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Maternal depletion syndrome has most commonly been used to explain the poor health and suffering of mothers who have recently given birth in developing countries. However, in recent years the definition of maternal depletion has expanded to include mothers anywhere in the world.
In today’s society, mothers are often overwhelmed with work, social and family responsibilities.

Maternal depletion symptoms in busy mothers include fatigue, inability to enjoy things which formerly provided pleasure, sleep challenges, emotional volatility or mood inconstancy. Mothers experiencing maternal depletion may also have changes in eating habits, experience physical or emotional breakdowns, and frequently get sick or feel run-down.

The difference between maternal depletion and postpartum depression is that maternal depletion can begin to happen at any point to a mother who is exhausted by caring for young children.

In contrast, postpartum depression is a biological result of giving birth and occurring most commonly 1 to 3 weeks after having a baby.

As a psychoanalyst and parenting coach, I often tell mothers that they can have it all in life, but not always at the same time. For mothers who are experiencing maternal depletion, it is important that they begin to see themselves and their own health as a priority.

To do this, they might need to step back from certain social and work responsibilities to care for themselves and their children.

As modern mothers, we want to be able to have it all, but taking care of our health should take precedence over job opportunities and social obligations. We can still get everything we want in life, but sometimes waiting or temporarily deprioritising can be the right decision for us and our families.

I would also encourage mothers to seek professional support. Qualified therapists can be incredibly helpful in teaching coping skills and developing balance and healthier mindsets.

When appropriate, fathers or partners can attend these sessions too, to further discuss how to support the mother and assist in managing the household in ways that are healthy for all family members.

Fathers or partners can also try to ensure that mothers are focused on their own well-being by getting adequate rest and nourishing her body with nutritious foods.

Being a parent is difficult, and as a society we need to acknowledge what a strong toll it can take on mothers.

By being aware of what maternal depletion syndrome entails, knowing when to take a step back from other responsibilities, seeking professional help, and garnering the support of a partner, close friend, or family members, mothers can overcome maternal depletion syndrome and enhance the wellbeing of both themselves and their families.

Erica Komisar

Erica Komisar, LCSW is a psychoanalyst, parent guidance expert and author of Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters and Chicken Little The Sky Isn’t Falling: Raising Resilient Adolescents in the New Age of Anxiety.