You may not have heard of postnatal depletion, but this mum lived with it for six years.

I can’t believe it, finally after many, many, years I’m actually starting to feel fit again, well that was until I decided to put myself on the start line of my first race in eight years.

Over the past four to six years I have battled with postnatal depletion, some of my symptoms have included constant tiredness (even when my youngest finally slept through), hair loss and only managing to train at a moderate intensity during this entire period.

Lorraine Scapens and her daughters. (Image via Facebook/Pregnancy Fitness.)

If I were to exercise more frequently or at a harder intensity I would get sick, which regularly led to three to six weeks off exercise. That constant battle went on for a long time until I finally ‘listened’ and figured out exactly what was going on. So for the past couple of years I kept things easy to avoid an increase in symptoms.

Thankfully I’m now over it and it feels awesome, my hair is finally growing back. This winter was the first time I didn’t get sick and I can now push my body during exercise and get a training effect.

My story below is a reminder to mums, as we often forget exactly what we have gone through. I will also share some helpful tips to get you through the testing years:

Understanding the toll.

Ten years ago, I was an exceptionally fit triathlete and personal trainer, I would easily train 11 to 12 hours a week, now I’m lucky if I manage three.

The first pregnancy was a breeze, it was the birth and looking after a new baby that started to deplete my energy levels, I had absolutely no idea how demanding it would be. During the first postnatal year even though Kate was a very demanding baby I raced two half marathons and was fit enough to compete in the summer swim/run events. But it was during these short races I knew something wasn’t right, I was training but I wasn’t getting any faster and I knew from my coaching experience I was over doing it, but I pushed those thoughts aside and ignored it as I was quite keen to get pregnant again.


I knew I was pregnant at the start line of a 3 kilometre Ocean Swim so I took things a little easier during the race and sure enough a week later a positive pregnancy test. During this pregnancy I swam, ran and strength trained but I got sick frequently, whatever bugs Kate had picked up at daycare, I got too.

Lorraine trained during her pregnancies. (Image via Facebook/Pregnancy Fitness.)

However, the second birth was awesome and new daughter Brooke was an angel baby. Brooke slept for three to four hours in the morning and I only had to get up twice at night to nurse her, what a different this made. Because of this around eight to 12 weeks I was back into a moderate exercise program.

My husband had started to get into CrossFit and around the five-month post partum stage we were doing our own WODS, I used to call them WOWS with my clients as they were their Workouts Of the Week.

I was feeling fit and strong but during one of the workouts I felt really strange. No, surely not, could I actually be PREGNANT?! I knew I was pregnant yet the pregnancy test didn’t test positive until a week later this put the first doubts in my mind. Fast forward 12 weeks and I was in hospital having a D & C and I had still managed to breastfeed Brooke (who was now a very active 10-month-old) throughout the entire ordeal.

Lorraine's condition meant high-intensity exercise was off the table.(Image via Facebook/Pregnancy Fitness.)

Recovering after a miscarriage was hard and not just mentally, it felt like my pelvic floor muscles had just given birth. So I was back at square one with my training and I now had a 1yo on the move and a very busy three year old. At some point during this year I also decided to start my online business.

Life was busy enough and we were also dealing with financial stress when my period was two days late…roll on pregnancy number four.

It's easy for us to forget the physical and mental strain we go through bringing our little angels in to the world, for me;

  • Four pregnancies in 4 years,
  • Three babies,
  • Three and a half years breastfeeding,
  • Four continuous years of night waking and nursing,
  • A new business and running two,
  • A house move,
  • And family overseas.

Not everyone will experience postnatal depletion at the same level as I did as each person's situation is unique. Although the more children we have and the closer pregnancies are, will certainly increase the chances of developing. This is because we haven’t allowed ourselves to fully recover from pregnancy and the first one to two years postnatal.

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Tips to help.


Pregnancy is something we can’t always plan but if you can, it's important to ensure you have recovered from the previous one, it's also very helpful if baby is sleeping through the night. I would also suggest that before you try to conceive that you get blood tested by a doctor to check you are not depleted of any vital vitamins and or minerals.


Family and a support network.

Don’t under estimate this, having family and friends close by will help to reduce many stresses. Don’t ever turn down free help and if you can afford childcare, do it. Don’t ever feel guilty for putting your baby into paid help so that you can get an hour to yourself, you need this time. Not sleeping for more than two hours in a row for 21 months almost killed me. Looking back I should have cancelled my earlier clients for less stress in the mornings and got a bank loan out for a night nanny.


Rest is something that we all know we need to take more of yet we will often find ourselves sorting out washing or vacuuming instead of having a ‘Me Time’ moment. Again if you can afford it, get a cleaner and don’t feel guilty. Putting your feet up for 30 minutes every day in that first year could make a huge difference in your long term recovery. At the end of the day if you get sick who can look after baby?

Don’t push yourself.

I used to love pushing my body to the maximum intensity but if you are sleep deprived, breastfeeding and working then keeping your exercise at a light to moderate intensity will be much more beneficial long term.

Before commencing regular intensive exercise I suggest to mums that they are:

  • Sleeping for six hours continuous,
  • Baby has started on solids/or is bottle-feeding,
  • Have healed a diastasis,
  • Have no leaking – sound pelvic floor muscle function,
  • Not feel the need to take an afternoon nap.

Nourish your body.

It's not just food, what you put in your body equals either energy or lack of it. Ensuring you eat regularly and healthy food that includes protein and fat along with hydrating adequately will ensure you are rebuilding your nutrient supply.

Enjoy time with your kids.

Yes, the days and nights can be tough but the ‘baby and little’ years go by fast. Enjoy trips to the parks, making dens and playing with your kids, use this time to de-stress and not worry about whats for dinner. Those constant smiles and hugs make it all worth it.

Lorraine said enjoying time with her kids was important. (Image via Facebook/Pregnancy Fitness.)

Talk about it.

If you are struggling, it’s important you don’t try and hold it all in and cope by yourself. Talking to your mum friends can work wonders, just knowing that its all normal and part of the journey can be very reassuring. If things are really starting to get you down then you need to speak to a Doctor you can rely on.

Drink coffee and have a glass of wine.

I swear having a five minute coffee to myself every day helped me get through it all and so did a regular glass of red wine. As long as these don’t get out of hand and I’m certainly not advising bad habits here you don’t have to go without. Don’t take something away that helps you cope just because some diet expert or your Pt thinks you should, that glass of wine could make the difference to your sanity.

What to do when you know you are suffering.

Be kind to yourself remember that you’re important, eat, sleep, rest, enjoy easy-moderate exercise and just take each day one step at a time.

Many women that I have spoken to over the years and I definitely agree, is that it takes longer to get back into things after each pregnancy. So don’t worry if you are six months or more post baby number three and haven’t found the time to exercise yet, your time will come, you will eventually find time.

Postnatal depletion is very real and it’s not something that will effect you for a couple of months it is something that can linger for many years and it's certainly a subject rarely discussed. If someone would have said to me 10 years ago to the day which is basically when we first discussed having kids and conceived that I wouldn’t race or have the time and energy to do so for the next decade, I would have happily had a million dollar bet against it.

We are all different and depending on individual pregnancies (how many and how close they are), breastfeeding, sleep deprivation, stress, work, family support etc. can relate to if we suffer with some or any form of postnatal depletion.

Lorraine Scapens is the founder of Pregnancy Exercise and has more than 20+ years’ experience in the Fitness Industry. Please use this information as a guide, Lorraine is not able to provide medical advice.

This post originally appeared Pregnancy Exercise. You can read the original post here.