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Tiredness and fatigue in the postnatal period


Anne McQueen,
School of Nursing Studies,
University of Edinburgh,
31 Buccleuch Place,
Edinburgh EH8 9JT,


Aims of the paper. This paper aims to analyse critically a selective review of the literature on tiredness and fatigue in health and illness. This analysis is then applied to the experience of the new mother in the postnatal period.

Background and rationale. Although the twin concepts of tiredness and fatigue are well known in both sickness and health, our understanding of them is less complete. This paradox of familiarity and lack of understanding applies particularly to the postnatal period.

Method. A literature search was undertaken using MEDLINE, CINAHL and Web of Science. The search terms ‘tiredness’, ‘fatigue’ and ‘post natal’ were used.

Findings. This search of the literature produced a small number of articles. Few of these, however, addressed the problem of tiredness or fatigue in the postnatal period, suggesting that this problem needs more research attention.

Conclusions. On the basis of this analysis, it is suggested that childbirth education could be extended to foster more realistic expectations and more effective coping skills to facilitate women's adjustment to motherhood. The possibility of midwives educating mothers about the need to access, recruit and delegate some household activities to willing helpers is addressed. We propose that midwives can help women to have more realistic expectations about life after the birth, by providing advice and legitimating the need for support and the use of coping mechanisms to assist the transition to motherhood.