MAMIHOOD

Why Am I So Tired?

by: Alejandra Carrasco, M.D. and Christine Maren, D.O.

by: Alejandra Carrasco, M.D. and Christine Maren, D.O.

Physician founders of Hey mami!

It’s the number one question we get from women: why am I so tired all the time?

We hear you, mamis. 

And as mothers of 3 ourselves, we know that motherhood can be absolutely exhausting. 

From pregnancy, to birth, postpartum recovery, round-the-clock-nursing/feedings, sleep regressions, and general overwhelm, it’s a wonder any of us can sustain these helpless humans—let alone go to work, take care of a home, care for other children, operate an automobile, form a coherent sentence, etc.

However, if you’ve recovered from your pregnancy, your kids are sleeping through the night (for the most part), and you’ve hit your mama-stride but still feel tired all the time, it’s time to look deeper into the cause.

Why do so many moms feel tired all the time?

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: just because everyone around you complains about being tired all the time doesn’t make it “normal”. Not even if you’re a busy mom (unless you have a new baby, in which case sleep deprivation is par for the course).

Yes, there are days or weeks when you can’t catch a break sleep-wise and you’re just beat. But, you should be able to bounce back and have plenty of energy to tackle your daily routine.

So, why do so many mamis feel so tired?

There are a few core causes of mommy exhaustion, which we’ll cover below. 

But the common denominator is: pregnancy takes it out of you sister…and there’s no shame in admitting it. 

Here’s the deal: growing that little miracle inside your body for 9 months took a heck of a lot of physical, mental, and emotional resources and energy. And, if you’re like most busy women living in the real world, chances are your health may not have been in “perfect” shape before pregnancy.

This is not your fault, as even the most health-conscious women have nutrient deficiencies, stress, toxic loads, and even pre-existing conditions we didn’t know about before getting pregnant.

Add to that, the incredible amount of stress and adrenaline it takes to give birth, the typical lack of postpartum support, followed by months and months of sleep deprivation, and yeah, you can see why pregnancy may create a few health issues down the road.

The good news is, these post-pregnancy conditions are very treatable. You just have to learn how to recognize them and know how to find the right doctor to help you get back on your pre-pregnancy feet.

4 Common Causes of Mommy Fatigue: Connecting the Dots

#1. A sluggish thyroid

This is so very common in moms.

As discussed in, “Postpartum Thyroid Issues”, many women have subclinical thyroid issues brewing before giving birth. 

This is due to a variety of factors, from genetics to chronic sleep deprivation to heavy metal toxicity, etc. Thus, when our bodies go through pregnancy, labor and delivery, etc. it can cause a slightly-sluggish thyroid to go into full-blown hypothyroidism, or in some cases, Hashimoto’s.

Because it is so prevalent, we typically recommend the following thyroid panel for all tired mamis in our practices:

  • TSH
  • Free T3
  • Free T4
  • Reverse T3
  • TPO antibodies
  • And thyroglobulin antibodies

Be aware that most doctors only test TSH. But, it’s important you insist on all 6 as it’s the only way the get a full picture of your thyroid’s function (TSH is only one hormone, so it can appear “normal” when there are other significant issues at play).

To learn more about thyroid labs and our optimal reference ranges, download our free lab testing guide. And check out our articles Postpartum Thyroid Issues, and Hypothyroidism in Women: An Underdiagnosed Epidemic.

#2. Nutrient Deficiencies 

When babies are little it’s a luxury to fully chew your food before racing to their next feeding, let alone eat mindfully while you’re refereeing siblings at the dinner table. Plus you just sustained another human while pregnant and breastfeeding. Thus, nutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies are common in mamis.

That said, you must find a way to nourish yourself if you have any hope of getting your energy back (not to mention your libido, sleep, digestive health, hormonal balance, sanity, thick luscious hair…you get the idea).

The smartest way to go about this is not to start adding kale to everything (wink!), but to find out which nutrients you’re deficient or insufficient in. Your doctor or practitioner can help you figure this out via lab work, an analysis of your day-to-day diet, and symptomatology.

Ideally, you want to catch insufficiencies before they become full-blown deficiencies, and if your doctor has proper training in interpreting functional lab work they’ll know how to advise you.

