Post-partum fatigue is one of the most challenging demands of motherhood. Pregnancy and giving birth take an enormous toll on your body and it takes quite some time to recuperate. Exhaustion is debilitating, and when combined with the job of being a new mother, your sense of self can be shaken. You may feel really tired and at times completely exhausted.
People often forget just how big a physical, psychological, and emotional undertaking having a baby is. In the early days, the birth canal is still sore and you may have some bleeding. If you have torn during delivery or had an episiotomy there will be the pain and itchiness as your stitches heal. If you’ve had a Caesarean, like any invasive surgery, it will limit mobility.
At the same time you are caring for a newborn with their feeding needs, nappy changes and hands-on attention round the clock.
There is also the very real nervousness around being the best mother you can be: reassuring yourself that you are a good mother who knows, and will continue to know, what the very best thing is for your baby. When you do sleep it can be in short bursts and may not feel restful. All this, at a time when you are learning to get to know your baby, and feel compelled to attend to his every need.
All of these aspects of motherhood take energy and we list them here to reassure you that there are real reasons for being this impossibly tired, and to break the coded silences about what the early weeks of parenting are like.
Know that a time will come when the tiredness lifts. Most mothers will feel like you at some point so try not to beat yourself up. It is a difficult time- but it will pass. We are all going through it together. Being this tired is not a sign of weakness or an inability to mother on your part. You are doing well in this naturally wearing part of early mothering.
I think the first month is the worst. It is slightly less difficult in the second and third months. But for me, it got easier after the fourth month.
Petra, mother to 6 month old baby.
Being on call 24/7 is difficult so it can feel maddening when others tell you to rest when baby’s resting. Yet rest is important, so how can you get through this time?
- Acknowledge to yourself and publicly how tired you are: Try not to let others or even your own self-talk dismiss the very real feeling of exhaustion a lack of sleep can trigger. Loving your baby does not mean you have to pretend that every moment is rosy.
- Try to rest when your baby sleeps: Do this as often as you are able. Small moments of respite will reduce the drain of your energy. This is not self-indulgence or indifference. You need the rest to recover physically, and face the new demands on your time.
- Ask for help: Being a good mother has nothing to do with being perfect. Many good friends and family want to support you but they may not instinctively know how, so tell them and be specific. This is the time to say, “Can you help me to hang out the laundry?”
- Eat well and drink plenty of fluids to take care of your nutritional requirements at this time. In the early weeks, ask friends and family to bring you cooked food in bigger portions, which you can divide and freeze.
Sometimes what seems like post-partum fatigue can be something else. If your tiredness lingers and you don’t see any improvement, or your partner, family member or GP have voiced a concern, it could be more than post-partum fatigue, and we strongly recommend you speak to your health care professional, midwife or your GP. If you don’t feel like you are coping, don’t bottle up your feelings. There are a number of services available to support you such as those mentioned in the end of those mentioned at the end of the article.
Having a baby is TIRING, but if you feel things aren’t quite right, listen to your instincts Mumma and speak to someone.
As one new mother says:
It feels like a cruel joke that once you have had the little miracle, that your body would physically go into shutdown! Like, why not produce some additional adrenalin to get you through the first six months?
Cyndi, mother to 8 week old baby.
How are you?
If you feel like you want more advice and support, there are a range of services you can access:
- PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) PANDA - Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia supports women, men and families across Australia to recover from post and antenatal depression and anxiety, a serious illness that affects around 100,000 Australian families every year. Its helpline operates PANDA National Helpline (Mon to Fri, 9am - 7.30pm AEST) Call 1300 726 306. http://www.panda.org.au/
- Beyond Blue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live. Its 24-hour/7 day a week helpline offers free, confidential support with a mental health professional. Tel. 1300 22 4636. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
- Just Speak Up is a Beyond Blue initiative and features personal stories about experiencing depression and anxiety around the time of becoming a parent. Have a read of the community members' stories of hope, recovery and resilience – then share your own, or jump on our online forums to join the conversation. https://healthyfamilies.beyondblue.org.au/pregnancy-and-new-parents/just-speak-up?sekw=35394356376
- BluePages provides information on treatments for depression based on the latest scientific evidence. It also offers screening tests for depression and anxiety, and links to other helpful resources. https://bluepages.anu.edu.au/
- COPE (Centre of Perinatal Excellence) provides high quality, practical information to help YOU work through all the emotional challenges of becoming a paren. http://cope.org.au/ and you can contact COPE @ (03) 9376 6321
- You can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 for help and advice on a number of emotional and mental health topics. Lifeline is a national charity providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services.