main factors involved, the 4 significant factors that cause it and why it’s so apparent in Western societies today.
Dr Serrallach states that: “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” (p.4)
Dr Serrallach goes on to explain how society isn’t doing mothers any favours with so many demands placed on them but with less access to support. “This mismatch between expectation and support, stacked on top of nutrient depletion, leads directly to mothers feeling overwhelmed.” (p.7)
Further on, we discover more detail about why postnatal depletion is so common in our society. “Postnatal depletion isn’t just about physiology - it’s also about how and why mothers don’t get the emotional and social support they need when they need it the most.” (p.13).
In other cultures around the world including China, Korea, Malawi, India and so many more, the support mothers receive is heart-warming. Support can be anything from a certain number of days in ‘confinement’ to providing a mother with nourishing and healing foods and ‘ceremonies’ to ensure she recovers in the best possible way following pregnancy and birth.
In Chapter 2: ‘Physical symptoms and why they worsen’, Dr Serrallach provides some wonderful information on the importance and role of the placenta, the role inflammation plays in postnatal depletion, the changes to the postnatal body in the first 6 weeks and then in the long-term, what ‘baby brain’ is, sleep deprivation, nutrient ‘robbery’ and stress.
In Chapter 3: ‘Emotional Symptoms and why they worsen’, Dr Serrallach states: “Some women also harbour inappropriate expectations that everything will be perfect; these can stem from not having had prior experience with raising children coupled with an attachment to a former life where they enjoyed a feeling of being in control. It is a fraught time when idealism and realism collide.” (p.41)
Dr Serrallach goes on to explain what the eight main emotions are in the postnatal period and how to differentiate between postnatal depletion and postnatal depression, something that should be visited and revisited again and again as too often women are given a label when actually, it may stem from a severe lack of support, in the first instance.
“Mothers must be given the validation they need to know that they were not ‘failures’ if things didn’t go as planned, or if choices were taken away from them during the birth due to unforeseen circumstances, or if they felt otherwise robbed of an idyllic baby-bonding phase that they see so often in the media.” (p.49)
I have read, and re-read, Part I of this book which makes mothers feel like someone actually knows and understands what’s going on, we just need more people to understand, and respect, what a huge transition this period is and to give women and their families the time and support they need to adapt to it more effectively.