The most common nutrient deficiencies we see in mamis are:

  • B12—which typically occurs due to genetic mutations, digestive issues and/or diet. Best food sources are animal proteins like meat, eggs, and cheese, or you can supplement with methylcobalamin. 
  • Iron—this can be dietary, due to heavy periods, or digestive issues. Your best sources are red meats, seafood, dark leafy greens, eggs, tofu, and beans.
  • Vitamin D—super common from lack of time spent outdoors and/or diet. In our practices, we nearly always recommend supplementation with Vitamin D3/K2 with dosage based on individual lab results, plus extra time spent outdoors.
  • Vitamin A—this is dietary, most of us just don’t eat enough foods containing Vitamin A. Vitamin-A-rich foods include organ meats like liver, cod liver oil, sweet potatoes, carrots, and black eyed peas. You can take a Vitamin A supplement, but do so under the supervision of your doctor or nutritionist, as overdose can be a problem (and not safe with pregnant or breastfeeding).
  • Magnesium—this is dietary and due to stress, as stress depletes magnesium.1 Best food sources include dark leafy greens, almonds, spinach, chard, beans, and (yes!) dark chocolate. For supplementation, we recommend magnesium glycinate in our practices. The dosage varies from person to person, but you can safely start out with 250 mg taken before bed (and you’ll sleep like a teenager!).
  • Choline—about 90-95% of pregnant women are deficient in this important nutrient,2 and that deficiency is compounded after multiple children. So if you’re struggling with “mommy brain”, poor REM sleep, anxiety, or fatigue then choline deficiency could very well be an issue. Best food sources are egg yolk and organ meats. For supplementation we love this product (which not only helps with low energy, but also brain fog, forgetfulness, and anxiety).

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#3. Leaky Gut

If you experienced digestive issues during and after pregnancy, join the freaking club! But, seriously, this isn’t something you want to “live with” longer than a few months postpartum.

Leaky Gut Syndrome, known medically as intestinal hyperpermeability, is a very common condition which can cause a variety of digestive, immune, autoimmune, and even mental health issues.

We see it every day in practice, and it’s what we call a “gateway” illness to so many chronic conditions.

Despite its prevalence, it’s pretty straightforward to treat but can come with some co-infections, so it’s best to work with a leaky-gut-literate doctor for fastest results.

Symptoms of leaky gut include: bloating, constipation, loose stools, diarrhea, indigestion, flatulence, stomach and/or intestinal pain or discomfort, IBS, food sensitivities and general gastrointestinal discomfort. It’s even been linked to other conditions like depression,3 eczema,4 diabetes,5 weight-gain,6 and autoimmune disease.7

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms or conditions, you can start by trying the following:

  • An elimination diet (where you eliminate common allergens that fuel inflammation such as gluten, dairy, sugar, soy, corn, and alcohol for 4-6 weeks. Then add them back one by one to see what aggravates your digestive system).
  • Cutting back or eliminating refined sugars.
  • Eating bone broth daily or taking a collagen supplement, both of which contain gut-healing amino acids and glycine.
  • Eating probiotic-rich foods daily, such as kombucha, kim chi, sauerkraut, real pickles, yogurt, etc. (though sometimes this can aggravate certain gut infections, namely SIBO, so keep an eye on that)
  • De-stressing, as intestinal permeability is directly linked to chronic stress.8

#4. Loneliness 

The negative effects of loneliness on your health and energy are well-documented by science.9 And, sadly, motherhood can be a very lonely time, especially for those with new babies or without family close by. And we know this can be even more pronounced in the era of Covid-19.

Since research (and commonsense) has shown mamis are happier when they have social support,10 our best advice is to get out there and meet REAL people face-to-face as soon as safely possible after birth.

But in the meantime, join an online community (like this one!) and make time to connect with your loved ones.

If you’re a new mom who needs new friends with babies, join a mom’s group, breastfeeding support group, or something like it right now.

Social media has made these ladies easy to find, and you’ll feel loads better connecting  with women who are going through what you’re going through right now.

If you’re a seasoned mom who feels she doesn’t have time for friendships between kids, work, carpooling, your side-hustle, etc it’s time to re-prioritize for the sake of your physician and mental health. Give yourself permission to set an example of self-care for your children, who are watching your every move (especially the future mamis).

Repeat after us: it is not normal to feel tired all the time even if you are a mother!

So, take these tips to heart, find a doctor or practitioner you trust to guide you, and get started getting your better self back on track. Sustainable wellness starts with good nutrition, and you can download our free one-page cheat sheet for nutrition tips.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507250/
  2. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Choline-HealthProfessional/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18283240
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3745938
  5. https://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/57/10/2555.abstract
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21852815
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22109896
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4604320/
  9. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1745691614568352
  10. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/50849524_First-time_mothers_Social_support_maternal_parental_self-efficacy_and_postnatal_depression

Our Bio

We are doctors Alejandra Carrasco M.D. and Christine Maren D.O. We’re board-certified through the American Board of Family Medicine, and certified in functional medicine through the Institute for Functional Medicine. We’re on a mission to support women as they navigate mamihood—from preconception through pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond. As mamis of 3 (each!), we got you.

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Hey Mami was founded by physicians with a vision for a better mamihood
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