Postpartum Nutrients & Supplementation
Updated: Nov 1
Postpartum can be a challenging time for many women. Breastfeeding, sleep deprivation, and caring for a tiny human… all of which can be stressful.
However, many of us forget about the biochemical and physical changes our bodies endure during the “4th trimester.” This blog will walk you through recommendations for postpartum moms (which our providers also take for themselves!)
What should I know about postpartum nutrition?
A great way to fuel your body and help make the process a bit easier is having adequate nutrients. The body needs a plethora of vitamins and minerals to deal with a typical day let alone a postpartum one! First and foremost; we recommend that you continue taking your prenatal or postnatal into postpartum. These supplements contain essential B vitamins like folate, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, iodine and some contain iron and DHA/EPA! The B vitamins will help maintain energy levels and help with infant development.
The main point I want to discuss is the significance of the phrase "food first, supplements second." Deficient nourishment cannot be out-supplemented. Simply put, supplements are that. When included in our diet, they improve or finish it. Nothing is replaced by them. We recommend a diversified real food diet together with a sensible supplement program.
Your body requires more iron, folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin D3 after giving birth, both for recuperation and in particular for breastfeeding. Make sure you're getting enough of these nutrients by eating a varied, real-food diet and taking supplements.
What Nutrients Do I Need Postpartum?
Vitamin D is crucial for various processes in our body such as strong bones, gut absorption, calcium regulation, and preventing inflammation. The form that is better absorbed by the body is Vitamin D3 (calciferol). Not only are nutrients depleted while postpartum; infants require 400 IUs of Vitamin D and exclusively breastfed babies typically need to supplement due to how little is in breast milk. However, if the mom is supplementing with 2000 IUs it can help get more to the baby!
Magnesium is responsible for over 600 enzymatic reactions in your body. It can help with stress, anxiety, muscle tension, constipation, headaches, and sleep. It is safe for breastfeeding mothers and is a great way to ensure that you have extra help for all the work your body is doing! The RDA for women is 320 mg but many people aren’t getting that in their diet. A 400-600mg supplement is great for helping with a deficiency. I recommend a combination of magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate to help get optimal benefits.
These are super beneficial for moms to take in order to help with gut microbiome and overall gut health. They are great to start in the third trimester, especially if there's a GBS positive / antibiotics given during labor! This can help to maintain optimal gut flora for both mom and baby! A high-quality supplement is important; you want it to contain 500M to 50B CFUs for optimal health benefits. Strains to look for for infants are; Lactobacillus Fermentum, Bifidobacterium Animalis Subsp. Lactis, or Lactobacillus Rhamnosus.
Iodine is typically in most postnatal and prenatal. The WHO actually recommends 200 microg/day for pregnant and postpartum women. It is important to get an adequate amount of iodine during pregnancy and postpartum to prevent the appearance of hypothyroidism in pregnant and postpartum women. It is incredibly beneficial for thyroid function and is a common deficiency that can impact overall thyroid production. There are iodine receptors on the placenta and central nervous system tissue of the developing fetus as well.
These are what are typically referred to as “fish oils.” Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid that is found along with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in cold-water fish, including tuna and salmon. Both are forms of Omega 3 fatty acids but they do have differing properties. DHA has been shown to help boost brain function as well as help with anxiety, mood swings, and depression. It is recommended postpartum to help prevent postpartum depression and anxiety. EPA has higher anti-inflammatory properties which is why many fish oil supplements contain a 1:1 ratio of both. There is a vegan form that utilizes flaxseed oil instead. The dosage of fish oil is difficult due to so many varying factors based on each individual. Many studies show that 2,000mg of DHA/ EPA daily is the minimum and doses lower than that may not provide a sufficient amount.
Typically during pregnancy iron is measured with bloodwork levels and supplemented as needed for deficiencies such as anemia. If you did have a need for iron during pregnancy it can be helpful to continue supplementing throughout postpartum to build up nutrient stores. “WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations recommended nutrient intake for iron in lactating women ranges from 10 to 30 mg per day, depending on the bioavailability of dietary iron.” Iron can be beneficial due to the blood loss that occurs during postpartum. “Mothers with low iron stores at the time of delivery and following childbirth may experience fatigue, altered cognition, and depressive symptoms.”
What else can I do to help with postpartum recovery?
Eat a Balanced Diet
Get Restful Sleep
Consult a Doctor / Mental Health Professional if needed
After giving birth, nourishing your body with foods high in nutrients is crucial for your physical recovery, giving you energy, and maintaining your mental health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise postpartum women who are breastfeeding not to restrict or avoid any particular foods. The maintenance of a balanced diet should be prioritized.
Good nutrition is critical for new mothers. Nursing women need about 500 extra calories each day, as well as plenty of protein, calcium, and fluids to stay healthy and produce nutritious breast milk. You should aim to eat a balanced diet that includes lean meats, high-fiber foods, low-fat dairy products, and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Additionally, postpartum women who are not nursing need to eat enough calories to heal from surgical or vaginal wounds since healing body tissue demands more energy from proteins, carbs, and fats. If the body's energy requirements are not satisfied, it will consume protein as a source of energy rather than to treat injuries.
When we understand how food supports the body, it can change our perspective from restrictive eating to nourishment. The doctors at ANH Wellness are happy to help you with your postpartum concerns and can provide you with the tools you need to create a plan.
By: Dr. Abby Kellogg
Chiropractor at ANH Wellness
Disclaimer: "The information including but not limited to text, graphics, images, and other material contained on this website is for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment."
Sources: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-864/docosahexaenoic-acid-dha https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17701774/#:~:text=During%20pregnancy%20and%20postpartum%2C%20the,pregnancy%20at%20the%20recommended%20doses. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29860183/#:~:text=Conclusions%3A%20Dietary%20supplementation%20with%20omega,reduce%20the%20risk%20of%20PPD https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK379991/