It is so easy to forget about yourself once your baby is born. When you are pregnant, looking after yourself physically equates to looking after your baby so it is a top priority. Once baby is born it is a haze of sleepless nights, constant feedings and diaper changes. During this time, it is so hard to remember when you last brushed your teeth let alone if you took your prenatal.
I know what you are thinking “prenatal, did I read that right, I had the baby already”. Yes, it’s not a typo, the one supplement that I recommend that all postpartum moms continue with is their prenatal. Birth is a marathon and you need a good “post workout recovery” formula. A prenatal helps to cover your bases and makes sure you are getting most of the nutrients you need in a time when your eating patterns may be sporadic and not the most nutrient dense.
Everyone’s needs are a little different and factors such as how difficult of a birth you had, how much blood loss and if you are breastfeeding are definitely factors the impact what supplements you should be taking.
Iron- Even with the smoothest of births there is blood loss. A uncomplicated vaginal birth typically results in 500 ml of blood loss and during a cesarean birth you can lose up to 1L. Up to 18% of women may experience a postpartum hemorrhage, and most women continue to bleed for up to 6 weeks post-delivery. Many women’s iron stores aren’t great in pregnancy to begin with. Couple that with the blood loss and it is the perfect set up for low iron. Did you know that on most bloodwork ferritin, which is the stored form of iron, levels are considered “normal” if they are over 12? I like to see ferritin be at a minimum of 40 for overall energy and 60-70 for reducing hair loss. If you have been told your iron is fine but are tired, experiencing increased hair loss even if you are not postpartum as what your ferritin level is. Chances are it is closer to 12 then 50.
Iodine- Iodine is a key ingredient that the body uses to make thyroid hormone. Postpartum is one of the times in life that the thyroid is most vulnerable. It is quite common to experience postpartum thyroiditis and other fluctuations in thyroid hormone levels. Our soil in most of North America, but especially in the Great Lakes region is deficient in iodine so that means that the vegetables we eat are not absorbing adequate amounts of iodine as they grow. Iodized salt contains iodine, but many people do not consume much salt, and it is not the best form to get your iodine.
Protein- protein and its building blocks amino acids are critical for postpartum recovery. Eating adequate protein (20g in the morning) helps to stabilize blood sugar levels for the rest of the day. Collagen and elastin are made up of amino acids. Having an abundance of amino acids in the diet is important for tissue repair and healing. Other amino acids like glutamine are helpful for the integrity of your gut lining which could be compromised if you had to have antibiotics during or after labour.
Fatty Acids- Omega 3 fatty acids have been studied to be beneficial for postpartum depression. If you are breastfeeding, they are also transfer to the breastmilk and are helpful for baby’s brain development.
Calcium and Magnesium- Magnesium has also been shown to help reduce postpartum depression. Calcium and magnesium in a 2:1 ratio is helpful for bone health and reducing calf cramps. If you are breastfeeding, your calcium requirements are increased to 1300 mg/day, not getting enough calcium can result in the calcium in your bones being leached and can put you at higher risk for osteoporosis later in life.
B Vitamins- Helpful for energy levels, which every new mom needs! Vitamin B5 is beneficial for your adrenal glands, the body’s batteries, which are often depleted by pregnancy. Vitamin B6 is helpful for painful breastfeeding if it is due to vasospasm of the nipples.
4 Most Important Supplements for Postpartum
- Prenatal- As I mentioned above, if you only take one thing, make it this. If you are breastfeeding, you should take a prenatal for the duration of feeding as your nutrient demand is increased for that whole time. If you are not breastfeeding, I still recommend taking it for at least 3 months to replenish your own nutrient stores post pregnancy. The prenatal I recommend contains iron to help support your increased demand, B vitamins, iodine and choline, which is important for baby’s brain development.
- Omega3 – Helpful for reducing postpartum depression, baby’s brain growth, and anti-inflammatory for any of your aches and pains.
- Iron- If your ferritin, the stored form of iron, is lower than 40 I suggest taking a separate iron in addition to your prenatal. The one I recommend is well tolerated and doesn’t cause stomach pain or constipation. For optimal iron absorption it is best to take it every other night at dinner, with some Vitamin C at least 30 minutes away from coffee or tea.
- Cal/Mg- Calcium Magnesium in a 2:1 ratio is a must if you are breastfeeding. Breastfeeding increases the demand for calcium to 1300 mg/day and if you are not getting enough, your body will pull calcium from your bones leaving you at an increased risk for osteoporosis later in life.
Bonus: Collagen- Besides being a good source of protein that is quick and easy to stir into your drink for a new mom, collagen helps with recovery in so many ways. It helps immediately with wound healing and increasing skin elasticity. It is beneficial for the gut lining, which may have been compromised if you had to have antibiotics in labor or after. Of concern to most postpartum moms, it can help to slow postpartum hair loss. Collagen, coupled with a good prenatal and adequate iron has been my personal secret to little to no postpartum hair loss.
Did/do you continue to take your prenatal after you had your baby? Please post in the comments below.
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