One minute you felt fine, and the next, it felt like someone flipped a switch and siphoned every last bit of energy from your body. This is pregnancy.
Fatigue is one of the earliest and most common symptoms pregnant women experience. It usually hangs around (on and off) for the whole nine months.
Unfortunately, your employer, other kids, or responsibilities don’t really make exceptions for pregnancy fatigue, so we’re here to help you learn how to combat it safely.
We’ll talk about when pregnancy fatigue starts, what causes it, and give you seven tips to help combat it and regain some of your pre-pregnancy energy.
When Does Pregnancy Fatigue Start?
You will likely begin to notice extreme fatigue from the moment of conception.
If you aren’t planning to become pregnant or aren’t sure you’re pregnant, it might come as a surprise.
You wake up from a solid night of sleep feeling completely exhausted and like you could go for a nap by 9:00 a.m. What’s the deal?
Your hormones go into overdrive from the moment your fertilized egg implants into the lining of your uterus, also known as implantation.
Because implantation technically occurs during the third week of pregnancy, by the time you figure out what’s going on, you’re not only tired but already nearly a month into your pregnancy.
How Long Does Pregnancy Fatigue Last?
There’s good and not-so-good news. Pregnancy fatigue is strongest during the first trimester when your body is developing your baby’s vital organs and systems.
You’ll feel the most tired during the first trimester of pregnancy, but the fatigue will dissipate as you near your second trimester.
During the second trimester, you’ll have better energy levels, as your baby mostly focuses on growing larger and stronger — this is a great time to plan important activities, paint the nursery, or plan a trip, as you’ll feel more like your old self.
By the third trimester, your energy will once again wane. Your growing baby and your belly are much larger now, and you may feel more lethargic. During this trimester, fatigue can be reminiscent of how you felt during the first trimester.
What Causes Pregnancy Fatigue?
There are numerous reasons why you’re tired. Pregnancy hormones, changes in your body, bouts of morning sickness, and your emotions have all changed in one fell swoop.
It’s enough to make even the most energetic person feel drained.
Hormonal Changes During Pregnancy
The most significant underlying cause of pregnancy fatigue is hormonal changes.
When it comes to making a baby, your hormones run the show. As soon as implantation begins, the fertilized egg begins to release human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), also known as the hormone that a pregnancy test relies on to let you know you’re pregnant.
This hormone also causes you to feel tired, crampy, and emotional.
In addition, your body is also busy ramping up hormone production.
Estrogen and progesterone levels begin to skyrocket when you become pregnant, and an inconvenient side effect of the increase is a massive decrease in your energy levels.
The hormone progesterone, in particular, causes the most feelings of tiredness and lethargy.
Progesterone sedates your body, which is why it’s often referred to as the “relaxing” hormone.
You’ll produce much of it because it helps relax your muscles, tendons, and ligaments. This is necessary so that your body can prepare for labor and delivery, but in the meantime, it can make you really tired.
Physical Changes During Pregnancy
The physical changes to your body can also leave you feeling weak and tired.
- Slower digestion. In addition to relaxed muscles, you might also experience slower digestion. Progesterone relaxes the muscles of the intestines, making digestion take longer.
- Digestive issues. In addition to slower digestion, heartburn and other digestive issues can disturb your rest, making it harder for you to get to sleep.
- Lower blood sugar and blood pressure. When you become pregnant, you might also experience lower blood sugar and lower blood pressure. A decrease in blood sugar and pressure can make you tired and may need close monitoring by your healthcare provider.
- Weight gain. Gaining extra weight can place a strain on your body. During the third trimester, the added weight can strain muscles and cause joint aches and back pain when your baby is growing rapidly. You’ll expend more energy simply by walking than you do when you aren’t pregnant.
Emotional Changes During Pregnancy
No one is a stranger to stress. Overwhelming worry and stress can cause you to feel fatigued. Even planned pregnancies can create major changes in your life. It’s normal to feel a little lost.
Your feelings heighten due to the increase of estrogen, which can make you feel moody and can cause you to experience more periods of crying.
These emotional changes can feel strange, unpredictable, and tiresome.
When Should I Call My Doctor?
Pregnancy fatigue is common, and almost every pregnant person will experience it during their pregnancy.
However, if you have fatigue and any of the symptoms below, you should immediately contact your OB/GYN or obstetrics office.
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, or feeling like you might faint
- Not urinating very frequently
- Difficulty breathing
- Heart palpitations
- Swelling in your hands and feet
- Feelings of hopelessness or thoughts of suicide
- Severe headaches
These symptoms could indicate a more serious medical issue that needs immediate attention.
Seven Ways To Get Your Energy Back
You know the causes, now let’s talk about the solutions.
While none of these solutions will give you the same energy you were used to before you got pregnant, they can help you cope with the fatigue and stay a little more centered until your baby arrives.
