What's Making You Tired?
You feel...like you're always fighting sleep during quiet activities -- reading, say, or watching TV. You're irritable and forgetful and have trouble concentrating.
It could be...sleep deprivation. The number one cause of fatigue in moms is simply not getting enough zzz's, night after night. Each person's sleep needs are different, but often eight hours a night is best.
Then you should...sleep when your child sleeps, or whenever possible; moms of older kids should try hitting the sack earlier or sleeping in later (an extra half hour can make a difference). Watch out for sleep stealers, such as alcohol, caffeine, and exercising too close to bedtime.
You feel...tired and sluggish all day, every day. Any form of physical exertion, from pushing the stroller to climbing stairs, is exhausting.
It could be...anemia or iron deficiency, common in pregnant or newly postpartum moms, as well in women with heavy menstrual periods.
Then you should...see your doctor, who may describe iron supplements. And you'll need to eat iron-rich foods, such as lean red meat, beans, leafy greens, and iron-fortified breakfast cereal; pair them with tomatoes or citrus for extra iron absorption.
You feel...overwhelming mental and physical fatigue that prevents you from accomplishing day-to-day tasks. You often have a sense of hopelessness and feat that you can't care for your family.
It could be...depression. Though it can strike anyone at anytime, it's common among new moms -- about one in tent develops the condition, beginning in the first month or two.
Then you should...see your doctor, who may refer you to a mental-health professional. Treatments include therapy and medication.
You feel...a persistent lack of energy, even though your getting enough sleep. You're inexplicably gaining weight and may notice that you feel cold a lot or your hair is thinning.
It could be...hypothyroidism, a decrease in thyroid-gland function that affects up to 9 percent of women. In new moms, the condition is known as postpartum thyroiditis, and it usually occurs within a year of delivery.
Then you should...see your doctor, who may give you a blood test. If it's positive, you'll be treated with medication.
You feel...worn-out and short of breath after a brief bout of normal exercise.
It could be...you're out of shape, a result of decreased activity during pregnancy (and beyond, when the demands of parenting can trump that time on the treadmill).
Then you should...start slow, and be patient. (Moms of newborns should get their doctor's all-clear first.) If you can walk briskly for only 15 minutes, do so daily for a week, and then work up to 20 minutes, then 30. Create a plan with a personal trainer if you're a member of a gym.
SOURCES: Neil Kavey, M.D., director of the Sleep Disorders Center at New York Presbyterian Hospital, New York City; James Greenberg, M.D., vice chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Bringham and Women's Hospital, Boston.