Feeling so exhausted after having your baby? Mum, you may be having postpartum fatigue.
Postpartum sleep deprivation is an inevitable normal part of becoming a new mother. The abrupt changes in hormone levels, accumulated fatigue from pregnancy, and round-the-clock demands of caring for a new baby can all take their toll, and it’s usual for mothers to experience a drop in energy and mood in the first few weeks after giving birth.
It is normal to feel physically and emotionally exhausted in the weeks following delivery. Know what postpartum fatigue is, its causes, and ways to cope with it.
Postpartum Fatigue and Its Causes
Postpartum fatigue (PPF) has been defined in a variety of ways, but it generally refers to a decreased capacity for physical and mental activity following childbirth, a persistent lack of energy, and impairments in concentration and attention that are not easily alleviated by rest or sleep.
When it comes to postpartum fatigue, there are several factors at work that contribute to excessive tiredness and exhaustion. Aside from the demands placed on your body during labour and delivery, the lack of sleep you receive while caring for a newborn, as well as being on high alert for the majority of the time, can all take their toll.
Furthermore, studies show that women who have depression, anxiety, or sleep problems, as well as those who are breastfeeding, are at a higher risk of experiencing extreme fatigue.
Other factors that influence fatigue levels include the mother’s age and the number of children she is responsible for. Postpartum fatigue can be influenced by the length of labour and perineal pain.
Aside from the reasons mentioned, here are other possible reasons for postpartum fatigue and postpartum sleep deprivation:
- Your body is healing from the physical demands of pregnancy and childbirth. You’re also recovering from major abdominal surgery if you had a c-section.
- Because your newborn requires hands-on care around the clock, any sleep you do get is likely to be fragmented and less restorative. Sleep can be unreliable and difficult to come by in the first few months of your baby’s life before he or she establishes a sleep schedule.
- Breastfeeding can exhaust you. Milk production depletes your body’s energy and burns an additional 400 to 500 calories per day. When you breastfeed, your body produces prolactin, a hormone that both stimulates milk production and makes you sleepy. Prolactin can alter your body’s dopamine levels, a brain chemical associated with sleep. Additionally, the demands of feeding a newborn every two to three hours around the clock can leave you exhausted.
- Mums who bottle-feed may feel just as tired. Multiple studies have found no difference in fatigue among postpartum women who breastfeed or bottle-feed.
Being exhausted all of the time can make bonding with your newborn more difficult, and research suggests that it may increase your risk of postpartum depression.
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A medical issue may be at the root of a woman’s postpartum fatigue. If you assume that your tiredness is caused by something other than recovering and sleep deprivation, don’t be afraid to consult your doctor.
Symptoms of Postpartum Fatigue and Sleep Deprivation
Tiredness is one of the most common complaints among new mothers, affecting nearly two-thirds of them at some point, but postpartum fatigue is more than just sleepiness.
Postpartum fatigue is characterised by an overwhelming sense of exhaustion that can leave you physically and emotionally exhausted, low on energy, and unable to concentrate. Among the symptoms are:
- Excessive tiredness
- Lack of energy
- Anxiety or depression
- Difficulty focusing
- Sleeping problems
How Long Do Sleepless Nights Last With a Newborn
Postpartum fatigue is most common in the first few days following childbirth, but it can last for months or even years.
The duration of fatigue is determined by factors such as:
- How well your child sleeps
- Whether you can adjust your schedule to accommodate theirs.
- How much sleep you get
- The amount of help you receive at home
- Whether you have additional work or other responsibilities outside the home.
Postpartum fatigue may gradually improve on its own as your baby settles into a more consistent sleep pattern and you find more time to rest. If your fatigue does not go away, you must manage it.
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Coping With Postpartum Fatigue and Sleep Deprivation
While some amount of sleep deprivation and fatigue are normal for new parents, that doesn’t mean you have to put up with it. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to alleviate the sleepiness you’ve been experiencing since giving birth:
Take a nap when the baby does. When you’re feeding your baby, try to get as comfortable as possible. Sit with your feet up, or breastfeed in a side-lying or relaxed nursing position. Use pillows or cushions to support your arms so you don’t have to exert additional effort.
2. Adjust your priorities
Right now, your top priority is to conserve energy for yourself, your baby, and your other children. This may imply lowering your standards slightly when it comes to chores like laundry and housecleaning. Conserving energy now increases your chances of having it later.
3. Take shortcuts
Use every resource that delivers, such as grocery stores, or that can otherwise make your life easier, such as cleaning services.
4. Prioritise your health
When you’re recovering from childbirth, proper nutrition and hydration are essential. Maintain your energy level by eating a healthy, well-balanced diet.
If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll need more calories, so include some high-protein snacks throughout the day. It’s also important to stay hydrated and get plenty of fluids, especially if you’re breastfeeding.
And, while caffeine may be tempting to help you get through the day, try to limit your caffeine intake, which can be dehydrating.
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5. Maintain your prenatal vitamin regimen, especially if you are breastfeeding
Your body requires additional nutrition to recover from childbirth and nourish your baby. Iron, vitamins B12 and D, and iodine are particularly important postpartum nutrients.
6. Get some physical activity
Take your baby for a stroll. The movement and fresh air may help you both sleep better at night. Exercise can also help you feel more energised and happier.
Even a short stroll with the stroller in the fresh air can feel rejuvenating. But don’t go overboard and exhaust all of your energy. Begin slowly and only travel a short distance at first.
7. Ask for help
Ask your partner, if you have one, to help more with baby care and housework — and your partner’s contribution should be greater than yours until you have more energy.
You can also ask your friends and family for assistance with housework, laundry, cooking, and caring for older children. Perhaps they can take the baby for a walk while you get some rest, or they can pick up your groceries, dry cleaning, or that box of diapers you desperately need.
Consider hiring someone to help you with the housework if you can afford it. Make it clear ahead of time that you have a newborn at home and require assistance with both tidying and deep cleaning.
Feeling Tired After Giving Birth: When to Call Your Doctor
If you’re having trouble fighting postpartum fatigue and still have no energy despite good hydration, nutrition, and rest, it’s time to see your doctor. They can examine you to see if there is anything else causing your symptoms.
If you’ve tried the coping strategies listed above and you’re still experiencing symptoms of postpartum fatigue after a few weeks, contact your provider.
There could be an underlying problem that needs to be addressed. Anaemia, for example, can contribute to fatigue, especially if you have experienced postpartum haemorrhaging. Inquire with your provider if you should be tested for iron deficiency.
After giving birth, a small number of women develop postpartum thyroiditis, an inflammation of the thyroid gland. This can sometimes result in an underactive thyroid gland, also known as hypothyroidism. Another cause of fatigue is a lack of thyroid hormones.
If you suspect that you are suffering from baby blues or postpartum depression, be sure to discuss your concerns with your doctor. With proper treatment, you will begin to feel more like yourself.
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This article was written by Matt Doctor and republished with permission from theAsianparent Philippines.
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