Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Postpartum Fatigue: Part 3 -Tips to Fight Fatigue

In part 1 of this series we introduced postpartum fatigue, complete with how common it is (VERY common!) and what can contribute to it. In part 2 we covered how fatigue effects parenting specifically. Now in the final part of this series we will share evidence-based tools to help you deal with postpartum fatigue. 

First you’ll want to rule out common postpartum causes of fatigue such as anemia, thyroid dysfunction, or infection (such as urinary tract infection, gynecological infection following delivery or mastitis). (Corwin 2007)
Now we’ll share some other tools. Feel free to pick and choose which will work best in your life. The key is to do things every day to take care of yourself, even if you don’t feel like you have the energy to do so. Remember, this time will not last forever. Your baby (and you) will sleep longer as he or she gets older. We promise! We’ve been there!

Tips to Fight Fatigue

·       One study reported that the Chinese practice of zuo yuezi (intensive family support to prevent fatigue) should be considered as a tool to reduce fatigue. This practice includes social seclusion and regulated rest.(MCQueen 2003)

·       Learn about what to expect from your baby’s sleep patterns. When you know what to expect you can work your sleep schedule around theirs.

·       Conserve energy. How? Here are a few ideas:

o   Have others make meals or run errands for you

o   Restrict any unnecessary activities or get help with them

o   Prepare meals ahead of time and freeze for later

·       Take time out, away from being a mom, to do a favorite activity on a regular basis. We know this is easier said than done, but it will leave you feeling more refreshed and ready to give 100% to your kids when you return.

·       Improve your diet. Eating a well-balanced diet with small frequent meals will give you more energy!

·       Increase your exercise. Exercise will increase your energy and decrease fatigue symptoms. One study found a decrease in physical and mental fatigue with an average of about 124 minutes a week of exercise. That's about 4-30 minute sessions. (Drista 2009)

·       Reduce your normal daily demands. Re-ordering your priorities prenatally can really help you prepare for life after baby.

o   Consider which tasks are essential vs. non-essential and limit the non-essential ones. What is most important for you to get done?

o   Establish routines to save time and energy

o   Prepare meals in the morning so you can rest in the afternoon or evening)

·       Maintain regular sleep routines.

·       Allow time for rest every day. Limiting visitors so you can rest is important. Discuss best times for visits that don’t interfere with rest periods.

·       Get real. Having realistic parenting expectations about taking care of your baby and your household is helpful! Remember, things don’t have to be perfect during this challenging time. Also, expect less sleep! Then you won’t be disappointed when it happens.

·       Get help! Enlist support before it is needed, when you are pregnant.

·       Lie on your side to breastfeed while in the hospital.  One study showed that this helped moms get more rest.

Sleep deprivation and fatigue should be taken seriously. They effect your physical and mental well-being and how you parent. Be patient with yourself if you are currently experiencing fatigue and please try the tips above. They can make you feel at least a little bit more rested. Let us know which of these tips or others have worked for you in the past. You may just help someone else!

Varcho MS, Hill PD, Anderson M. Evaluation of the Tiredness Management Guide: a pilot study. Appl Nurs Res. 2012;25(2):123-8.

Kurth E, Kennedy HP, Spichiger E, Hösli I, Stutz EZ. Crying babies, tired mothers: what do we know? A systematic review. Midwifery. 2011;27(2):187-94.

Dritsa M, Dupuis G, Lowensteyn I, Da Costa D. Effects of home-based exercise on fatigue in postpartum depressed women: who is more likely to benefit and why? J Psychosom Res. 2009;67(2):159-63.

Corwin EJ, Arbour M. Postpartum fatigue and evidence-based interventions. MCN Am J Matern Child Nurs. 2007;32(4):215-20.

McQueen A, Mander R. Tiredness and fatigue in the postnatal period.J Adv Nurs. 2003 Jun;42(5):463-9.

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