Mamahood & Me

Maternal Depletion Syndrome

Maternal depletion syndrome


The term maternal depletion syndrome actually applies to developing nations but I believe we have this problem in the developed world too. Women who become pregnant at a young age whilst still developing themselves, and women who have a short interval between pregnancies (<18 months) are most at risk. If there is an insufficiency of nutrients available, a biological competition may take place between mother and baby for nourishment. This can lead to undesirable outcomes for both - so it is of great importance to understand and put into place good nutritional habits. 

As a recent study from the Journal of Nutrition said 'An adequate supply of nutrients is probably the single most important environmental factor affecting pregnancy outcome' 

In the last term of pregnancy the placenta passes nearly 7 grams of fat a day to the baby, whilst also using mum's supply of micronutrients such as iron, zinc, iodine, B vitamins plus omega 3 fatty acids. 

It is so important that mum is eating a healthy, balanced diet all through her pregnancy and in the post partum period to replenish these nutrient stores

As we all know, breastfeeding gives the best possible start for baby, plus many benefits for mum. However, lactogenesis (the process of making milk) involves consumption of very high amount of energy and increased usage of nutrients from maternal stores. Prolonged breastfeeding lowers maternal bone density, with the calcium deposits being reverted to normal after at least 12 months as long as the the maternal diet is adequate.

An occurrence of pregnancy whilst breastfeeding further exaggerates depletion of nutrients from maternal reserves - increasing maternal exhaustion and potential adverse effects on the baby. 

This is not to say that breastfeeding should be stopped - far from it! It is a case of being aware of maternal depletion syndrome and the possibility of low nutrient status, eating a good diet to prevent it, and if planning further pregnancies, consider waiting until 18 months post partum to give your body time to replenish.