It's not unusual to feel really tired and a bit anxious or blue in the weeks after giving birth.(1) With the sleepless nights, extra responsibilities, and physical changes—whowouldn't be on a bit of a roller coaster? Remember: This won't last forever. Plus, you can ease your recovery by taking steps like these:
1. Sleep when baby sleeps. Sneak a quick nap when you can. Shut the blinds and silence your phone, television, and all other electronic devices.
2. Nix household chores. Right now, your main job is to take good care of yourself and your baby. No one really cares about those lurking dust bunnies. If it really bothers you and your budget allows, then hire some temporary help. Also, remember to share parenting tasks such as diaper changes and feedings when possible.
3. Limit visitors. But ask any guests to help out. If not now, when? Swallow your pride and ask for a hand with the dishes, laundry, or shopping. Or take advantage of a visitor to watch your baby while you nap.
4. Eat healthy. Healthy food choices can give you more energy. But planning and cooking meals may be a challenge right now. Ask friends and family to help with this. Don't forget to drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water a day. But avoid caffeine and sugary drinks.(2)
5. Be active—within limits. Exercise can also increase your energy and reduce constipation. Get clearance from your doctor before you:
Take the stairs or lift objects.
Drive, although this is usually okay when you can wear a seat belt comfortably and are able to make sudden movements.
Hit the gym or become really active.
Have sex. Your doctor may ask you to wait several weeks after birth.(2)
6. Get emotional support. You might be surprised by feeling irritable, sad, or anxious right now. But many new moms experience a wide range of feelings in the days following delivery. Part of this is related to changing hormones or fatigue and part of it is simply a response to a major life transition. These baby blues will subside soon.
If you have extreme feelings that really last, seek professional help, especially if you have a history of depression. You may be experiencing postpartum depression. Up to one in seven new moms go through this—but no one should go through it alone. Some women need therapy or medication.(3)
7. Set aside time to relax. Chances are no one will put this on the calendar for you, so you'll need to do it for yourself. Listen to some relaxing music, read a book, or meditate. Even just a few minutes can make a difference. And try to carve out a few minutes each day to touch base with your partner or husband.(2)
8. Seek out other new moms. There's nothing like sharing tips and support with people who are going through similar life changes. Maybe you can even start up an informal support group in your neighborhood or among your friends.(2)
Your doctor and I are good resources for answering your questions. Some say it takes a village to raise a child—just think of us as your well-informed neighbors.
Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.
March of Dimes: "Your body after baby." Available at:http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/afterbaby_fatigue.html Accessed March 6, 2013.
Nemours Foundation: "Recovering From Delivery." Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/pregnancy_center/childbirth/recovering_delivery.html?tracking=P_RelatedArticle Accessed March 6, 2013.
Wisner K, et al. JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;()1–9. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.87. Available at:http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1666651Accessed March 24, 2013.