7 More Tips on Fighting Fatigue

Fatigue Section of  Better Late than Never BabySerena Kirby, a professional writer and AMA mom from Western Australia contacted us recently. Her new book called Better Late than Never Baby includes information and suggestions not found in other sources for expectant moms over age 35. We’ll share excerpts from her book with our audience and let you how you can get your own copy.

Serena Kirby

Serena Kirby, Writer and AMA Mom

7 More Tips on Fighting Fatigue (Part 2, a condensed excerpt from Better Late Than Never Baby by Serena Kirby ©2013)

  #1 Eat Up, Eat Well Input always affects output so good nutrition is important in keeping up your energy levels and battling fatigue. If you’re breastfeeding, nutrition carries an even greater importance, and it’s a good idea to eat as if you’re still pregnant.  Drink, drink, drink lots of fluids – at least 10 cups a day when pregnant and at least 13 cups when breastfeeding. You also need good nutrition and energy-generating foods to help your physical recovery from the birthing process (natural or caesarean) and to boost your immune system. It’s particularly important to make sure you’re getting enough iron in your diet so you don’t become anemic (one of the most common fatigue-causing medical conditions for new moms).  Your daily iron demand increases nearly 10-fold from the start of your pregnancy, but research shows that less than 25 per cent of women start their pregnancies with enough stored iron to meet their increasing nutritional needs. As such, by the end of the pregnancy, a large number of women are iron depleted if not anemic. If left untreated, the condition continues and often worsens in the weeks after giving birth, and the result is overwhelming fatigue. If you can’t get all the iron and other goodies you need in your diet, talk to your doctor or midwife about vitamin and mineral supplements.

#2 Hormones and Nutrition
If you’re an over-forty mom and feeling continually tired and moody, your fatigue may be being worsened by the prelude to menopause – perimenopause. Remember that during this time your body and your hormone levels are changing (as if puberty, pregnancy and breastfeeding wasn’t enough for one lifetime). To find out if perimenopause is contributing to your fatigue, speak to your doctor about having a blood test to check your hormone levels, but know that they are not completely accurate in showing smaller, subtle changes.  A more advanced and accurate method is the saliva sample test but not all doctors use it so you’ll need to call around to find one that does.

#3 Exercise
As strange as it sounds exercise is actually an excellent way of beating fatigue. You may be thinking, “Hell, I don’t have enough energy to get out of bed let alone run around the block”, but the truth is exercise has been proven to be highly effective in reducing fatigue. Whilst pushing the stroller around the block is good for your physical well being, many mothers suggest that exercising without your baby has the added bonus of providing a chance to truly switch off and be off duty.  You can let your mind wander without being disrupted by a child demanding your attention (yet again). Plan to exercise three to four times a week, preferably in the morning when you have more energy, and block out some time for exercise without your child. What to do with the baby? Most gyms have a childcare facility or ask a relative or friend to babysit.  Or go out early before your partner goes to work (you’re up anyway!).
#4 Conserving Energy
On the flip side of using energy to exercise is the saving of energy around the home.  Organize your home with items and systems that make life easier. Think of the home – especially the nursery – as a workplace (it’s where you’ll do most of your work in the first few months anyway) and spend time making sure you have everything you need exactly where you need it. Review and update your needs every few weeks because, as the baby grows so to will your routines and needs.

Surround Yourself with Support – Ideas from Editor, Sharon

After getting the Advanced Maternal Age stamp on my medical chart with my first son at age 39 and waiting over three years for another viable pregnancy, I made up my mind to do things differently and even more deliberately with Shannon, my second son. Now at age 43, my life was drastically different. My husband and I were raising a 3-year-old biological son and a 6-month old foster daughter, who had been our home since she was 5 days old. I became a business owner the year prior, starting Little Green Beans. I was older, but at the same time, wiser. Most importantly, I considered my choices again.

I share these choices and suggestions with first-time moms of age 35 or better not to say that my/our way is best, but to open your eyes to the possibilities and to get the birth you want, if at all possible for you and your baby.


Choose your practitioners with care.

In every part of the U.S., there are skilled practitioners, including obstetricians, perinatologists, midwives, and nurses. There are many schools of thought. Research your options, interview the people who you will be working with for the next 8 or so months, ask them about pregnancy outcomes (e.g., such as c-section rates).

  • Does their practice, style, experience, and philosophy match yours? If yes, move forward. If not, do more research to find a match.

Where do your prefered practitioners deliver babies? Hospitals with certain restrictive policies or ones with more flexible practices based on mothers’ choices, birthing centers, or at-home deliveries are some of the options available. Why do the practitioners deliver where they do? Again, seek a match with the birthing location and your own choices, health and needs in mind. This is another considered decision. Read my earlier story for more info.

Prepare by writing a birth plan.

This is a plan, not a mandate, for what an ideal childbirth is like for you and your partner. What are your preferences regarding medications, walking and monitoring during labor, and showering (yes, you have that option in many cases)? Do you prefer low lighting and soft music during contractions, prior to the bright lights required for delivery? Do you wish to wear your own pajamas until the big “push” when your baby is delivered? Who holds the baby and when? When do you want to try nursing and have the basic newborn care done?

  • Preparing a birth plan of preferences and are very important to most moms of age 35 or better. Otherwise, assumptions and stereotypes could creep in.

