I don’t know about you, but I require 8 to 9 hours of sleep daily to feel rested. Sleep requirements differ between individuals, but studies show that most people require 6 to 8 hours of sleep daily to feel rested and function at their highest capacity. Sleep is imperative for our bodies to heal, recover and rejuvenate.
Sleep in the fourth trimester can be quite elusive. I am pretty sure I didn’t sleep for the first two weeks my little guy came home, and I have very little memory of those days with him. I was so exhausted. I was trying to do it all…visit with friends when they wanted to stop in, cook, clean and take care of my little peanut. I felt guilty for wanting to sleep. It gives me the heebie-jeebies just thinking it about it now! If I could go back and tell my new mom self one thing, it would be sleep, make it a priority. Lack of sleep affects the body in such a profound way. You may not feel the results of fatigue immediately, but believe me it will hit you eventually.
Here are 5 ways sleep deprivation affects your body:
- Your body produces stress hormones causing you to be in a constant state of flight of fight.
- It increases your heart rate and blood pressure.
- It increases your risk for depression and anxiety.
- It depresses your immune system so your body has a harder time fighting off infections.
- It distorts your judgment depressing your ability to make sound decisions.
I encourage every momma out there living through the fourth trimester to take control of your health and well being by making sleep a priority every day. A well- rested momma is a more effective, loving, nurturing momma.
Here are some quick tips to help you prioritize and improve sleep:
- Sleep when baby sleeps. I know this seems obvious, but it is very tempting to spend baby’s nap times cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, visiting with guests, watching TV, interacting with social media, etc. All of these activities are fine as long as you are not sacrificing sleep to do them. Nap times are a precious commodity especially when baby is not yet sleeping through the night, so use this time to your advantage and get some rest.
- Ask for help and don’t turn down help. Let other people do chores for the first few weeks, until you and baby get the hang of each other. This frees up time for you to rest.
- Maximize your room for comfortable sleep. Make sure your room is quiet, dark and cool.
- Invest in a white noise machine or app.
- Avoid feeling guilty for sleeping.
- Avoid TV, computers, smart-phones within 30 minutes of sleeping. These devices will actually stimulate your brain making it more difficult to fall asleep.
Sleep will change your fourth trimester experience. It is vital to self-care during the fourth trimester. Prioritize sleep and you will be better prepared to care for your new baby, your family and yourself.
Preeclampsia is generally thought of as a complication diagnosed during pregnancy. However, preeclampsia can occur after pregnancy too. Preeclampsia during the fourth trimester can be devastating because it is often overlooked and under diagnosed. Preeclampsia (whether it is diagnosed during pregnancy or postpartum) puts women at risk for seizures, strokes, liver damage, kidney damage and even death. It is imperative for all women to be aware of the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia so that they can seek help immediately.
Here are signs and symptoms you need to look for after delivery:
- Unrelenting headache that is not relieved with Tylenol or ibuprofen.
- High blood pressures. Your blood pressure is considered high when the top number is 140 or higher and/or the bottom number is 90 or higher. If you don’t have a blood pressure cuff at home, you can check your blood pressure at a drug store, grocery store, or local fire station.
- Right upper quadrant abdominal pain. Pain whether it is sharp, gnawing or burning pain in the right upper abdomen, just under the right rib cage.
- Intractable nausea/vomiting.
- Visual disturbances such as difficulty seeing in all visual fields, or experiencing “squiggly lines” in your visual field.
- Chest pain and/or shortness of breath.
If you experience any one of these signs/symptoms listed above, you need to be evaluated by your physician. Contact your physician immediately, these symptoms cannot wait until tomorrow. If your physician is unable to see you, then you should go to the hospital for evaluation.
Gestational diabetes is a change in how your body manages sugar during pregnancy. It is diagnosed by a blood test drawn after drinking a sugar loaded drink at around 26-28 weeks pregnant. Gestational diabetes can either be diet controlled or require medications to control blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Women who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, particularly gestational diabetes requiring medications to control blood sugar levels during pregnancy are at a higher risk for developing diabetes later in life.
If you were diagnosed with gestational diabetes while you were pregnant here are a few things you need to consider after delivery:
- You should have a diabetes-screening test performed after your six week postpartum visit with your obstetrician.
- Start exercising. Thirty to forty minutes of aerobic activity at least 5 days a week has been shown to reduce the risk of obesity and diabetes. Brisk walking is a fantastic choice for the postpartum momma. Walking is low impact, free, and easy to do in the company of your baby.
- Practice mindful eating to avoid over eating. Pay attention to your food when you are eating. Avoid eating while chatting with friends, watching TV or reading.
- Drink water. Avoid excessive sugar in sodas, sports drinks and fruit juices. Try flavoring your water with cucumbers, lemon, lime, or other fruits using a diffuser or just cut them up and put them directly in your water.
- Reach for fruit when you need a quick snack. Apples and bananas are easy to eat one handed and are not super messy.
- Eat your veggies. Fill most of your dinner plate with veggies instead of bread and pastas.
- Avoid eating foods that come out of a bag or box. These foods are usually high in sugar.
Small changes now could make a huge impact on your health in the future. In addition, you are teaching your children how to eat properly. They learn many of their habits by mimicking you. So improving your eating and exercise habits now will not only benefit you but also your children. Postpartum is the perfect time to take control of your health!