What is Postnatal Depletion Exactly and Why is it Happening?

Interview with Postnatal Depletion Specialist Christiane Panesar

Christiane Panesar | January 8h, 2023

What is it you do?

I specialize in helping exhausted moms conquer Postnatal Depletion (while taking care of what's underneath their baby’s 'colic') so that they can ditch the fatigue and become the mother, the business woman, and the lover they want to be - and that includes moms who are in early postpartum and moms who are still exhausted even 1, 3 or 5 years after birth, also moms who are pregnant and want to avoid the common pitfalls of Postnatal Depletion and baby colic.

What led you to doing this?

After I overcame my own health challenges, I wanted to help others and founded Heart-Food Holistic. But when I became a mother for the first time, I hit a totally new wall of difficulty. I had no idea what would expect me in postpartum, although I really tried to prepare myself. I prepared myself well for pregnancy and childbirth, I got all the baby paraphernalia set up, but I had no idea what I could have done to really support myself. While I asked questions, nobody had told me before what it was really like for them and what crucial practical things I could’ve done to support myself. 

For example I didn’t expect that I’d only sleep 3 hours at night on average, that I’d be starving all the time from the constant breastfeeding and that I needed to eat so often. I was already a nutritional consultant at that time and ate very healthy and consciously, but I didn’t know how specific nutrition for postnatal recovery is: 

1: Foods to make sure a mother is supported in her healing from pregnancy and childbirth and that she’s being properly nourished, because nature always prioritizes the baby (even if the mother doesn’t have enough for herself) which means she’s easily being left depleted. 

2: Consuming foods according to baby’s brand new and super sensitive digestive system so that baby isn’t constantly in distress and  having trouble sleeping. And all that while I was in no position to make food for myself! I was in a quite an altered state and had no ability or desire to take care of myself, which was quite strange for me. Also I didn’t expect that my husband would be so overwhelmed himself and that I couldn’t lean on him alone. I didn’t know that it would be possible for me bordering on postpartum depression - while I loved being a mom so much, at the same time.

The thing was, even when my baby finally slept, I was so wound up and just couldn’t shut down anymore. The “hyper-vigilance” that so many moms have after birth, where their nervous system is constantly scanning the environment of danger, was quite strong for me. At first I was fine with how I felt, I lived off of happiness hormones, but 3 weeks after birth, I broke down on the floor crying, with my baby in my arms and my husband came rushing, “What’s wrong with the baby” And I started yelling at him: “The baby is ok, I’m not ok! I need help!”

That was the hardest thing for me to see - that I needed help and that it was actually ok to get some. When I met with my midwife again, I could see on her face that she was very concerned about the change she saw in me and she uttered the words “postpartum depression” - before that I didn’t even occur to me that this was what was going on with me. I just thought there was something wrong with me and wondered why I couldn’t handle all of this. I never expected this transformation. Only once I opened up and reached out, others did in turn, and, shared that they went through something very similar. I was shocked to find out how many moms were having such hardship in postpartum!

For me, the first step out of this was realizing what was going on. Seeing how severe the situation was and that if I didn’t help myself, I wouldn’t be the mother, the woman, and the wife I wanted to be. It was important for me to see that it was not just me or anything I was doing wrong, but that Postnatal Depletion is a real thing that affects so many mothers across the world. 

Once I figured out how to get myself out of this, how to get my energy back, my brain back, my body back, and also how to help my baby with her colic, everything changed. I mean it was a journey, but I turned things around - and when I had my second baby I knew so much more how to better prepare myself, what I needed to do, how to help my nervous system, how to help baby with digestion and sleep, how to get back up when I fall down, and how to ask for help. And I realized that I didn’t have to choose between my own well-being and that of my child. The truth is, that when the mother thrives, the baby and the rest of the family thrive as well. The two absolutely work in sync with each other. This is how it’s meant to be.

After this experience, I felt a strong urge to speak up for moms who have been putting themselves last and their health on the back burner for far too long. Since there wasn’t much out there for moms going through Postnatal Depletion, I decided to dedicate my career to support mothers overcome their Postnatal Depletion.

So many mothers are asking themselves: Why do I feel so terrible even after a year in postpartum (or 3 or 5 or 7!). So why is that?

Yes, we hear mothers ask questions like this all the time: Why am I feeling so dead tired? Why am I struggling to think or remember anything? Is this ‘mom brain’ ever gonna go away? Why am I feeling overwhelmed by small issues and why can’t I recover from a minor stressful situation for the rest of the day? Why is my body aching everywhere since I gave birth - I feel like I’m ‘old’ now… Is the ‘baby weight’ gonna come off ever? Are my hormones ever gonna stop boycotting date nights? Is it possible to have postnatal depression even years later?

So why is that? Moms struggling with these issues sounds like it’s more than common, but this isn’t really ‘normal’, isn’t it?

Exactly. This is not ‘normal’ at all but more than common. It’s estimated that at least every second mother is affected by Postnatal Depletion, and that’s not only new moms but also moms with older children.

Okay, what is Postnatal Depletion exactly? We’re more familiar with the term postpartum depression or postnatal depression, but Postnatal Depletion?

Postnatal Depletion is a syndrome that’s touching all spheres of a mother’s life - physical, emotional, mental, relationships, work, home, sleep, energy, hormones and the list goes on and on. Typical symptoms are severe fatigue, being exhausted on waking, digestive issues that have worsened since childbirth, a medical condition that has arisen during pregnancy or shortly after, levels of anxiety that are above your norm, feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope, a sense of guilt or shame around your role as a mother. Postnatal Depletion is only slowly getting some attention in the medical world now.

