Common Problems After Pregnancy
In my practice, I commonly encounter women who developed a number of physical problems that seemed to start after pregnancy. In spite of consultations with their primary care doctors and multiple specialists, women are told that “everything is normal” and sent on their way with a few prescriptions to dampen their symptoms.
Since delivery, their bodies don’t seem to be functioning normally in spite of continuing their lifestyles just as they had prior to pregnancy. This is a list of some of the symptoms they often experience:
- Fatigue and Poor Concentration
- Lightheaded and Headaches
- Weight Gain and Food Cravings
- Bloating, Heartburn, Constipation or Diarrhea
- Frequent Urination, Recurrent Bladder Infections
Does this sound familiar? Don’t be surprised because it is an extremely common scenario and is responsible for most the symptoms in about 25% of all my patients.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Pregnancy
The term “fatty acids” refers to a group of molecules that are utilized in the body as a source of fuel but they also have important roles in cellular function. There is a group of important fatty acids that need to be provided through the foods we eat (fish and shell fish) and are referred to as “essential” fatty acids. These are commonly known as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids play a critical role in neurological development and function and are critical for the normal development of a child. As such, nature has designed a method to insure newborns have an adequate store of omega-3 fatty acids to develop normally.
During the 3rd trimester when fetuses increase their body fat, they are being given a massive supply of omega-3 fatty acids from the mother. So much omega-3 is transferred from the mother’s body to the fetus that the mother’s total storage of omega-3 fatty acids decreases by as much as 50%.
That’s right, half of the mother’ omega-3 fatty acid supply is packed into that little newborn. This leaves the mother somewhat depleted of omega-3’s and her neurological system susceptible to damage by stress, both physical and emotional. The mother’s stores would quickly be restored if she regularly ate omega-3 fatty acids containing foods such as fish and shell fish.
But unfortunately, most women in our culture do not.
Add a 2nd or 3rd pregnancy to the now stressed neurological system, each with another dramatic depletion of the mother’s store of omega-3 fatty acids, and the mother’s neurological system is essentially running on empty of this essential neurological nutrient.
The Risk Grows With Each Pregnancy
It seems the physical and emotional strain associated with the 2nd or 3rd pregnancy is just too much for the brain to handle without adequate supplies of omega-3’s. Omega-3 deficiency results in the brain losing much of its ability to withstand stress and continue to function properly.
In this weakened, omega-3 depleted state the autonomic nervous system (ANS) begins to not work properly.
The ANS is the portion of the brain that controls blood pressure regulation, organ function (kidney, intestinal tract, liver, heart, skin, etc.), regulates hormones and controls a large portion of the immune function.
Autonomic dysfunction, triggered by the stresses placed on an omega-3 deficient brain, is why so many women develop many of these symptoms after pregnancy.
Restoring Autonomic Function
Fixing the problem is not so easy.
First, re-supplementation with large doses of omega-3 fatty acids is critical. A dose of 2,000-3,000 mg of omega-3 per day is the minimum I recommend. Please note this is not milligrams of fish oil but omega-3 fatty acids, look on the back label of your fish oil supplement for the right amount. You can also use omega-3 supplies from algae, flax seed or krill.
If you’re lucky, the omega-3 supplementation combined with adequate sleep, regular exercise and a reduction in all dietary carbohydrates may be enough to get you back on track.
Unfortunately, it seems many women require more sophisticated autonomic testing and specific treatment aimed at re-balancing autonomic function to fully restore normal autonomic balance and resolution of their symptoms.
If you are interested in learning more or making an appointment for autonomic testing and consultation, call 623-208-4226 or go to DrBuckeye.com for more information.