When you become a mum, feeling fatigued all day, every day seems like a given. But could there be another reason?
When you become a mum, the tiredness starts straight away with the newborn stage and the constant waking for feeding, followed by crazy nap schedules for active toddlers, combined with endless laundry piles and eventually going back to work. If you have kids close together, sometimes the sleep deprivation lasts for years, with younger kids with bad sleeping habits taking over from older siblings. It's no wonder so many of us depend on caffeine to get through the day.
But being tired can't always be blamed on the kids. In fact, if your kids are older and sleeping better and you are still just as tired as you were when they were infants, it can be a sign that something else is the reason...
Low iron is amazingly common among women. This is because we have a regular loss of iron due to bleeding each month during menstruation, and certain fertility conditions such as fibroids, cysts and endometriosis, can make your periods even heavier.
A poor diet and conditions in which iron is not properly absorbed into the bloodstream can also lead to low iron. All you need to do is ask your GP about a blood test to confirm if low iron levels are the cause of your tiredness.
You could also have anaemia, which is a condition where your body doesnít make enough healthy red blood cells, or haemoglobin in your bone marrow. It can also be caused by a lack of the nutrients needed to make haemoglobin - one of which is iron. Low iron can lead to anaemia, although anaemia can occur on it's own too.
An Undiagnosed Medical Condition
If you just donít have any energy, you could have an undiagnosed medical condition that is messing with your sleep or just generally making you feel fatigued. Some common ones among mums include:
Depression usually results in low energy, fatigue and reduced activity levels, or insomnia or difficulty sleeping, whether it's postnatal or develops due to something unrelated to parenting.
Chronic fatigue syndrome is characterised by feelings of unusual tiredness after exercise and feeling unrefreshed after sleep.
Restless Legs Syndrome - a neurological condition in which people feel unpleasant creeping, twitching and crawling sensations, usually in the legs, and typically at night time, leading to poor sleep. It is very common to develop RLS during pregnancy, even if you have never had it before.
Thyroid problems such as hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism or Hashimotos Disease, which can all cause tiredness but are usually easily treated.
All of these conditions can initially be discussed and tested for with your GP, and further treatment can be sought with specialist doctors if necessary.
Sleep apnoea and other sleep disorders are quite common. Sleep apnoea is a condition in which the muscles of the throat relax during sleep and collapse, leading to the person stopping breathing during sleep. Itís most common in middle aged, overweight men, but it can affect anyone at any age, even children and people who are healthy and not overweight.
In most cases, it is recognised by a bed partner who may witness your breathing get shallower, before you make a gasping or choking sound as you momentarily wake before falling back to sleep. This process lasts around 10 seconds and can repeat itself hundreds of times during the night, which creates poor quality sleep, excessive daytime fatigue, poor concentration and memory and irritability. It's diagnosed by an overnight sleep test, and the first port of call is to see your GP to get a referral for one. Dads should get themselves checked for this too, if you notice they are waking you with their snoring or spluttering during the night.
Yep! It takes a LOT of energy to create a little human, and one of the biggest causes of fatigue might be an unexpected pregnancy. If you werenít actively trying to get pregnant or have been on birth control and suddenly find yourself excessively tired, you may want to do a pregnancy test!
So if you suspect you may have any of these conditions, have a chat to your GP and get back to feeling your best.