1. Learn To Nap
If you’re already a nap expert, utilize your finely honed skill to give your body the ability to get more rest — it needs it.
Growing a life is a massive undertaking, and a little more shut-eye can help you feel more awake for the remainder of your day.
Not used to napping? Try this: lie down in a cool, dark room and practice breathing slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth for five minutes.
If you cannot fall asleep, you’ll at least give your body (and mind) a welcome break.
At work during the day? Take your 15-minute break as an opportunity to put your head on your desk and listen to soothing music.
A small reset can help you feel more mentally balanced and alert for the rest of your day.
It sounds counterintuitive, but exercise can help improve your energy levels, especially during a healthy pregnancy.
Exercise has numerous benefits to your body during pregnancy, allowing you to rest better and achieve a higher quality of sleep.
Try to fit in exercise when you have the most energy. This could mean a quick 15-minute walk before work or on your lunch break.
Just remember that it takes your body a few hours to unwind after a workout, so plan your activity at least three hours before you hit the sack, or it could interfere with your sleep cycle.
One of the symptoms of dehydration is fatigue. As a pregnant person, you need more fluid than you did when you weren’t pregnant.
Try to get at least 8-10 glasses of water per day.
If you are frequently urinating (and if you’re pregnant, that’s almost a given) and have clear to pale yellow urine, you’re adequately hydrated.
Other fluids (like coffee and tea) count toward your daily goal, but remember that caffeine has a diuretic effect, which causes you to lose more fluid. Drink plenty of water to help stay hydrated and more awake.
4. Maintain a Balanced Diet
The early pregnancy symptom of lowered blood sugar can leave you tired, and one of the best ways to combat this effect is to eat a healthy diet composed of smaller, more frequent meals.
Try breaking up your breakfast, lunch, and dinner into six mini-meals. This will help keep your blood sugar levels stable and help you avoid “crashing” after a large meal.
It’s also a good idea to avoid sugary snacks and foods, which can spike blood sugar levels and result in a massive crash that could leave you feeling tired and unable to function.
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5. Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene refers to the practices to help yourself get a good night’s sleep. These can include:
- Keeping your bedroom dark and cool (preferably between 62-70 degrees).
- Unplugging from your computer, the television, and your smartphone at least half an hour before bed.
- Using a fan or white noise machine if it helps you relax and sleep
- Ensuring your bedding is comfortable and your sleepwear is relaxed and allows you to move around
- Going to bed at the same time every night and waking at the same time every morning
These tools can help ensure you get enough rest; your body (and baby) need lots of rest in the first trimester.
If you normally operate on six hours of sleep, do your best to aim for at least seven.
Between seven and nine hours of sleep is the sweet spot for pregnant people.
6. Get Help When You Need It
Pregnancy is a challenge, and adjusting to your new normal is best done with a team of supportive friends and family members.
If you’re struggling, ask for help. Having a friend or family member help with housework or a meal can help you feel less stressed and help improve feelings of worry.
If your feelings are deeper and more overwhelming, it’s best to talk to your women’s health doctor or therapist.
Pregnancy emotions run high, and prenatal depression is a medical condition affecting about 15 percent of pregnant people. Symptoms of prenatal depression include:
- Feeling hopeless
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Social withdrawal
- Extreme anxiety and stress
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
- Loss of appetite or weight loss
- Sleeping more than normal
If you feel like you could be suffering from prenatal depression, talk to your doctor.
7. Curb Your Caffeine
You’re probably already drinking less caffeine than normal and may be wondering if a little extra in the afternoon would help you make it through the day.
While you can consume caffeine safely in small quantities during pregnancy, you won’t do yourself any favors downing caffeine late in the afternoon.
Caffeine has a half-life of about five hours.
That means that five hours after you consume a caffeinated beverage, half the caffeine is still circulating in your bloodstream five hours after you consume a caffeinated beverage.
If you drink caffeine at 4:00 p.m. to make it through a 4:30 meeting, you’ll still feel the effects at 9:00 p.m., when you could be trying to sleep.
While you’re pregnant, stick to these caffeinate guidelines:
- Consume less than 200mg of caffeine per day (or roughly two cups of coffee)
- Drink caffeinated beverages before 2:00 p.m. to ensure they don’t interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
Wake Up! You’re Pregnant!
Fatigue is hard, but pregnancy fatigue is an entirely different beast.
While there’s no magic cure that will help you completely get rid of fatigue, there are measures you can take to feel better and make sure you aren’t self-sabotaging with caffeine or a poor diet as your due date approaches.
The best news is that your pregnancy fatigue will disappear once your baby is born.
Whether you’ll feel well-rested and energized once your baby arrives is entirely up to them.
References, Studies and Sources:
Bridget Reed is a Tampa-based content development manager, writer, and editor at GR0; specializing in content related to varying fields including medicine, health, and small businesses. Bridget went to St. Petersburg College and majored in Management and Organizational Leadership.
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