What is fatigue during pregnancy? Basically, it’s the extreme tiredness you can often feel when you’re a mama-to-be. With pregnancy fatigue, you might struggle to get out of bed in the morning. Or you might feel drained and sluggish all day. And you might lack the energy to do the activities you’d normally enjoy.
Not much fun, we know. But pregnancy fatigue is, in most cases, a side effect of your body working super hard to grow a brand new human. (A pretty energy-intensive project.)
In this article, we’ll take a look at what’s going on in that body of yours to cause your tiredness. And we’ll share some tips to help you re-energize.
So, first, when is fatigue the worst during pregnancy?
Pregnancy fatigue in the first trimester
Is extreme fatigue normal in early pregnancy? Yep, it’s oh-so-normal (but that doesn’t make it any easier). If you’re in your first month of pregnancy and tired, you’re in good company. For many mamas-to-be, this is one of the very first signs that they’re expecting.
So what’s actually behind pregnancy fatigue in the first trimester?
Hormonal changes. In early pregnancy, your levels of a hormone called progesterone climb off the charts. Progesterone helps your baby’s tiny body develop and strengthens the muscles in your pelvis, so they’re ready for labor. It also increases the number of milk-producing glands in your breasts. All important stuff — but this intense hormone action can leave you feeling exhausted (and extra emotional).
Growing the placenta. Your body isn’t just growing a baby — it’s growing a whole new organ! The placenta will provide your baby with all the oxygen and nutrients they need during their spell in your uterus. But building the placenta is a big task for your body, making you feel tired and drained.
Extra blood flow. To get those essential nutrients and oxygen to your baby, you need extra blood and lots of it. So your body is putting energy into making more blood and pumping it around your body. That means an increased heart rate too. And all this takes its toll on your energy levels.
Morning sickness. AKA any-time-of-day sickness. If you’re experiencing nausea and vomiting in the first trimester, that can really leave you feeling drained. It’s hard to renew your energy when you’re struggling to keep food down or don’t feel like eating much.
So, at this point, you may well be asking: How long does tiredness last in early pregnancy? Will my body get a rest at some point?
The answer is: (usually) yes.
The second trimester: Time for a break
Many mamas-to-be find themselves with a little more energy when they hit the second trimester.
The placenta has finished growing, and your body is used to its new balance of hormones. You may even feel a little less like throwing up every five minutes.
Essentially, you feel more like your old self (but with a bump).
But this golden phase of pregnancy might not last long. Later in pregnancy, you have a whole new set of reasons to feel exhausted. Get ready, mama…
Back again: Pregnancy fatigue in the third trimester
Why do you get a second dose of pregnancy fatigue in your third trimester? Well, every mama-to-be is different, but it could be something to do with:
Your bump! It’s getting so big now, and that’s a lot of extra weight to carry around. No wonder you’re tired at the end of the day.
Trouble sleeping. All those fun pregnancy symptoms (think peeing a lot, indigestion, aches and pains, restless leg syndrome) can be ganging up on you. They make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep.
And that’s without:
- Stress and anxiety. Worrying about the birth, the responsibility of having a baby, or whether you’ve got all the baby supplies you need — all this can leave you feeling fatigued. Both emotionally and physically.
So, to recap. Whether you’re in your first or third trimester, it’s totally normal to be pregnant and fatigued. What with physical and hormonal changes, pregnancy symptoms, and emotional turmoil, it all adds up to tire you out.
But, of course, if you’re worried about your exhaustion – or any other symptoms – don’t hesitate to get in touch with your healthcare provider.
When should you worry about pregnancy fatigue?
Severe fatigue during pregnancy, along with other symptoms, could suggest an underlying health condition that needs attention. These include:
- Thyroid problems
- Gestational diabetes
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Prenatal depression
With your doctor’s help, these can all be treated very effectively. So make sure you ask for advice if you’re at all worried about your health during pregnancy. Look after yourself, mama.
Bouncing back: 7 tips for tackling pregnancy fatigue
Looking for ways to recharge your batteries? Here are our seven top tips for managing pregnancy fatigue:
Prioritize sleep. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Tip: Managing the amount you drink before bed can help reduce the number of nocturnal bathroom trips.
Make time for yourself. Take time to relax and do something you enjoy – whether that’s a bubble bath, reading a novel, or listening to music.
Eat six small super-nutritious meals. If morning sickness or heartburn leaves you not feeling like eating much, try having six smaller meals each day. Think complex carbs and protein: like hummus and wholegrain pita, or Greek yogurt with granola and berries.
Swap coffee for chamomile. Reducing your caffeine intake and swapping to something like chamomile tea can help prevent energy crashes during the day and lead to better sleep at night. Stick to 12 ounces or less of coffee each day (that’s one to two cups).
Get active. Even though you’re using energy, taking gentle exercise can actually leave you feeling more energized. And it’s great for your overall health and mental wellbeing too. Try a woodland walk, swimming, prenatal yoga, or gentle jogging.
Find a helping hand. If you’re struggling to cope with day-to-day tasks, ask friends, neighbors, or family members to help out. Then you can have a bit more time to rest.
Soothe stress. Try some stress-busting techniques, such as keeping a pregnancy journal, meditating, or gardening. And, above all: be kind to yourself. You’re doing great, mama.