I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about exactly HOW the postpartum body actually gets depression, anxiety, and autoimmune diseases.
And this is a great question because when one understands the how (and why), that information can be used to completely reverse the damage of not knowing and of healing the body.
This can also be used to PREVENT this stuff from happening in the first place. (So if you are pregnant, this is worth reading.)
However, most of the women who come to work with me in my 1:1 program are YEARS into this exact spiral of dis-ease. This information I’m sharing with you is for you.
Before I begin, it’s also important to note that this is the typical journey that I see time and time again. But every body is different. There are different starting points and I’ll also explain how that materializes dis-ease too.
Let’s start by first acknowledging that it takes some serious work of growing a human being!
You literally use your body and the work of God to create life.
As we all know, nutrients and hormones (which are mostly ran from nutrients) do the work of growing a baby. So much so, that your baby will pull nutrients from your body to get what they need to grow. So if you’re not getting enough calcium from your daily meals, your baby will pull calcium from your bones. The same goes for many nutrients.
And after dealing with morning sickness in the first trimester, or having other young kids and not fully healing from their pregnancy/birth, or not eating well…
You run on deficiency. Most women never get enough.
If you had a planned pregnancy, detoxed beforehand, ate well for months prior, have a great hormone balance, and never suffered from morning sickness, you go through pregnancy in a far better place nutrient-wise. But let’s be honest, you are a rare bird.
So it’s probably easy to see that unless nutrition is your #1 priority and you eat well all the time, you are probably starting off in pregnancy (not even postpartum yet) deprived of many nutrients.
If you suffer from pre-existing issues like food allergies, an autoimmune disease, diabetes, etc., then you’re starting from a different place of lack. For example, my first pregnancy started 2 months after I learned I had a few food allergies. These food allergies caused major inflammation in my body, including my intestines. So getting nutrients for my body was a struggle because my inflamed body couldn’t absorb the nutrients I was getting well. They were literally passing right through me even though I desperately needed them.
And then one gives birth. Literally, your body goes through massive trauma. (Although you may experience the birth of your baby as amazing and perfect, it’s still a physical trauma that your body has to spend months, if not years, healing from.) Birth (especially cesarean) sends your body into immediate survival mode.
And if you did experience trauma, which accounts for nearly 30% of US births, then you have another layer here that sends this spiral on overdrive with a different process added to it. This is an entirely different post, however. But in short, when trauma happens in birth, there is fear, loss, anger, and a host of valid and difficult feelings that have a mother questioning her self-worth, her body, and her ability to mother. Coupled with the way the brain changes in early postpartum, it easily becomes PTSD, depression, anxiety, and more. But again, a different post.
To stick with the physical process of birthing a baby…
Certain processes in the body slow down rapidly. Digestion is the first on the list to slow. Digestive juices and acid, as well as digestive enzymes, become very low. The body has to exert energy to keep up with those processes and that energy is better spent preventing you from hemorrhaging and healing other things.
These digestive juices and enzymes are what breaks down your foods so that your body can use the nutrients from them. So when your body is in this state of healing, it doesn’t operate at the standard digestive level you’re used to.
Although you may be starving after giving birth, digesting said food remains slow and dare I say, simply weak.
Then you create breastmilk and rapid-fire fats and vitamins and minerals and all the goodness to your baby.
On top of breastfeeding, your body needs to heal. It uses things like fats, proteins, and vitamin A (and soooo many more) to help heal your uterus and stop the bleeding, and simply return to a non-pregnant state of being.
So even if you continue to eat things that are healthy, your body can’t absorb it well enough to give you ALLLLLLLL the nutrients your body needs to heal, sustain life through breastmilk, and maintain a state of well-being.
(This is of course if you don’t eat a healthy postpartum meal plan that includes only broths, soups, cooked veggies, warming foods, and so on. These are the foods that the body doesn’t have to exert extra energy to break down. It’s all absorbed much more easily. But if you’re like me in my first pregnancies, you didn’t know this.)
On top of it getting enough nutrients, you aren’t sleeping well. You aren’t getting the support you need to rest in your bed for as long as you need. Our society isn’t set up to support that and instead, teach women that it’s far better for them to get up and be busy and act like they didn’t just go through a monumental feat of creating and birthing life. So you become a zombie (aka sleep deprived).
When you don’t get enough nutrients and sleep, your body can’t produce the hormones it needs to regulate itself.
Nutrients create hormones and sleep is the time those hormones are created, managed, and cleaned up. Fluctuations are normal in postpartum but they aren’t being supported properly because they aren’t getting what they need. So hormone imbalances become prominent.
Hormones are also what regulate sleep and digestion. So that if you aren’t getting enough already, a nasty spiral begins.
Your body starts telling you things aren’t right. Bloating, gassiness, extreme overwhelm, exhaustion… these are your first clues.
But often, were told these are normal because, well, they happen so frequently to mamas.
And eventually, those signals and symptoms turn more ugly. Because your body is still not getting enough of what it needs, things become more urgent.
Major hair loss, aching joints, constant bloating and indigestion, food sensitivities, mood swings including intense sadness and rage…
Then if still left untreated… depression, anxiety, food allergies, and autoimmune disease.
Sometimes this process happens so quickly that you never saw it coming.
Sometimes it’s so slow that you can see this progression as I describe it, but maybe didn’t see the progression as you lived it.
So many women take a step back around the 2-3 year mark postpartum and ask themselves “how did I get here?” Or “who am I?” They feel like everything was a blur and they don’t recognize themselves anymore.
Remember, these are all major symptoms of a larger problem. And the problem is exactly what I described. You aren’t getting the basics of life: nutrients, sleep, and hormone balance. These 3 things are the fundamental building blocks to health.
When there is dis-ease, it’s important to step back and assess WHY. It’s also important to treat the actual problem rather than the symptoms.
Hopefully, this post made things a bit more clear for those of you asking questions about this process of dis-ease in postpartum. I did my best to describe it as easy as possible so that you can use this to your advantage here.
You can also see how very interrelated nutrition, sleep, and hormone balance is. So much so that it’s the very reason I work with women in all 3. Because if there is a concern for one, I guarantee there is a problem with the other two.
With you in healing. <3