Hire a doula.

Unless your mother or sister is someone that provides you with unconditional support and uniquely understands you, childbirth, and all of the challenges, I strongly recommend hiring a doula. A doula is your support person, who helps you and your partner understand the specifics of this unique pregnancy, labor, delivery and even postpartum. She works for you and agrees to respect your wishes and choices. She is literally someone to lean on during labor. Most doulas have assisted with many births and worked in a variety of settings. She can visit you after birth and support you as you transition to life at home. My doula Shelley Scotka, saw my strong back aches after birth and sent over a wonderful friend Sally Leissner, a fellow doula, who is also a massage therapist to my home. Find someone who is a true match for you, your partner, your practitioner and your childbirth facility.

  • With the advanced maternal age label on your chart, an unknowing doctor (not yours but their colleague) or nurses (and you will see many during the numerous hospital shifts for the labor and delivery ward) may make assumptions.

You want your labor and delivery preferences and choices known. Your doula is your voice, communicating your wishes and supporting you and your partner on this special day.

Supplement medical care with mama care.

In addition to the basics of seeing your practitioner for scheduled visits, plus any additional visits due to issues that arise, consider holistic options as needed.

I suffer from indoor and outdoor allergies regularly and this pregnancy was no exception. During my second trimester with Shannon, I had allergy-induced headaches that were painful. Mindful that I could take Tylenol (only), I went to Cindy Freeman, trained in acupuncture and oriental medicine, and received treatments of 30 minutes twice per month. When early in my third trimester, pubic synthesis pain hit me hard and fortunately was relieved through some additional fine needles.

Chiropractic care and adjustments can bring relief for certain types of pain. When my pregnancy headaches appeared, I had a 30-minute consultation with an experienced chiropractor to see if the pain would subside. It didn’t in my case, and acupuncture did fortunately. After birth, I sought out a chiropractor to relieve the back pain that the 8 hours of back-labor with Shannon. I had a couple weeks of pain, that fortunately went away.

Eat well, exercise in moderation and take your vitamins.

Hopefully, if you are trying to get pregnant you are already taking prenatal vitamins. If not, there are many choices, including some affordable ones from the natural food stores. With my first pregnancy, I was convinced that I needed to take the prescription vitamins that I had sampled at my OB’s office. With my second pregancy, I learned that the price of those same vitamins would cost me $3/per pill, based on a different insurance policy. (I did the math and multiplied by 270+ days and beyond when you elect to breastfeed and that adds up) You have choices in vitamins. Just make certain that you are getting the recommended 800 mcu of Folic Acid or supplement with another pill.

If you are physically fit, by all means continue to do what’s working as recommended by your practitioner. Weightlifting is typically off limits for most pregnant mamas.

  • If you haven’t been on an exercise routine, walking and swimming can be ideal.
  • I spent most of last summer (months 7 to 9), which were some of the hottest on record here in Austin in the pool. Swimming relieved my back strain, kept me cool, and gave me an easier way to play with my kids.

On eating, we are all tempted to eat more and richer foods while pregnant. I had different cravings with both of my boys. It was important to watch it though as we gain about a pound each week in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

  • Eating healthy with protein, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains versus a complete meal of ice cream, while tempting, is always advisable.
  • Eating smaller meals and more frequently is ideal for many women who have cravings and/or nausea.

Prenatal yoga helps women of all ages and, importantly, does a few things like nothing else we can do to prepare for pregnancy and childbirth.

Prenatal yoga for yourself and together with your partner.

I am a big proponent of prenatal yoga and my recent conversation with my longtime friend and instructor Sarah Evans reminded me why. Prenatal yoga helps women of all ages and, importantly, does a few things like nothing else we can do to prepare for pregnancy and childbirth.

  • It helps us form or strengthen a mind-body connection. During childbirth, especially an unmedicated birth, we must prepare our minds to talk with and not fight our bodies. Pain in childbirth is real (for me it was intense due to back labor due to the positioning of both of my boys).
  • Mindful, deep breathing, poses for relaxation during and between contractions, and practice mini-sessions of pain endurance are some of the tools in the prenatal yoga toolkit.

Prenatal yoga provides community for expectant moms. It is a place to talk about our physical health and concerns. It’s a place to get answers, not medical advice, from experienced moms and your instructor, typically a mom herself. When we share in that setting, we give and get a lot. (Two of my good friends were met in class and we shared for weeks. My friend Alicia (from my 2007 birth) and I have stayed in touch with her older son being a month older than my Patrick. It is her OB practice that I chose for Shannon’s birth after hearing her experiences. Preetha’s son and my Shannon share the same birth date (they were born just one hour apart in the same hospital). ) These are unique connections. Read more about prenatal yoga in Sarah Evan’s Guest Blog.

“Practicing yoga with one’s birth partner in a class or private session helps to connect with one another and consider what birth might feel like in a highly supportive setting.”

  • What can your partner do to support and not hinder your childbirth? Can they help relieve stress through massage or calming words? All of this can be part of what you practice together.
  • Seamus and I took the Prenatal Yoga for Partners course offered by Sarah’s studio, Yoga Yoga, both in 2007 and 2011, with the goal of being on the same page for our sons’ births.

What has supported you in your pregnancy and childbirth in an advanced maternal age? What other choices are there for mothers to consider?


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