How Can I Cope with Fatigue during Pregnancy and Postpartum?
Read time: 4 minutes
What should you know about losing sleep while pregnant and with a new baby?
- The physical demands of pregnancy and the postpartum period can result in poor sleep
- If exhaustion leads you to feel moody, angry, hopeless, or depressed, it may be postpartum depression
- Napping, sunlight, eating, and hydrating adequately can help provide energy boosts
Feel like you may never get a decent night’s sleep again? This is a common concern among parents everywhere.
Between the physical demands of pregnancy, the postpartum hormonal changes that can impact circadian rhythm, and the fact that a newborn’s circadian rhythm is not established right away, it is challenging to get the uninterrupted sleep you need.1,2,3,4
Are you experiencing exhaustion or postpartum depression?
Most parents are able to cope with a certain amount of tiredness, but if your exhaustion is leading you to feel especially moody, angry, hopeless, sad, or depressed for more than a couple weeks after giving birth, it may be more than sleep deprivation.5,6
Poor sleep can be highly linked with postpartum depression for some women.7,8,10 Don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider and ask if what you’re experiencing might be postpartum depression.
Read more: Could this be Postpartum Depression?
What is optimal sleep?
Sleep is the body’s way of restoring itself both physically and mentally. It takes roughly 90 minutes for our bodies to cycle through the 5 phases of sleep, which then repeat all night long.9 In order to wake feeling rested and energized, it is important to make it through these cycles uninterrupted.11
However, you’re in an especially demanding period of your life! Since pregnancy and the postpartum period don’t exactly guarantee an uninterrupted night of sleep, let alone one where you complete your sleep cycles, there are some things you to do help combat exhaustion and ensure you feel rested.
Need some support? Come chat with our team of registered dietitians, fellow moms, and lactation specialists, available from Monday – Friday 8 am – 8 pm (EST) and Saturday – Sunday 8 am – 4 pm (EST). Chat now!
How can I get more energy and more sleep?
If you have the opportunity to nap while your baby is sleeping or while someone else is caring for your baby, go for it. While naps can’t make up for uninterrupted sleep at night, they can help to give you the boost you need to make it through the day.12,13,14
Don’t feel guilty about catching a catnap. While the pile of “to do’s” can feel overwhelming, none of them are as important as your wellbeing, so your sleep needs to top the list. Just remember, taking naps that are too late in the day may sabotage your ability to fall asleep at bedtime and stay asleep in the night, so plan accordingly.
If possible, have someone else get up with baby at night
To help you make it through a few full sleep cycles, try having a partner, family member, or friend get up with baby a couple times at night. Getting longer stretches of uninterrupted sleep may help you feel more rested and energized the next day.12,14
Consider having baby sleep in their own room
Some studies indicate that while babies may sleep well while co-sleeping, mothers generally have much more disrupted sleep, leading to higher feelings of fatigue during the day.14,15,16
Read more: How Can I Help My Newborn (0-12 weeks) Sleep Well at Night
Learn about: How Do I Teach My Baby to Sleep in their Crib?
Remember to eat and drink
Eating well and staying hydrated can help you feel better during periods of less-than-optimal sleep by giving you much needed energy.
New and expecting moms may find themselves so busy with the demands of motherhood that they forget to eat and drink, or they make poor food choices given new constraints on their time and attention.
Tips for quick and easy healthy eating
- Keep a water bottle near you at all times (especially while breastfeeding).
- Keep simple, nutritious foods on hand such as raw nuts, whole fruits and veggies, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, whole grain crackers and hummus.
- When you do cook, make extra for the week ahead or freeze in portions for future use.
- Rely on frozen veggies, or pre-cooked protein sources such as turkey burgers or canned beans to throw together balanced meals in minutes.
Read more: Meal Plan: Key Nutrients of Pregnancy
Read more: Getting the Right Nutrition while Breastfeeding
Get outside, especially in the morning
If you’re able to take a walk with your baby, you’ll benefit both from the movement that recharges your body as well as exposure to natural sunlight, which can help realign your circadian rhythm.1,5
Get active: The 4Ws of Exercise During Pregnancy
Try it: The 4Ws of Exercise after Delivery
Enlist the help of a partner or friend
Pregnancy and new motherhood are exhausting, but you don’t have to do it all alone. Anything besides feeding and caring for your baby can be done by a loved one, including laundry, dishes, meal prep, and holding and changing a baby.
Focus your energy on your upcoming childbirth or postpartum recovery and take the opportunity to request and accept help from others.
Read more: How Can I Practice Better Self Care as a Parent?
Seek out a support network
Feeling exhausted and isolated is a double whammy for a new or expecting mom’s psyche. While finding other new parents won’t make up for lost sleep, it’ll help to connect to others who are experiencing the same things you are.
Look for new parent support groups through your hospital or your city’s recreation department. Many neighborhoods also have forums where you can connect with other parents.
Connect with Happy Family fans and parents in our Happy Parents Facebook group
Fortunately, sleep deprivation does not last forever. Over time, your baby will establish more predictable sleep patterns with longer stretches of sleep, giving you the chance to reestablish your own healthy sleep patterns.
We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.
Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday through Friday, from 8am–6pm ET, and Saturday and Sunday, from 8am–2pm ET. Chat Now!
Read more about the experts that help write our content!
For more on this topic check out the following articles:
How to Safely Sleep with Your Child
How to Help Your Older Baby Sleep Well at Night
How to Optimize Your Sleep When You Can Get It
Sleep Patterns: What’s Typical for a Newborn?
What Are Typical Sleep Patterns for 4 to 12 Month Old Babies?