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Is it just sleep deprivation? Or something else?

posted by bridgid | Postnatal | 20 June 2016

Why am I so tired post natal

You’ve got a new baby, and you’re knackered. No surprises there, right? Parenthood is amazing, but the sleepless nights and around-the-clock schedule can leave new mums with a bone-deep tiredness that you just can’t shake, especially in those early months.

It might not even occur to you to question your exhaustion, believing it’s all just part and parcel of new parenthood. But actually, fatigue that’s off the charts might not be just sleep deprivation, and should always be investigated, says Amanda Haberecht, naturopath at Darling Street Health Centre and director at Mygen Health.

“Being tired is definitely part of the territory for new mums – most are surviving with an ever-increasing sleep debt and nothing can replace the remedy of good rest,” she explains. “However, it’s important not to ignore the possibility that other contributing health issues could be compounding the issue, especially if you’re finding it hard to function on any level and just don’t feel right.”

Your fatigue could be more than just sleep deprivation if…

You’re nutrient deficient

When you’ve been up all night and are a slave to your new bubba’s unpredictable schedule, grabbing a couple of pieces of vegemite toast to get you through the day is sometimes all you can manage. But the poor ‘grab anything’ diet many new mums fall prey to can quickly lead to nutritional deficiencies and those can be a huge cause of low fatigue, warns Haberecht.

“Poor nutrition, under-eating or low protein diets can all contribute to your experience and health as a new mum,” she explains. “If you’re breastfeeding, you’re essentially burning calories equivalent to someone running 15km daily and it’s important you’re getting those calories from nutrient-dense foods. If you’re a new mum who’s low in iron, magnesium, protein and/or iodine, that can all impact your level of fatigue. All of these nutrients can be measured via standard pathology testing and may require supplementation.”

You’ve got thyroid issues

According to Thyroid Australia, 5-10 percent of women can also develop post-partum thyroiditis, usually from eight weeks to 4 months post-partum. This inflammation of the thyroid gland can cause fatigue and other symptoms, and 25-30 percent of women who experience it will go on to develop permanent hypothyroidism.

“Post partum thyroid issues are also often misdiagnosed as postnatal depression and should always be investigated if your level of fatigue is unusual, you’re feeling particularly low or you’re having trouble with your milk supply,” adds Haberecht.

You’re suffering post-natal depression

Around 1 in 7 new mums are diagnosed with PND every year and one symptom according to PANDA is extreme lethargy  – a feeling of being physically or emotionally overwhelmed and unable to cope. Changes in your appetite or ability to sleep are other symptoms.

“Bottom line – you should always see a healthcare practitioner who specializes in maternal health and have a thorough check if you feel that things just aren’t right,” says Haberecht. “These things are treatable and with the right support and medication you can get back to feeling more like yourself.”


Have you been in this situation, feeling exhausted and finding out that it wasn’t just sleep deprivation? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments!

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