Having a baby is exciting, but pregnancy fatigue can make you too tired to fully feel that excitement. There’s a lot to do when you find out you’re pregnant. But fatigue in pregnancy is exceedingly common, with 94.2% of pregnant people having fatigue during pregnancy, according to one study in the journal Sleep Science. Thankfully, there are ways to combat pregnancy fatigue to keep yourself healthy as you grow another life.
The first trimester of the pregnancy timeline lasts until the end of your 13th week. When does first-trimester fatigue peak? During the first 11 weeks or so, you may feel much more tired than before pregnancy. You may find yourself searching “fatigue early pregnancy” to find out why and find remedies.
Recognizing the causes of fatigue in the first trimester
Feeling more tired during pregnancy isn’t all in your head. Fatigue in pregnancy is related to very real changes in the body as the fetus begins its first few months of growth.
- Increased levels of progesterone: “Fatigue is most common in the first trimester as the pregnancy is rapidly growing,” said gynecologist Faina Gelman-Nisanov, MD and Fellow of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “In a normal pregnancy, the pregnancy hormone, beta-HCG, is doubling every 48 hours. This rapid rise, along with elevations in estrogen and progesterone, creates a common side effect of fatigue that tends to resolve by the 12th week of pregnancy.”
- Changes in blood sugar and blood pressure: Blood volume also increases to support the developing placenta and fetus, which can make your heart pump faster and with more force, according to John Hopkins Medicine. The Mayo Clinic says different hormones usually keep blood sugar at acceptable levels. Rapid changes in hormone levels during pregnancy can affect the body’s ability to process blood sugar properly.
- Emotional and physical adjustments: You also may have very real stress about the lifestyle changes that come with a baby. You may have to adjust to your family growing, which could lead to moving stress or reorganizing your whole home.
Tips to combat fatigue in the first trimester
You don’t have to resign yourself to poor sleep while pregnant. The following tips can help you get a better night’s sleep during your first trimester.
Prioritize rest and sleep: Be kind to your body and growing baby by getting enough sleep and rest, even if you’re used to being more active and busy throughout the day. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, it’s not uncommon for people who are used to getting six hours of sleep to suddenly feel like they need nearly double that during the early stages of pregnancy.
Maintain a balanced diet: Lauren Mardeusz, RD, LDN, is a women’s health dietician and offers the following advice: “Pairing carbohydrate intake with enough protein will help prevent blood sugar spikes that can leave pregnant mamas feeling sluggish.”
Stay active with moderate exercise: Even if you’re tired, try a light exercise like walking. The fresh air might perk you up mentally, and you may sleep better at night.
Manage stress levels: You can also try soothing activities like yoga, meditation, spending time in nature, trying stress-reduction apps or watching favorite shows to keep from stressing out to the point of greater fatigue.
Seek support from family and friends: With all the changes, it’s OK to ask for extra help from the people in your life. Others can help you manage any home moves you need to make or help out around the house as you manage more fatigue.
Understanding the changes in fatigue during the second trimester
You may be less tired, but there are still considerations to keep in mind.
- Improved energy levels compared to the first trimester: This is the time when fatigue diminishes. You may notice a renewed sense of energy.
- Changes in hormone and blood circulation: According to Mayo Clinic, your body is still producing more blood to support the fetus and still has higher hormone levels. Oddly, this can make mucous membranes swell and bleed, leading to stuffiness and nosebleeds, which can impact sleep. However, according to Stanford Medicine, estrogen and progesterone hormone adjustments and drops in the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone may make you feel less tired during the second trimester.
- Growing baby bump and physical strain: This is the time when the pregnancy shows more. You may feel more physical strain as your abdomen grows. Also, you may have to start adjusting how you sleep more, possibly leading to sleep positions you’re not used to.
Effective strategies to combat fatigue during the second trimester
Establish a consistent sleep routine: Training your body to sleep during certain times can help you sleep more easily. This also comes in handy in the third trimester when sleep becomes more difficult again.
Practice prenatal yoga or gentle stretching exercises: Shari Miller, an orthopaedic clinical specialist who holds a doctorate in physical therapy, has the following recommendation: “Reducing pregnancy-related discomforts by doing mobility and flexibility exercises at night aids in a more restful night’s sleep during pregnancy.”
Maintain a nutritious diet with frequent small meals: Small meals, or mini meals, can help reduce nausea, heartburn or upset stomach during pregnancy. You eat three small meals and have two to three healthy snacks daily.
Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water: “Increasing water intake can also help support the added fluid that mom has on board with an increase in blood volume and production of amniotic fluid,” said Mardeusz.
Pace yourself and prioritize tasks: Due to the increased size, you may notice more physical strain. Try to complete tasks and chores in small bursts and only do what is necessary. Remember to ask for help if you need it.
When does third trimester fatigue start? Weeks 27 to 40 of pregnancy are the third trimester, bringing new fatigue-related challenges.
Recognizing the unique challenges of fatigue in the third trimester
This stage is where physical and emotional challenges may get in the way of sleep, leading to third-trimester fatigue. .
- Increased weight gain and physical discomfort: Throughout the second and third trimester, it’s typical to gain between half a pound and 1 pound per week, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. By the third trimester, that weight is adding up. It may be difficult to find a comfortable sleep position.
- Frequent bathroom trips and disrupted sleep: By now, the baby is pushing on the bladder more, and you may feel kicks at night. Waking up frequently from these issues may cause third-trimester fatigue.
- Anxiety and anticipation of labor: As your due date approaches, the reality of labor is looming ever closer. You may worry that it will hurt or that there could be complications.
Essential tips to combat fatigue during the third trimester
While third-trimester sleep challenges are based on both physical and emotional changes, there are some ways to help encourage sleep during the third trimester.
Use supportive pillows for better sleep and comfort: You can find special pregnancy pillows to help you get a good night’s sleep. Some even wrap around you so you’ll stay on your side more easily and have more support throughout the night.
Practice relaxation techniques and deep breathing exercises: If you have anxiety about the looming birth, progressive muscle relaxation and deep breathing can help promote relaxation. These may also help relax the body and help manage discomfort.
Delegate tasks and ask for help when needed: By the third trimester, you may have increased lift restrictions or even bed rest orders. It may also be more uncomfortable to get chores done. Remember to ask for help, even if it may mean looking into a cleaning service or professional dog walkers.
Wear comfortable and supportive shoes: Make sure you’re wearing good shoes, especially ones that can help support swelling of the feet, like wide-fit shoes.
Take breaks and practice self-care activities: Remember to schedule time to relax. This can be hard if you’re used to always being on the go. Engage in your favorite self-care, like long baths, good movies or meditation exercises.
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Pregnancy fatigue is a common symptom caused by hormone, blood sugar and blood pressure changes. Anxiety and the physical changes of pregnancy can also disrupt sleep. If you’re feeling more tired than you used to, run it past your healthcare provider for personalized advice.
To combat pregnancy fatigue, try the tips above based on your trimester-specific challenges, such as scheduling sleep, practicing relaxation techniques, asking for help or eating small, healthy meals. Quality sleep and rest can help your body put resources and energy into growing a new life.