Your body has been through the mill coping with giving birth, a cocktail of hormone changes and extreme sleep deprivation – it’s no wonder you are feeling zonked.
What exhaustion feels like
Some women compare these feelings of intense exhaustion to feeling like they have been run over by a bus or having run a marathon. This is tiredness as you’ve never known it before: your muscles feel heavy and ache, your brain is fuzzy, and everything seems like a massive effort.
If you’re currently feeling like this, just hold onto the fact that this is completely normal and you will gradually adjust. Equally remember it’s important to take good care of yourself too and take things steady.
10 coping tips
Here are a couple of pointers to help you get through this exhausting time.
- Let your partner take the strain: Yes it’s their baby too. Let them give an evening feed, (if you’re breastfeeding, express some milk that your partner can give them in a bottle) and nappy changes, stock the fridge and make dinner – it’s not all down to you.
- Be selfish: It can seem like you’re forever preparing for or clearing up after an endless round of visitors. Try and ration visits for the first few weeks.
- Have a nap:There’s no shame in going back to bed by lunch time if you’ve been up half the night, ditto afternoon naps or turning in early to get some sleep in before a night-time feed.
- Relax: Find a 30 minute window when you do something purely for yourself – even if it’s simply taking a bath, painting your nails, watching a TV show or reading the paper.
- Take some exercise: A short burst of exercise – even a brisk walk round the block with the pram or pushchair – can perk you up. When we exercise the body releases “feel-good” endorphins which improve mood. Try it.
- Eat well: Don’t skip meals and keep well-hydrated – your body needs fluids and fuel for the full-on demands of being a mum. A balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables is very important, especially if you are breastfeeding. Eat complex carbohydrates too, including wholemeal bread and pasta which release energy slowly, avoiding sugary snacks which just cause a spike in your blood sugar.
- Stay off alcohol: You might think a glass of wine will help you unwind in the evening – but the trouble is it will affect your sleep quality later on and make you feel more tired the next day.
- Curb your caffeine: If you’re drinking six or more cups of tea or coffee or other drinks or food containing caffeine a day, if can affect your sleep.
- Call in the troops: Get family and friends cooking for you, ironing clothes, babysitting or cleaning the house.
- Don’t overdo it: Don’t be too ambitious with your daily “To Do” list – you’ll just beat yourself up if you don’t manage to get past getting dressed and making a sandwich. If you can’t get to the supermarket book an online delivery – be kind to yourself.
When exhaustion might have another cause
Sometimes though if your feelings of exhaustion persist for months and become really debilitating you should report them to your doctor as there could be an underlying medical cause.
Commons causes include:
- Iron deficiency anemia: If you are short on iron, your body won’t make enough haemogloblin the red blood pigment cells which carry oxygen around the body. You’ll feel tired and your muscles will feel heavy and ache. Ask your doctor for a blood test, if you are deficient he can prescribe iron tablets.
- Thyroid problems: Tiredness can be a symptom of an underactive thyroid gland. This means that your thyroid gland is not producing enough of a hormone called thyroxine which stimulates the consumption of oxygen and metabolism in all cells and tissues. Ask your doctor to test your thyroid function, if you are deficient he can prescribe you thyroxine.
- Depression/anxiety: Feeling exhausted can be a symptom of depression or anxiety, so mention your feelings to your doctor. You may need counselling or cognitive behavioural or ‘talking’ therapy to help you cope.
I felt wiped out in the first eight weeks of giving birth. My whole body seemed to ache, I was irritable with my partner and I craved sleep. Sleep deprivation affected me badly. I dreamed about checking into a hotel and sleeping in a dark room for eight hours. I coped by accepting offers of help from family and friends and taking naps. I also run on Saturday mornings when my partner is at home.