By Melanie Haiken, M.A.
I'm so tired now that I'm pregnant. Is this normal?
It's normal to feel absolutely dog-tired during pregnancy. In fact, most women find they need a great deal more sleep while pregnant, especially during the first and last trimesters. You may find your bedtime creeping earlier and earlier, and at the same time you may be hitting your snooze button more regularly. The good news is, some moms-to-be experience a considerable energy boost during the second trimester, when nausea starts to wane.
Why am I so tired?
It's hard work making a baby. The process of supporting the new life inside you taxes every system in your body. The ensuing fatigue is often particularly strong during the first trimester, when you're building the placenta that feeds and nourishes your baby until birth. Also, the additional hormones circulating during pregnancy -- particularly progesterone -- can make you feel sleepy and less energetic. Your metabolism is affected as well. Many women have low blood pressure while pregnant because their blood is circulating through two systems -- mom's and the baby's -- and that can cause fatigue.
Will I be feel this way during the entire pregnancy?
Most pregnant women notice that the feeling of exhaustion is stronger at some times than at others. It can also depend on what else is going on in your life, like whether you work a long day or do something physically taxing. The combination of that, plus the demands of pregnancy, can definitely be overwhelming. A few weeks into the second trimester, you may feel a new surge of energy. This often lasts well into the third trimester, but around the seventh month, you may begin to feel weary again. By that point, your increased size and weight will begin taxing your muscles, and you may also have difficulty sleeping, which can leave you tired.
What can I do to ward off exhaustion?
- Adjust your schedule. Whatever you can do to make sleep a priority will help. Go to bed earlier, even if it means leaving the dinner dishes in the sink until the next day. If possible, work from home once in a while so you can sleep in a little later, or take work home so you can leave work earlier.
- Try to do the more difficult tasks when you have the most energy, and leave the easier tasks for when you're tired. Give yourself more time to do things, and try to cut down on multi-tasking, or you may find yourself frustrated.
- Don't be shy about asking for help. If your partner offers to take your toddler to school so you can sleep in an extra 20 minutes, take advantage of the offer.
- Get extra rest. Even if you weren't a napper before, chances are you'll become one while pregnant. Catch a catnap whenever possible, and remember that you don't have to sleep to rest. Many moms-to-be find that lying down as soon as they get home from work makes a huge difference. Stretch out on the couch for 20 minutes when you first walk in the door, and you'll find you have more energy for dinner and your evening plans.
- Eat well for energy. What you eat can make a huge difference in how you feel. Relying on carbohydrates and snack foods can lead to quick bursts of energy followed by crashes. Unless you started out obese and are already overeating, you need at least 300 extra calories a day now that you're pregnant, and more if you exercise. Make them count.
- Discuss weight with your doctor. Weight gain during pregnancy varies from person to person. You should discuss with your doctor what kind of diet will be healthiest for you. Unless you are underweight or having more than one baby, you don't want to gain 40 or 50 pounds!
- Make sleep count. The quality of your sleep can affect how rested you feel. You may be sleeping more lightly now that you're pregnant, so noises, lights, and other disturbances may bother you. Hang special shades to darken the room, wear earplugs, or use a comfort pillow to ease your back -- whatever seems to make your sleep more restful. If you are plagued by insomnia, make a list of what's bothering you or read for a few minutes, then try again to sleep. After all, soon enough you'll be awakened every few hours, so this is just your body's way of helping you get used to it!
- Protect your time, especially nights and weekends. If going out tires you, spend your nights at home relaxing. But if you feel great, it's okay to enjoy some nights on the town (just avoid drinking and smoking).
- Work in some daily exercise. Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day can help boost your energy level and keep your muscles limber during pregnancy. Even taking a short walk or doing some stretches during the day will help you sleep better at night, experts say. Exercising also releases tension, eases back and joint pain, and gets your heart rate up. All these things will also help you sleep.
Talk with your doctor about what kind of exercise program is safest for you. It's usually not a good idea to begin a vigorous exercise program during pregnancy, especially if you weren't very active before. On the other hand, some form of daily physical activity, such as walking or swimming, is almost always healthy for pregnant women.
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Loyola University Health System. The Second Trimester: 13-28 Weeks. http://www.luhs.org/health/topics/pregnant/second.htm
March of Dimes. Fatigue. 2010.
American Pregnancy Association. Pregnancy and Dizziness. http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/dizziness.html
Mayo Clinic. Symptoms of pregnancy: Morning sickness, fatigue and other common symptoms. Updated Feb. 21, 2009
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Merck Manual. Diets. http://www.merck.com/
of Dimes. Obesity During Pregnancy Threatens Health of Both Mother and Fetus. 2010. http://www.marchofdimes.com/
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Nemours Foundation. Exercising During Pregnancy. http://kidshealth.org/parent/pregnancy_blankborn/pregnancy/exercising_pregnancy.html