This article emphasizes the importance of postnatal nutrition. I appreciate that he mentions the placenta as a source for replenishing what is lost during pregnancy. Use your placenta, mamas!
The Deep Need for a Comprehensive Postpartum Vitamin System for all Postpartum Women
by Dr. Dean Raffelock
Throughout the past 30 years in private practice, hundreds of women have told me they felt that their current health problems started soon after the birth of their child. The child may have been her first or fifth, and might now be a teenager or even a grown man or woman, but the mother remembers the postpartum onset of her symptoms as if it were yesterday.
The symptoms that usually start within the first to twelfth postpartum months vary widely among mothers. A few of the most common are despondency and despair, chronic fatigue, sleeplessness, anxiousness, lack of confidence, loss of sex drive and passion, muscle and joint pains, unhealthy skin, hair and nails, digestive disturbances, bladder problems, heart disease, trouble breathing, and a host of troubling emotions and moods swings. A woman can be puzzled, frustrated, even embarrassed when she reveals symptoms that have plagued her for years. She may have shared these self-observations with doctors only to find that they were not worthy of an acknowledgment or comforting comment from her physician. Any attempt on her part to connect the birth of one of her children with those symptoms may have been met with skepticism or passed over. Yet, she can’t shake the feeling that something about that particular birth began her health decline.
Her observations do have validity and merit. What most mainstream medical practitioners don’t fully take into consideration is that a baby’s body is formed and made entirely of nutrients donated by the mother’s body. Her child’s brain, eyes, muscles, bones, organs, glands, nerves, skin, tissues and fluids are entirely make from the nutrients taken from its mother’s bloodstream via the placenta.
If there is a lack of vital nutrients, the mother’s body is the first one that is deprived because her developing baby is Mother Nature’s priority. All mothers need to consciously replenish their lost nutritional and energetic reserves during the postpartum period. If this isn’t done, they might end up spending the rest of their lives wondering why they “just haven’t felt the same since the baby was born.”
The energy demands of caring for a newborn can further drain and deplete the mother’s nutrient reserves, especially if she is breastfeeding and sleep-deprived. If a woman has lost a great deal of blood while birthing her baby, the need for replenishing the nutritional components of blood is even more critical. Women who undergo Cesarean section also need to restore nutrient reserves; not only have they become mothers, they have had to have major surgery in the process. Women who lose a good deal of blood during the birth process and who don’t replenish key nutrients might experience light-headedness and throbbing headaches, along with extreme fatigue, sleeplessness, anxiety, and depression.
A new mother is also faced with the stress of integrating the intense needs of a new baby into her lifestyle while tending to her mate and perhaps other children and returning to work. All of these responsibilities that women – and those who are cared for by them – have taken for granted for millennia demand high-quality nutrients.
Our food supply presently contains only about half the nutrients that food contained in the 1940s due to the nutrient depletions in our soil. This fact makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for a mother to fully replenish the nutrient reserves her body donated to make her baby’s body solely from the food she eats. Eating highly refined and processed “junk” foods further depletes vital nutrients, which deepens the need to replenish postnatal nutrients even more.
Every physiologic process in the human body depends upon nutrients. The most important time to consciously replenish postpartum nutrient reserves begins immediately after giving birth and extends to 24 months postpartum. The failure to do this often sets the stage for chronic health problems that may last for decades.
There was a time that women throughout the globe would be given their placenta in some edible form to consume directly postpartum, much like dogs and cats do instinctively. The placenta contains highly concentrated amounts of the nutrients that the mother has lost through giving birth. The fact that eating one’s placenta is now culturally distasteful further supports the need to make a concerted effort to consume the appropriate nutrients and nourishing foods necessary for rebuilding and replenishing the new mother’s donated nutrient reserves.
A high potency postnatal nutrient program is now essential to help a postpartum woman replenish her nutrient reserves.
Presently, about 30 million Americans take anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs. Many of these are postpartum women. Many doctors prescribe Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, and a host of other anti-depressant drugs before considering whether the mother’s depair, fatigue, or lethargy might be caused by postpartum nutrient depletion. All the major brain neurotransmitter chemicals (like serotonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine, dopamine and GABA) that effect mood, energy, and many other physiological process are formed from nutrients.
Postpartum nutritional depletion can cause a physiological depair that is far too often misdiagnosed as a mental/emotional despair. This is a medical short-sightedness that needs to change. A postnatal nutrient recovery program should be the very first thing a doctor thinks of and prescribes for postpartum women presenting these symptoms; especially with women who have no history of despair, hopelessness, anxiousness, sleeplessness, or fatigue prior to giving birth. Continuing to take a high quality, comprehensive postnatal nutrient program can also help determine if there is truly a need for pharmaceutical antidepressant support or if replenishing nutrients is sufficient.
If one does need the assistance of antidepressant drugs, it is important to note that these drugs contain no nutrients, so the need to replenish postpartum nutrient reserves still exists and should be addressed. This can also aid and prevent other postpartum health problems. The need for high potency postnatal nutrients is greater now than ever before because the pace of life keeps getting faster, more complex and stressful.
Omega-3 oils are robbed from the mother’s body at a very high rate via the placenta to help form her baby’s brain, eyes, nerves, and cellular membranes. Breast feeding robs even more Omega 3 oils from a postpartum woman’s body because it is removed from her body to form the milk her body is producing. Many studies show the importance of Omega 3 fish oils to relieve depression, dry skin, thin hair and nails, fatigue and prevent heart disease in postpartum women. Omega 3 oils are an essential ingredient in a good postnatal nutrient program to assist a mother to replenish her nutrient reserves. It is vitally important that the Omega 3 fish oils taken be certified free of heavy metals and PCBs and also contain at least 3 different antioxidants (Vitamin E, Vitamin C, and rosemary oil are best) to prevent these oils from going rancid. Flax oil does not easily convert into DHA and EPA found in fish oils.
All the major nutrients are taken from mother’s body to help form baby’s body. Alpha Lipoic Acid and Coenzyme Q 10are essential for the body to make energy. Without enough of these two essential nutrients, the energy producing mitochondria in our cells will often make only 2 units of ATP (cellular energy) instead of 39 units of ATP per cycle. These two deficiencies are major causes of postpartum fatigue and mood swings.
These two nutrients along with B vitamins, minerals including calcium and magnesium, and the Omega 3 oils are essential nutrients to help a mother replenish her postpartum nutrient reserves and should be included in a good postnatal nutrient formula. Typical prenatal vitamins do not adequately supply all of the nutrients that new mothers require after bringing new life into this world.
A high quality postnatal nutrient program should be an integral part of the pregnancy recovery program required for all postpartum women to fully replenish their nutrient reserves. This can assist new mothers to not only regain their health and prevent later health problems, but also to allow her the best chance of happily raising her family and having other healthy pregnancies and healthy children if desired.
Dr. Dean Raffelock is the lead author of A NATURAL GUIDE TO PREGNANCY AND POSTPARTUM HEALTH published by Avery, Putnam, Penguin in 2003. He is a holistic doctor in private practice in Boulder, Colorado. He has earned four board certifications including clinical nutrition, acupuncture, chiropractic, and applied kinesiology and continues to teach research-based clinical nutrition for numerous medical organizations. Dr. Raffelock formulates premium quality nutrition products for Sound Formulas and other nutriceutical companies.
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