Are you so tired that you cannot bare the thought of getting out of bed? Are you in your first trimester of pregnancy? If you answered yes to both of these questions, then it is very likely that you are experiencing a phenomenon called ‘pregnancy fatigue’. It is understandable – growing a human is an exhausting work!
It is very normal for a woman to feel more tired than usual during pregnancy and may even be one of the first symptoms of pregnancy. However, some women experience a type of pregnancy fatigue that negatively impacts their daily lives and productivity.
If this sounds like you, follow along in this article as we discuss the causes of pregnancy fatigue, some common mistakes that pregnant women make while trying to beat pregnancy fatigue and ways that you can naturally beat the need to sleep! Of course, not everything can be solved from home, so we have also listed some symptoms that warrant a doctor’s visit.
If you are not sure whether or not you are experiencing pregnancy fatigue, do not worry. We will begin by explaining what pregnancy fatigue might feel like. Let us begin!
Pregnancy Fatigue: This is What It Feels Like
Pregnancy fatigue often leaves women feeling dog-tired and completely without energy. It is often described as a constant and complete lack of energy to do anything. It is not uncommon for women experiencing this extreme form of tiredness not to want to do anything other than lay in bed all day long – which can be quite shocking for new moms who were once active and on the go pre-pregnancy.
Often people who were once able to get by on a mere five hours of sleep can hardly function even after getting in ten hours of sleep in the first few weeks of their pregnancy. The catch? This extra sleep often happens in daylight as it is also very normal for those struggling with pregnancy fatigue to battle falling asleep at night. On top of this, morning sickness, another unfortunate symptom of early pregnancy, can compound with this sleeplessness and leave you feeling extra drained.
The Causes of Pregnancy Fatigue:
Although pregnancy fatigue can leave you feeling unwell and exhausted, it is a very normal experience for women during the early weeks of pregnancy so do not worry too much! This symptom is usually just your body’s way of telling you that you need some extra rest as your body tries to adjust to its new role – making a new little human!
But what causes fatigue? The cause is primarily linked to significant hormone changes, specifically with the female sex hormone – ‘progesterone’. As the uterus prepares to support your foetus, the levels of progesterone hormone in the body increase rapidly. Interestingly, progesterone is known as a ‘natural sedative’ – enough said.
Moreover, changes physically and emotionally can lower your energy levels and leave you feeling drained. The body begins to change in many ways. For example, during the early stages of pregnancy, there is a dramatic increase in your blood supply. This is necessary to make your uterus a comfortable environment for a healthy foetus to grow.
This extra blood naturally goes towards building the placenta which will provide your baby with food and oxygen and aid foetal circulation. This process can have an impact on your heart rate – quickening your pulse and breathing as your heart beats faster. This can also result in much lower iron levels than normal.
Iron is important as your body makes use of iron to make more haemoglobin (the protein which carries oxygen in the blood) to carry oxygen to your baby, and so this drastic increase in blood volume can result in much lower iron levels than normal.
Other normal changes in the first trimester include experiencing lower sugar levels, lower blood pressure, restless sleep, morning sickness, high levels of anxiety and stress, pain specifically in the back and hips, digestion problems and heartburn. Dealing with all of these issues can compound to leave you feeling drained.
During the third trimester, it is normal to re-experience pregnancy fatigue due you carrying more weight with your growing baby bump, due to pregnancy insomnia and symptoms like restless leg syndrome which interrupts sleep, due to the anxiety and stress associated with having a new baby and having to juggle normal-everyday life with the difficulty of being inhibited by your pregnancy, especially in the last three months.
Fortunately, this fatigue will not likely hurt the foetus as it is a normal symptom of pregnancy. However, severe and persistent fatigue may be symptoms of something more serious.
How Long Does Pregnancy Fatigue Last?
Most pregnant women will experience pregnancy fatigue throughout the first semester of pregnancy. This symptom may begin as soon as conception takes place as pregnancy hormones almost instantly kick in and increase dramatically during the early stages of pregnancy, however, this symptom is long gone as they enter their second trimester. Most pregnant women report experiencing much higher levels of energy by around week 13.
The period between week 13 and week 28 of pregnancy is ideal for preparing for the baby by setting up the nursery or getting supplies. This is because pregnancy fatigue can reappear (and does for around 60% of pregnant women!) in the last trimester as your body adjusts to carrying more weight, growing bigger and dealing with more discomfort than before – however, this symptom is also unlikely to last long and will likely disappear post-partum.
Avoid These Common Mistakes When Dealing with Pregnancy Fatigue:
While it is understandable that dealing with constantly feeling exhausted is in itself exhausting and so you may be desperate to make this feeling disappear, there are wrong ways to handle this tiredness!
You may be tempted to reach for your usual Starbucks order or favourite energy drink, but DO NOT give into the caffeine cravings. Caffeine is an egregious choice as it may harm your developing foetus. Instead, reach for a glass of water or fruit juice.
Another common mistake pregnant women make is forcing themselves to maintain the same level of social commitments or activity levels that they kept pre-pregnancy. While the internal and external pressure to keep doing everything you were able to before pregnancy may be great – know that it is okay to take things easy!
