Feel like you’ve just climbed Mt. Everest after walking to the bus stop? Or does even walking to the bus stop sound too strenuous right now? If so, you might be down with the pregnancy fatigue. It’s common to feel fatigue, tiredness, and even exhaustion during pregnancy – particularly in the first trimester. Let’s run through the facts on what causes fatigue during pregnancy, and what you can do about it.
What causes fatigue during pregnancy?
Pregnancy causes a range of physical changes in your body to support fetal development and prepare you for giving birth. Once a pregnancy is established, the body begins to release increasing amounts of the hormones estrogen and progesterone to support the pregnancy.
Progesterone has the effect of raising your basal body temperature, which can leave you feeling tired and washed out. When progesterone rises, it can also leave you with unpleasant sensations like ringing ears, sweating, dizziness, palpitations and shortness of breath – all of which can contribute to a sense of fatigue.
In later pregnancy, a growing baby-bump can also make it more difficult to get a good night’s sleep. It may be hard to find a comfortable sleeping posture, and the pressure your expanding uterus places on the bladder could have you running to the toilet in the middle of the night. When sleep deprivation builds up, it can leave you feeling run-down and crummy in the daylight hours too.
Your developing baby is also relying on your blood for nutrients it needs to grow, but this can sometimes lead to anemia for pregnant moms. Fatigue is a common symptom of pregnancy in its own right, but anemia can compound the problem.
Pregnancy fatigue survival tips
Fatigue might be unpleasant, but it’s your body’s way of telling you to slow down and take five. Sleep might not always relieve those feelings of tiredness, but it’s important to listen to those signals and make sure you get enough rest. If you get hit by a wave of pregnancy fatigue, don’t fight it: try to take a lie down as soon as possible. Even a light nap could do you good.
That said, it’s not always possible to lie down and take a nap whenever you want – particularly if you’ve got work to do! When you can’t rest, at least try to reduce the strain on your body by staying off your feet. For example, if your job involves a lot of standing and walking, consider asking a trusted supervisor if you can do some desk-work until you’re over the tired spell. If you have options like flex-time or sick leave, don’t be shy about using them when you’re too exhausted to make it in: that’s what they’re for, after all.
Remedies for pregnancy exhaustion
The fatigue of pregnancy can really take a toll on you, both physically and mentally. However, there are steps you can take to support a healthier energy level during pregnancy.
Get a balanced diet
Pregnancy or no, food is where your body gets all its energy. Having a balanced diet is very important for maintaining good health and energy levels during pregnancy. If morning sickness makes it hard to stomach a big meal all at once, don’t stress: just break your daily intake down into smaller, more frequent meals. The dietary iron found in sources such as lean meat, seafood, spinach and soybean products is also important in preventing pregnancy anemia.
Get some good carbs
Carbs get a sometimes-justified bad rap these days, but they make up an important source of energy. Slow-burning complex carbohydrates – like the kind you find in whole oats, whole wheat and brown rice – can give you a more gradual release of energy. Getting your carbs doesn’t mean making a beeline for the dessert bar, though. Sugar crash on top of pregnancy fatigue? Ick, no thanks!
Get some exercise
It might seem counter-intuitive, but a moderate exercise during pregnancy can actually boost your energy in the long-term. As long as your pregnancy is uncomplicated and you have the all-clear from your doctor, gentle exercise is a great way to build up your physical stamina, plus a burst of mood-boosting endorphins. If you feel up to it, look into some pregnancy-friendly choices like yoga, walking and swimming.
When to see a doctor for pregnancy tiredness
Some tiredness during pregnancy is normal, and it doesn’t have any ill effects for the baby. However, if your pregnancy fatigue is also accompanied symptoms like strong dizziness, it could indicate an underlying issue such as anemia.
Strong dizziness also puts you at risk of falls, which is definitely not something you want. If you’re concerned about your level of fatigue during pregnancy, talk to your doctor or midwife to make sure what you’re experiencing is normal.
Rule #1 of pregnancy fatigue: Take it easy
The physical changes your body goes through in pregnancy can throw you for a loop, so it’s important not to push yourself too hard. Fatigue won’t go away on its own if you ignore it, so don’t feel pressured to power through your work and chores. Tiredness during pregnancy is just your body telling you it needs a rest, and there’s nothing wrong with giving into those napping urges. In fact, it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself – and your baby!