All About Postpartum Fatigue and my #1 Tip to Avoid it
If you’re pregnant right now, there’s something you need to know about. I don’t care if this is your first baby or your fifth, there’s a syndrome that we don’t talk about enough and it’s called “Postpartum Fatigue (PPF)”.
Look- I think we all hear women talk about how exhausting it is to have a newborn in the house, but this is a bit different and it affects about 52% of new moms.
Let me say that again:
Postpartum Fatigue Affects about 52% of new moms.
I was one of those 52% and I'll tell you this- it was a rough and dark time in my life. I was separated from my (then) husband, living in the only house I could afford which was infested with mice and had no working furnace. I had two babies under two with very little support. The fatigue set in pretty quickly because I was the only parent and I was up all day and all night. I was terrified to ask anyone for help because I wasn't proud of the situation I'd found myself in. Postpartum depression caught up to me. I'll always be so thankful for the day my dad came for a visit and he told me to pack up my shit and move home with him and my mom. Girl, it was a really dark time.
The thing is: I had no idea that postpartum fatigue was what sent me on my journey through postpartum depression. I thought it was normal to feel completely physically and emotionally tapped-out. And it's not.
So what exactly is PPF and how do you know that you’re suffering? That's the super tricky part. Fatigue is very subjective and it depends on how the person affected by it perceives it. For example, I wasn't nearly as exhausted after my third baby was born, but if I hadn't had 2 postpartum experiences before, how would I know?
I looked up the actual definition:
noun: fatigue; plural noun: fatigues
extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.
Like I said, we’ve all heard about how tiring it is to have a newborn. But postpartum fatigue is next-level exhaustion. If you’re having a hard time getting dressed, getting out of bed or if you’re feeling mentally and emotionally tapped-out, you should probably consider yourself suffering from PPF. And I don't really care if you're exhausted even if you have lots of help during your fourth trimester, if you say you're suffering from PPF I'd believe you.
Most women find themselves feeling the effects of postpartum fatigue around 1 to 2 weeks after their baby arrives.
No surprise considering you’re up feeding, changing and caring for a new baby at all hours of the day and night, right? Some women experience it for 3 months and some for up to 19 months.
So what’s the big deal? I mean, women have been raising babies for generations in a foggy state, right? But the biggest issue is that PPF often happens right before postpartum depression sets in- remember my story? Makes a lot of sense that an exhausted woman would find herself eventually depressed.
But even if you're suffering from postpartum fatigue without PPD, there are other issues: If you're so tired, you may find yourself leaving your baby in a dirty diaper longer or letting her cry in her crib. You may hate breastfeeding because it takes so much out of you. Postpartum fatigue can have some heavy consequences for bonding between you and your baby. And it can put a strain on the other relationships in your life too.
Given that 52% of new moms suffer from postpartum fatigue, it’s amazing that it isn’t talked about more often. I had to really search for information! Some studies suggest these treatments for PPF (try not to laugh):
This can be pretty tough if your crotch hurts and you can’t even walk more than 10 steps. But as you’re feeling better, consider getting out for a walk every day. It’s amazing what it can do.
Also very tough, but there are things you can do to make it easier like preparing food ahead and freezing it or subscribing to one of those healthy food meal prep services.
Ummm, probably not for awhile.
I can't stand the words “self-care” because people automatically assume it’s stuff like meditating or taking a bath- that's not self-care, that's meeting your basic human needs .
For some women, taking care of their mental health can mean reading a book or organizing a cupboard and purging a closet. Whatever makes you feel better- try to do a little of that every day.
I love meditation and guided relaxation, but it’s not going to be the first thing you think to do while in the throes of postpartum life. But if you can, I highly recommend it!
Talking to Someone
Sometimes, just having the space to chat with others who are going through the same stress can make all the difference. That’s exactly why I created the Mamasoup App for new moms to connect to each other! Get over there and download the app for free and start chatting:
If you're feeling exhausted by the weight of your emotions about motherhood, it really can help to talk.
What the hell is a new mama really supposed to do to avoid PPF?
Here's my absolute BEST tip:
Planning for your postpartum recovery is crucial. Seriously, I can’t stress this enough: if you're dealing with stress in your life while you're pregnant, it's going to feel worse during postpartum. If there's anything you can do to reduce your stressful situation like, mend a relationship, quit a job or get out of a bad marriage, do it now.
So, grab a piece of paper and a pen and sit down. I want you to write a list of all the things you currently do in a day. (For example: grocery shopping, paying bills, walking the dog, cleaning the house.)
Once you’ve spent about 10 minutes writing out your list, I want you to look at it and:
Eliminate everything from your list that you’re doing that you can let go for awhile. Things like: deep cleaning the fridge, volunteer work or vacuuming the house every single day. …You can let those go for a bit while you recover from childbirth, right?
Automate anything that you possibly can on your list. For instance, you can set up automatic bill payments, a weekly standard grocery delivery, or a recurring Amazon delivery of things like toilet paper or kitty litter. You can purchase a weekly box of groceries with all of the ingredients to make healthy meals. The key is to take some things off of your plate so they're not taking up valuable brain space while you're adjusting to motherhood.
Delegate anything on the list that you possibly can. Come on, I’m a woman too so I know you’re doing too many things…there are probably at least 3 things on your list that your partner can handle, right? Can you hire someone to walk your dog in the mornings for a few weeks? Can you hire someone to clean your house once every two weeks? Can you ask your mom to make you some casseroles for the freezer? I know you can’t imagine this right now, but just getting dressed in the first few weeks postpartum can be a challenge.
Here’s the thing: being pregnant, giving birth and then dealing with a newborn while your body recovers is hard. Simplifying things for you now, will make your postpartum a little easier.
Can postpartum fatigue be avoided? Nobody really knows, but with the right amount of support I'm sure it can help. I really wished that I'd known about it before it got to me, because I don't have the best memories of that time in my life. I hope you remember your postpartum experience fondly, Mama. You deserve it.
If you're looking for some common signs that you need postpartum help, check this out:
Joanne Ilaqua - CEO of MamaSoup
Hey there, I’m Joanne.
I’ve spent about 20 years serving women as a nurse, doula and Lamaze educator. I have 4 kids and I know firsthand how lonely and isolating motherhood can be, so I created MamaSoup. I'm mostly known for my love of red wine, spontaneously singing and my confidence in being my true self on social media. When I’m not busy building women up, you can catch me taking Instagram stories of my bulldog Ruby, watching The Handmaid’s Tale, playing MUber (Mom Uber) to my kids or vacationing in my favourite town: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
I love serving the world by providing a space for moms to connect and support each other. In my opinion, moms are the backbone of communities because they are (literally) raising the future!
As the founder and CEO of MamaSoup, I’ve been featured on CHEX TV Morning Show, KawarthaNOW, Economic Development- The City of Kawartha Lakes and MyKawartha.
Still with me? Join me over at MamaSoup to keep the conversation going!