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Postnatal Fatigue

Why am I still suffering from Postnatal Fatigue?

Question

Four months after having my baby, I still feel exhausted and have painful joints. I had a l6-hour labour and a forceps delivery. I finished breastfeeding a month ago. What can you suggest to help me get back on track?

Answer

You have had a traumatic time with your baby's birth and you may have been exhausted even before labour started, which could explain the weak contractions leading to a forceps delivery. For this reason, I recommend that patients prepare themselves physically and emotionally before giving birth (and also before major surgery), with diet, massage and pregnancy yoga - similar to the regime followed in rural communities in India which alleviates much of the stress and strain. In numerous cases' I've seen new mothers recover very quickly and experience no after-effects.

Most women recover soon after giving birth. Seeing the baby ,receiving flowers and notes, and the relief after nine months of endurance speeds recuperation. Postnatal fatigue is usually the result of factors such as poor nutrition, stress during pregnancy and the birth, excessive blood loss at the birth, lack of sleep, excessive demands from the newborn or health issues that concern the parents.

Postnatal fatigue and depression are closely linked, with similar symptoms such as extreme tiredness, muzzy head, aches and pains, lack of concentration, short-term memory loss, sleep Patterns similar to jet lag (awake at night, tired during the day), sinking feelings in the heart frequent yawning loss of self-esteem and tearfulness.

The surge of hormones during pregnancy, along with improved circulation and a sense of responsibility and excitement about the new arrival, all help to create a heightened state of wellbeing. After labour, all that stops and the mother's energy levels can plummet, which is what you are experiencing. That's why I always suggest that patients pay attention to their bodies and minds in the time immediately after birth to facilitate recovery. In India, traditional midwives used to stay with the mother and baby for 40 days, organizing nourishing food, massaging them to soothe the effects of birth traumas, and helping with childcare so the mother could rest properly. These midwives would also train the mother in the art of childcare: feeding, bathing and even singing lullabies. As a result, both mother and baby usually thrived. I would like to see this practice used worldwide.

As you are so tired, it is understandably difficult to cope with the demands of a new baby. You must take great care of yourself. Try to get some help so that you have the opportunity to rest and allow your body to heal. To help you sleep, which is very important ask your husband/partner to give you a neck and shoulder massage twice a week This will also improve blood flow to the brain and boost your sense of wellbeing. More details are on my Lifestyle DVD . Massage yourself once or twice a week with my Lifestyle Massage Oil, or mix two tablespoonfuls of sweet almond oil with three drops of lavender essential oil, focusing on your temples, jaw, neck shoulders, arms, calves and the soles of your feet.

To restore your energy' focus on your diet exercise and relaxation. You should also read the section on chronic fatigue in my book The Integrated Health Bible.

Here are some brief guidelines:

    Nutrition

  • Drink freshly made carrot, apple and ginger juice to energise the body with vitamins and fresh enzymes. In general, eat a fresh, wholesome diet, with high levels of protein and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Avoid yeast products, as these produce alcohol in the gut which makes you tired; alcoholic drinks, which again make you extremely tired and deoxygenate the blood, depriving the brain; coffee, which causes tension, stress and interferes with sleep; sugar, which increases gut fermentation; oily and spicy foods, which interfere with digestion; citrus fruits and sour-tasting fruit and vegetables, which create acidity that impairs absorption of nutrients and also affects gut bacteria.
  • Supplements

  • Take one capsule of either BioEnergy or Ashwaganda twice daily for three months, and one capsule of either Dr Ali's Multivitamins and Minerals or BioCare One A Day Multivitamin and Mineral, available from health-food shops) daily for three months.
  • Exercise and Relaxation

  • Practise therapeutic Iyengr yoga, particularly the cobra bridge, turtle and boat poses as well as the head roll and cleansing breath. You will find more details in my book Therapeutic Yoga, which I co-authored with Jiwan Brar. To find a qualified teacher in your area, visit www.iyengaryoga.org.uk
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