Our trail-blazing PM Jacinda Ardern is this week experiencing the universal challenge faced by all new mums since time immemorial – fatigue.
Tax, the economy, international politics and trade deals will also be weighing heavily on her brow right now, so we should probably cut her some slack.
Come to think of it, you should cut yourself some slack right now as well! It’s only natural that you feel exhausted in the weeks after giving birth. Research shows that women experience post-partum fatigue for six weeks or longer after the big event.
The healing of your body afterwards is incredibly taxing, not to mention producing breast milk around the clock, taking care of other people and work responsibilities - is it any wonder you feel overwhelmed and exhausted?
Good news: there are effective ways to deal with post-partum fatigue
When you give yourself permission to take care of yourself, eat right, use proven sleeping aids and ask others for help then you will increase your reserves of energy.
Here’s some advice that should provide some comfort and reassurance that what you’re experiencing right now is completely normal.
Fatigue and breastfeeding
A common prevailing notion is that breastfeeding is a tiring activity for new mums. This means that many women question whether or not to breastfeed because of the fear this will make them more tired.
Although a causal relationship between fatigue and breastfeeding has never been established by research, one study from the Université de Toulouse II-le Mirail showed that new mums will feel tired regardless of how they feed their baby. That’s good news if you’re still weighing up how to feed.
A good tip for breastfeeding is to get as comfortable as you can and use the opportunity to rest as well. Sit with your feet up or breastfeed in the side-lying or back-lying nursing position. Also, you should get plenty of fluids, avoid coffee and eat extra calories from healthy food to help with milk flow.
It’s not your imagination! You’re getting less sleep than ever before
Although for various reasons women get less sleep than men in general, there has been some debate in scientific circles about the peak time for fatigue across a woman’s lifespan. Some people believe that Menopausal women have it the worst in terms of sleep deprivation.
Although research tells a different story. The Journal of Clinical Pulmonary Medicine measured sleep in women across the lifespan. The study showed that during pregnancy and postpartum, women have a tougher time getting sleep compared to all other stages of life.
Age and length of labour impacts fatigue
One 1997 study from the University of Nebraska Medical Centre found that a mother’s age and the length of the labour were strongly related to their levels of fatigue and energy in the six weeks following the baby’s birth.
For Jacinda this means there’s a strong probability that the fatigue will outlast her six-week hiatus from the biggest job in the country. Although, an indefatigable and incredible woman that she is – we’re sure she will rise to (both) of these jobs with all of the vigour and intelligence she has demonstrated so far.
Self-care and conserving energy are vital
One 2008 University of Canberra study into how women manage fatigue after childbirth found that from six weeks to six months post-partum, women used self-care methods such as sleep and rest, relaxation and conserving energy more often than they tried to manage the load through planning, getting help and lowering expectations. Women who had had multiple children conserved energy to manage fatigue more often compared to first-time mothers.
To get through the hardest time of fatigue in the first six weeks, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask your partner, friends or relatives to help with chores like shopping, cooking and cleaning. Asking for help will free you up some time to get some much-needed shut-eye. Jacinda will have Clarke as her wingman for all of these supportive tasks. That sort of hands-on help from blokes is truly inspiring and thankfully becoming more commonplace.
Use proven interventions for post-baby fatigue
Katie’s disturbed sleep patterns and snoring begun at the birth of her daughter and then continued unabated for the next 15 years. Until she tried a Patney. The anti-snore pillow helped her to sleep soundly throughout the night and be as quiet as a mouse, to her husband’s delight.
An independent clinical study conducted by the WellSleep Centre at the University of Otago found 89% of the partners of the people who completed the study experienced a reduction in their partner’s snoring.
It’s designed and developed in New Zealand, the Patney sleep positioner works by supporting an open airway and promoting a good sleep posture and a good night’s rest.
The Patney sleeping aid was created by Waikato’s Frances Anderson. She was a life-long bad sleeper and snorer herself and spent decades looking for the right solution to no avail until she created Patney. Now she is quietly changing the lives of new mum’s who are suffering from fatigue.
In short, giving yourself permission to rest, not being afraid to ask for help, eating well and getting enough fluids and using a clinically proven sleeping aid should help you to get a decent few hours of rest. And remember to hang in there! With a little help, it gets easier to sleep as time goes on, we promise!