Updated: Apr 28
I am a mother to a 20 month old son, currently pregnant with my second baby and a former sufferer of extreme fatigue. I know what it is like to feel totally spent with and without children. In my book ‘Fix Your Fatigue’ I write, ‘I believe the secret of happiness is having energy.’ Yet when you become a mother, energy is one of those core vital life forces that can completely dissipate.
Motherhood is one of the most wonderful times you can go through. Yet so many mothers suffer in silence with debilitating tiredness. Not only is the sleep deprivation at times like Chinese torture, but the mental fatigue is an enormous cognitive strain. Your head feels as though it is in a vice and with energy low; mood, mindset and trying to be the best mum you can be can all take a nosedive. How to fix it? By leveraging your energy as much as possible. But first my story.
It all started after I had my son. I had a relatively straightforward pregnancy but my birth was entirely different and unexpected. A complete seismic shock. It went something like this. No dilation, induction, bad reaction to the epidural, sepsis, forceps and he entered the world. I felt so unwell during labour I hated my whole body feeling paralysed and I panicked. It felt as though I was hallucinating with the medication and fever reacting antagonistically with each other. We were both immediately put on antibiotics and I begged the doctors not to let my partner go home and return me to the ward. I was too unwell.
But due to staff and bed shortages that is what they did. I was left to fend for myself looking after my baby and was in a huge amount of physical, mental and emotional pain. As my iron levels dropped rapidly, I couldn’t even lift my arms so my baby was crying as I frantically kept pressing my button for help. No one came.
After birth were some of the darkest moments of my life. I ended up staying in hospital for a week and during that time I didn’t sleep due to the choir of babies that surrounded me 24 hours a day. Being deprived of sleep, natural light, support and good nutrition was torturous. I knew that I didn’t have postpartum depression, that several good nights sleep in a row and copious amounts of nutrient dense food would sort me out yet they kept trying to tell me I should take anti depressants. If you deprive anyone of their basic needs for nearly a week I doubt very few would come out feeling buoyant. It infuriated me but I felt so grateful I had the knowledge from my nutrition studies to get me back to full strength.
As soon as I got home I felt so much better. It came down to simple things. Nourishing food, lots of naps and self care and a great partner who played nurse to make sure I got back to full strength quickly so I could finally start to become the mother I wanted so desperately to be.
Here are some lessons learnt:
You can never prepare for motherhood or predict what way your labour will go but you can prepare your mind and body fervently beforehand. The more you invest the quicker your recovery will be.
The exhaustion can be so debilitating but that doesn’t mean to say you are depressed. It could just be that your basic needs are not being met. How can you meet them?
Prioritise you and what you need more than anything or anyone else. Don’t be afraid to be selfish, your baby needs you and your energy. What can you outsource?
Limit anything that will further exacerbate the cognitive load such as too much tech, tv or complicated decisions. What can you eliminate?
Nap whenever and wherever you can. Have a portable pillow by you at all times. Forget being a perfect homemaker and prioritise sleep. What window can you nap in and where?
I also want to share 5 strategies that worked for me and my clients in my capacity as a registered nutritionist:
Take a high quality multi after birth. Wild nutritions pregnancy complex and breastfeeding formulation are my favourites.
Eat nuts. Nuts are a great source of healthy fats, plant protein and fibre. Almonds in particular have a very impressive nutrient profile. You can also have nut butter to add to porridge, smoothies and fruit. Linwoods do great nut and seed mixes ground down for an additional nutrient boost.
Optimise iron. Iron levels typically take a year to restore after birth. Make sure you include iron rich foods in your diet such as liver, red meat, tofu, lentils and dark chocolate (70%+).
Manage your glucose curves. Dysregulated blood sugar will make you feel far worse. Consider the order in which you eat your food. Don’t eat fruit on an empty stomach and always combine with protein. Eat your vegetables first then protein and then carbohydrates to flatten the curve.
Have enough protein. So many of us don't consume enough protein but it is not only key for growth and repair, synthesizing our hormones and transporting and storing nutrients around the body but it's also a useful tool for satiety. If you breastfeed you end up burning through calories so making sure you include high quality protein sources and eating enough is key for creating energy.
In my clinic Noco Health, I help people regain their energy at different times in their life. I have a particular interest in women who are navigating the 4th trimester. If you would like to book in for a complimentary call please contact us at www.nocohealth.co.uk. You can follow me @karina_antram and my book is available to buy through Penguin Random House here: https://bit.ly/preorderFYF
About the author:
Karina Antram (BSc hons, DIP-NT) is a registered nutritionist and graduate of the renowned College of Naturopathic Medicine and an executive coach.
Karina is hugely passionate about health and wellbeing after her own health struggles led her to seek out naturopathic practices. After being diagnosed with IBS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Lyme Disease, Karina tried out a multitude of tests, diets, health practices, different foods and herbs to try and combat her debilitating symptoms which, at times, led her to being hospitalised. Karina is now recovered, having made numerous changes to her diet and lifestyle, but is fully aware that consistency and continuity is key.
Prior to becoming a Nutritionist Karina spent 15 years working as an HR leader for organisations such as The Boston Consulting Group and Deloitte. She studied Biomedicine at The Institute of Optimum Nutrition and is currently a member of three governing bodies in the industry, BANT, ANP, CNHC. She is also a member of the Institute of Functional Medicine based in the US and a management graduate from Leeds University Business School.