By Dr. Stephanie Rubino, ND
Low energy in new mums is very common, with 60% of women experiencing fatigue in the first 12 months after birth.1 Postpartum fatigue can impact physical, emotional, and cognitive functioning – it’s common to see new mums feeling tired, anxious, unmotivated and unfocused.1,2 Factors that influence postpartum fatigue can include age, number of children, sleep satisfaction, worries about child rearing, social support, financial concerns and frequency of night feedings.1-3 Fatigue in new mums can also be impacted by common postpartum conditions such as anaemia, thyroid dysfunction and infection. Although postpartum fatigue may resolve on its own for some mums, for others it may not. In fact, chronic postpartum fatigue has been correlated with symptoms of postpartum depression and may have an impact on mum and baby bonding.4 What steps can be taken to support new mums and reduce the occurrence of postpartum fatigue? Proper nutrition, key supplementation, rest and movement are a few ways new mums can prevent tiredness and enjoy time with their baby.
The time after birth should be respected as a period to rest and nourish your body and bond with your baby. One of the best steps toward supporting your body is by eating nutrient-dense foods and staying hydrated. You may feel too busy and exhausted to consider what you are eating, but consuming foods that are nutritious and health-promoting will help in your recovery and wellness moving forward. Choose good quality proteins, lots of colour (fruits and vegetables), healthy fats, and whole grains, plus stay hydrated with water, herbal teas, and bone broth. Eating this way will provide important nutrients such as collagen, iron, zinc, essential fatty acids, vitamin C, B-vitamins, and so much more. These are key to overall tissue repair and recovery after birth, energy support and breastmilk production if you are breastfeeding.
Prevent Postpartum Anaemia
Postpartum haemorrhage (bleeding) and inadequate iron supplementation throughout pregnancy are common causes of postpartum anaemia.1 Anaemia can lead to fatigue, as well as other serious concerns such as dizziness, maternal infections, poor cognitive performance, low birth weight, preterm birth and an increased risk for postpartum depression.5 Your need for iron increases during pregnancy to supply the growing foetus and placenta with additional red blood cells. In addition, the last trimester of pregnancy is particularly important because it is when the baby begins storing iron for use during its first six months of life. Increased iron intake through food sources and/or supplementation can improve anaemia and postpartum fatigue.1 High-quality prenatal multivitamin-mineral formulas will often provide a suitable amount of bioavailable iron to support your daily iron needs.
Support the Sunshine Vitamin
Vitamin D is commonly referred to as the sunshine vitamin, and deficiency of this important nutrient can occur in up to two-thirds of women of childbearing age.6 Vitamin D supplementation should be considered through many stages of life due to its numerous benefits. When choosing a vitamin D supplement, select one that provides vitamin D3, the bioactive form of this nutrient, which can be either animal-based or plant-based from wild-harvested lichen.
Movement, Support and More
A number of other strategies can be used to help improve postpartum fatigue, such as physical movement and relaxation exercises, sharing tasks with your partner to prevent feeling overwhelmed and asking for help from family and friends when you need an extra hand. Remember to speak to your health care practitioner to rule out concerns such as thyroid dysfunction and anaemia, which could be contributing factors to ongoing fatigue. Finally, when possible, try to rest when your baby rests. Taking those few extra minutes for self-care will make a big difference for you and your baby.
*References available on request