Postpartum Nutrition

You did it Mama! Your baby has arrived and it’s time to celebrate. Now that there’s another addition to your family, you’re going to be adjusting to a new lifestyle in so many different ways. In this time postpartum, there are going to be so many questions about what your baby needs, but right now we want to take a moment and talk about what you might need.

 Postpartum nutrition for mom is a topic that sometimes gets overlooked, but can have major effects on mom’s health after birth. In fact, postpartum health in general may sometimes be neglected. Many new moms meet with a doctor just once postpartum, and have difficulty finding someone to talk to about their questions and concerns regarding their health. According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, it is recommended that new moms check in with their doctor within 3 weeks postpartum, and have a full postpartum workup no later than 12 weeks after birth. In this appointment, most healthcare providers will perform a regular gynecological checkup, as well as a traditional physical exam. They will also likely ask about mental health, and bonding with your baby [6]. When there is time for questions, it is also helpful to take time to ask your provider for recommendations they have for nutrition. This is a relatively new focus for postpartum health, but the results of improved nutrition may be drastic.

What are the effects of postpartum nutrition?

What you eat directly influences both physical and psychological health. Recent studies have shown that 95% of the body’s serotonin is found in the GI tract [2]. The connection between physical and mental health is still being explored, however there is evidence that postpartum anemia as well as postpartum vitamin D deficiencies are tied to postpartum depression[4], [8]. Blood loss during birth is a risk factor for both postpartum depression and anemia. Improving iron levels with a postpartum diet can help combat both of these, leading to better physical and mental health. In addition, according to the CDC, vitamin D and iron are incredibly important for breastfeeding moms to keep up strength when nourishing your baby! The World Health Organization also emphasizes the importance of vitamin A on postpartum health [7]. Babies are generally dependent on breastmilk for vitamin A supplementation, which can improve their eyesight and immune function. 

What should I eat to improve my health postpartum?

Postpartum nutrition, like all nutrition, varies for every person. There is no perfect diet to feel amazing right after birth. However, there are some recommendations that experts make to improve overall health and mood. Standford Children’s health provided a list of foods they believe are the most important for postpartum nutrition [5]. In addition, foods such as spinach or red meat that are high in iron can help drastically reduce the symptoms of postpartum anemia. Fiber rich foods help with energy as well as strength, and making sure to get an adequate amount of protein daily is very important for overall well being [3]. It’s important to note that focusing on postpartum nutrition is not the same as strict dieting postpartum. While pregnant, your body saves energy stored in lipids to help with breastfeeding and postpartum recovery. These fat stores are vital, and rapid weight loss can result in further health complications [5]. Instead, nutrition experts recommend a diet heavy in fruits and vegetables, with healthy amounts of carbohydrates and protein, and less frequent snacks that are high in fat. 

We at SimpliFed Believe…

That moms are often left out of the equation and your health matters just as much as your baby’s health.While these recommendations can be helpful, a balanced diet with moderation will help you to gain strength and energy in the busy days caring for your newborn. It can be difficult to prioritize your health and nutrition, because we know that being a mom is a 24/7 job. It’s important to remember that nutrition is very influential in mood and physical health, and proper nutrition can help to make long days easier. Nutritionists and dietitians are excellent healthcare professionals to help with any questions or concerns you may have.

Resources

  1. “Optimizing Postpartum Care.” ACOG, www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2018/05/optimizing-postpartum-care. 
  2. “Serotonin: a Mediator of the Brain-Gut Connection”. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, https://search.proquest.com/openview/0913f5f1ab00bb75672e259937367f88/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=2041977
  3. “Maternal Diet.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8 Oct. 2020, www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/diet-and-micronutrients/maternal-diet.html. 
  4. Corwin, Elizabeth J., et al. “Low Hemoglobin Level Is a Risk Factor for Postpartum Depression.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 Dec. 2003, academic.oup.com/jn/article/133/12/4139/4687469. 
  5. “The New Mother: Taking Care of Yourself After Birth.” Stanford Children’s Health – Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=the-new-mother—taking-care-of-yourself-after-birth-90-P02693. 
  6. Maria, Masters. “Your Postpartum Checkups.” What to Expect, WhattoExpect, 1 Apr. 2020, www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/six-week-postpartum-checkup.aspx. 
  7. “Vitamin A Supplementation in Postpartum Women.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 5 Feb. 2019, www.who.int/elena/titles/vitamina_postpartum/en/.
  8. Bertone-Johnson, ER., et al. “Low Maternal Serum Vitamin D during Pregnancy and the Risk for Postpartum Depression Symptoms.” Archives of Women’s Mental Health, Springer Vienna, 1 Jan. 1970, link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00737-014-0422-y. 

Claire Dowell

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