Many mothers think at first that this is all in their head, as they’re being sent home from the doctor’s office with a prescription or two and the recommendation to just ‘wait it out’. Or the well-meaning advice by friends or family that they should ‘just enjoy this time, because one day they will miss it!’

So, why is Postnatal Depletion happening?

There are many factors at play why Postnatal Depletion happens. First of all, many women are already depleted and maxed out as they enter pregnancy. Then, after they grow and nurture a human for 9 months, they go through a major taxing and transcendental experience called ‘child birth’, and in the period after where they’d actually need to heal and recover, they are fully occupied with taking care of that baby human pretty much 24/7. And while they’re breastfeeding they keep on growing their baby from their own resources (just outside of the body). During pregnancy, child birth, and postpartum sleep, hormones, and digestion take a major toll so that women easily turn from feeling capable, confident, and ambitious - to helpless, anxious and unmotivated.

Did you know that moms literally give pieces of their body to their baby? During pregnancy a woman’s brain shrinks 5 - 8%!! Because baby siphons off building blocks to make his own brain. No wonder about ‘baby brain’ or ‘mom brain’.

Postnatal Depletion may include postpartum or postnatal depression, but it’s much wider, and it might not get to a full-on depression, it might be more low grade depression together with other symptoms mentioned earlier - and mothers can be on different ends of the spectrum.

That’s terrible. Why do so many moms not fight to get their health back?

The thing is, all this is totally being normalized and moms are supposed to ‘just suck it up’ since ‘they’re a mom now’ and since ‘they were the ones who wanted the baby.’ Furthermore, there are no real solutions offered to young families who are struggling with postnatal depletion, baby colic and eczema. So moms think that's where they have to settle. The good news is: It doesn’t have to be like this. Moms don’t have to suffer like this, they deserve better and there’s a way out of Postnatal Depletion. I’ve done it and the amazing moms I work with are just rocking it. These moms now wake up refreshed and ready to conquer the demands of motherhood with ease - without that they had to go on diets, meal plans or meds. They sleep peacefully knowing their baby is healthy and well because their baby is sleeping now too instead of crying in distress. They enjoy chasing after their kids again and pick up their favourite activities like dancing or hiking. They wear clothes again they love. They fall newly in love with themselves, their kids and their husbands. I believe that’s what every mother really wants and I’m here to tell them that it’s absolutely possible.

Amazing! And what happens to mothers who don’t take care of this?

Countless mothers who keep on putting their health on the back burner are still struggling with fatigue and Postnatal Depletion even 3, 5 or 10 years after the birth of their youngest when Postnatal Depletion easily has turned into a chronic health condition they have to deal with for the rest of their lives. So many amazing mompreneurs end up with adrenal fatigue, autoimmune and nervous system disorders. It's absolutely heart breaking to me.

What advice can you give to moms who struggle with a colicky baby?

Don’t accept ‘wait it out’ and ‘there’s nothing to be done’ as an answer. You won’t get that precious time back with your baby. And - it usually doesn’t get better on its own and you just end up dealing with worse problems by not taking care of it. And by the way, baby reflux meds don’t take care of the root of the colic or reflux either. While they can cover up symptoms for a while, they rather contribute to the problem. When we suppress healthy stomach acidity, digestion is actually being shut down, which you can imagine isn’t a good thing. It leads to big protein clumps getting into our blood stream and with that, we get serious problems such as inflammation and immune reactions. A recent study of 800,000 children published by JAMA Pediatrics found that infants treated with acid-suppressing medications had a significantly higher risk of later developing allergies, especially food allergies. Then parents might deal with a toddler with rashes, ear infections, and daily tummy aches, or teenagers who are prediabetic or suffering from a tonne of allergies. 35% of Americans age 20 or older have pre-diabetes which is just one of the autoimmune diseases growing at an alarming rate. And early gut health has been found to be the biggest factor here! 

So don’t believe there’s nothing that can be done. We found that there are actually many signs and symptoms we can read that help pinpoint the underlying reason for a baby’s distress.

What should women do if they are ready to leave Postnatal Depletion behind?

If they are ready to make a change I’d encourage them to have a chat with me so that we can see which level of depletion they’ve reached, which symptoms their child is experiencing, and make a game plan to nip Postnatal Depletion in the butt. This one hour Postnatal Transformation Call is something I’m offering free of charge. And if it’s a good fit to work together we can talk more about that, and if not, I’ll do my best to point them into the right direction because I don’t take anyone who I can’t help.

Also I’ve created a free support group on facebook for depleted mothers. It’s called Mompreneurs Conquering Postnatal Depletion & Baby Colic. It’s so helpful to be surrounded by other moms who get you; it’s a safe space to process the many challenges of motherhood and support each other. Also in the group they can find my Postnatal Depletion Test, my Masterclass "The 6 Audacious Actions Mompreneurs Use To Ditch Depletion IN WEEKS - NOT DECADES (while mending baby's colic, eczema & sleep)" and lots of other resources. For moms out there: don’t be shy to join our little tribe!


Postnatal Depletion Specialist

About the Author

Christiane specializes in helping moms conquer fatigue (while mending baby's colic, eczema & sleep) so that they can ditch the Postnatal Depletion and become the mother, the business woman, and the lover they know to be. She created Postnatal Depletion Recovery to empower mothers who have been missing out on the RIGHT support in pregnancy and postpartum, so that they can make the shift from Zombie to Goddess IN WEEKS, not decades.