During your pregnancy, you obsessed over every new change in your body and belly. For nine months, you practiced prenatal yoga, ate all the right foods, and were followed by a whole team of health professionals. But then what? You give birth and suddenly …. You. Are. A. Mom.
You have a new baby and you're busy navigating all the new lessons of parenthood. But you also have a new body. A mom’s body. It’s beautiful. And just like your prenatal body, this one needs nourishing. The truth is, women get great medical care during pregnancy. But once a woman has a baby, her focus shifts to caring for her new little one and her own health tends to suffer.
It’s during this post-postpartum, post-bliss stage that many new moms need to heed their doctor’s advice. As a naturopathic physician and women’s health expert, I see firsthand how often women post-partum suffer from deficiencies, sadness, weakness, and pain. Many doctors don’t cover this information and only usually share it when prompted. Here are 7 things you need to know to feel your best postpartum:
1. Keep taking your prenatal.
Many women stop taking their prenatal multivitamin as soon as their baby is born. Your body’s demand for certain nutrients can actually be increased post-partum, especially if you're breastfeeding, so please continue to take your prenatal multivitamin as long as you're nursing.
2. DHA, fish oil, is not just great for baby’s brain development, but also crucial for *your* mood.
The first six weeks post-partum are especially turbulent for new moms and the baby blues are common. Women who have adequate levels of DHA (from fish oil) significantly reduce their risk of post-partum depression.
3. Get tested.
While it’s not standard to run preventive blood work on new moms, I recommend that all new mothers have their thyroid, iron, B12, and vitamin D tested, particularly if mood, energy, libido have been low. Signs that something might be off include: feelings of sadness, constant crying, intense fatigue, dizziness, feeling faint, or brain fog. Our nutrient status and hormones shift after childbirth, so it makes sense to check in on your current levels.
4. Support your adrenals.
The reality is, new parents are exhausted. Sleep deprivation, stress, and new demands on your body can all take a toll and cause cortisol levels to rise. To ensure you don’t burn out over the first year of your child’s life, make sure you are protecting your adrenals and nourishing them on a daily basis. There are many herbal formulas to support adrenal health – my favorite herb for prevention is Withania.
5. Eat. good. food.
This sounds so simple but anyone learning to care for a newborn knows that eating anything can be trickier than it sounds. Your nutritional status post-partum is crucial. To be clear, your baby gets exactly what she needs from your breast milk, and you'll enjoy whatever nutrients are leftover. If you aren’t eating a balanced diet, you can be left with next to nothing. Eat three meals a day, plus snacks, and drink plenty of water. You'll gain so much more than just energy from this; your whole mood and outlook on life depends on it.
6. Ask for help.
You know the expression "It Takes a Village to Raise a Child," well, this couldn’t be more true. In fact, in almost every other culture across the globe, there are extended family members and post-partum birth professionals who step in to help care for newborns and their moms. In our North American culture, unfortunately, parents are often left alone the moment baby is born. Ask your relatives and friends for a helpful hand – grab a few groceries, throw in a load of laundry, hold the baby for a moment while you have a shower. And when they offer, please just say yes.
7. Feed your soul.
As a doctor and a mom, I know firsthand the importance of nourishing new moms’ bodies, minds, and souls. Of course job #1 is caring for your baby. But please remember how much more useful you are to your baby when you're happy, healthy, and rested. Talk to friends, connect with other moms, keep a hobby, a favorite activity, exercise routine, get pampered. It will fill your tank, fuel your joy, and keep you going strong.