A fall in productivity during the first few weeks of pregnancy is normal. While you may not be showing much visible change in those first three months, your body is working extremely hard. Make sure to practice self-care, cut back on any unnecessary commitments and pamper yourself when you can.
Another important thing to avoid is taking any over-the-counter medicine, especially when it comes to sleep aids as they may potentially harm your baby.
This is How you Can Fight Pregnancy Fatigue Naturally:
While it may feel hopeless, there are easy and natural ways to fight that dog-tired feeling. Try these next few tips to fight pregnancy fatigue:
· Maintain energy levels and help your nausea by eating small meals frequently throughout the day (you should try to have around six small meals). Make sure that these meals are healthy as well as protein and nutrient-dense to support both you and your baby. This is especially necessary to maintain healthy blood sugar and pressure levels and to avoid the risk of developing gestational diabetes.
· Stay hydrated! Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
· Stretching is a good way to cure sleepiness while also helping better your blood circulation, especially if you work at a desk or in an office.
· Another good fatigue fighter is taking a brief walk or stroll around the block. Gentle exercise is recommended for pregnant women as it can help to increase energy levels and also gets you better prepared for a restful sleep at the end of the day. Light exercise, for example, yoga, is also good for constipation, and back pain decreases the risk of gestational diabetes and improves your overall health, even post-partum.
· Naps! The best way to feel rested is simply to rest, so, if possible, try to fit in a couple of naps during the day. This will help to make up for any sleep lost due to needing to go to the bathroom or from insomnia.
· Go to bed earlier. Another way to fight pregnancy fatigue is to schedule more time for rest. Try to get between 7 and 10 hours of sleep every night.
· Adjust your sleep posture and try sleeping on your left side with a pillow between your legs. This will take pressure off of your back and blood vessels which reach your baby.
· Create an environment which aids relaxation and sleep. Invest in blackout curtains, unplug any nightlights or anything which emits a digital glow, set the bedroom temperature to be a bit lower than the temperature of the rest of your house, clear clutter and make sure that there are clean sheets on your bed. Following these tips will help you create an environment that promotes a good night’s rest. Relax by doing some deep breathing or ask your partner for a massage.
· Keep a pregnancy/sleep journal. These journals can provide good insight into your sleep quality.
· Try to drink the majority of your fluids during the day and avoid liquids at least three to four hours before bed. This can help you get a more restful night’s sleep as you will need to urinate less frequently during the night.
· Reach out for help if you are not able to fall asleep or feel rested.
When To Book a Doctor’s Appointment:
Rest is extremely important when you are pregnant. If any condition is impacting your ability to sleep well during the night, it is very important to talk to a doctor.
Some conditions which may harm sleep include:
· insomnia – which is a problem which makes going to sleep or staying asleep very difficult.
· preeclampsia – is a condition which causes poor quality of sleep due to high blood pressure and other common preeclampsia symptoms like snoring and anxiety.
· sleep apnoea – a sleeping disorder where a person stops breathing periodically during sleep.
· restless leg syndrome – a disorder which causes an irresistible and constant urge to move your legs when laying down.
There are other conditions, besides those listed above, which can warrant a visit to your doctor as they may have negative effects on either the pregnant mom or her baby.
Some potential symptoms to look out for include:
· changes in your eyesight
· sudden onset of light-headedness or dizziness
· struggle to urinate or start to urinate less or less often.
· if you experience shortness of breath
· heart palpitations
· pain in the upper abdomen
· swelling in the hands, feet or ankles
· sudden acute headaches or migraines
· or if you think you are experiencing depression, anaemia or gestational diabetes.
· Fatigue could be linked to several non-pregnancy-related medical problems such as infection, fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism or chronic fatigue syndrome. If you suspect that you are experiencing symptoms of these conditions, you should book a doctor’s appointment!
· You should also see your doctor if the fatigue does not go away in the second trimester as this may indicate an underlying problem which may require medical intervention.
A doctor will be the best person to offer advice and treatment options to keep the expecting mother and her baby healthy and happy and can recognise if any immediate intervention is needed.
To Sum it All Up…
Pregnancy is a very understandable and exhausting experience and has an impact on you both physically and emotionally. We are here to remind you of a very important fact: you are not alone!
Almost all women who experience pregnancy will at some point feel much more tired than usual, but some women become chronically fatigued due to pregnancy-related symptoms and conditions. This tiredness can feel overwhelming and make getting out of bed feel impossible. Unfortunately/fortunately (depending on how you look at it) this disappears by the 13th week of pregnancy as you enter the second trimester.
While dealing with this pregnancy fatigue, be sure to avoid some common mistakes that can be harmful to your growing baby. These mistakes include taking over-the-counter sleep medication, drinking caffeine and forcing yourself to be more productive than you have the energy to be.
Take things easy! Practice self-care, nap, do some light exercise, drink plenty of water and eat lots of good food can help to keep your blood pressure and sugar levels healthy, while also promoting better rest at night. You can also keep a journal to track your symptoms and sleep habits. If you notice any worrying symptoms, be sure to contact your doctor to book an appointment. The safety of you and your baby is of utmost importance!
But above all, listen to your body. Fatigue is a signal from your body. Listen to it, slow down and take all the rest that you need! Do not be afraid to slow down and ask for help – whether it is from your partner, friends or family members.