Pregnancy Fatigue

When you are pregnant, morning sickness is just the beginning. Aches, pains, and fatigue are just a part of being pregnant. You may feel tired and unmotivated, and you may experience mood swings, nausea, and low self-esteem. Being pregnant puts a strain on your entire body, and  fatigue during pregnancy is very common, especially during the early and late stages of pregnancy.

Let’s go over the causes of fatigue during pregnancy, and what you can do to minimize the worn-out feeling you will experience for the next nine months.

Causes of Fatigue During Pregnancy

The number one cause of fatigue during pregnancy is the hormone progesterone, which is produced more rapidly when you’re pregnant. Progesterone is known to make you feel sluggish and tired, especially when levels are increased. Plus, your body is making more blood to provide nutrients to your developing baby, causing organs like your heart to go into overdrive, which can make you sleepy. On top of that, your body is changing the way it processes food and nutrients, causing more stress and fatigue.

As these hormones continue to fluctuate, your stress levels mess with your mental state, which takes a toll on the rest of your body and makes you feel tired. However, this usually gets better as the first trimester comes to a close and the second trimester begins. If you are still feeling fatigued by the second week of your second trimester, you should notify your healthcare provider, as this symptom should have disappeared by then.

Staying awake during the day can be trying for most pregnant women in their last trimester. As your third trimester begins, you and your baby are gaining weight rapidly, causing more stress on your back, legs, respiratory system, and bladder. With all these physical changes taking place, pregnancy fatigue returns. You’re finding yourself up throughout the night with leg pains and trips to the restroom.

Another problem that affects up to 50 percent of pregnant women is anemia. Fatigue is a symptom of this condition, as your body needs iron to make hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that enables the cells to carry oxygen to your tissues and to your baby. An expectant mother’s need for iron greatly increases during pregnancy due to the needs of the baby, the increase in blood produced by your body, and the blood loss that occurs during delivery. There are symptoms to watch for that can tell you if you are suffering from anemia, such as dizziness, shortness of breath, weakness, irregular heartbeat, and pale skin.

Treatment for Fatigue During Pregnancy

Unfortunately there isn’t a prescription your doctor can give you to relieve pregnancy fatigue. It’s just one of those things expectant mothers have to cope with while they’re pregnant. Your doctor will more than likely prescribe a little R & R (rest and relaxation). Here are some things you can do to help reduce the fatigue you may be feeling.

Rest Often: Get as much rest as possible, whenever you can. If you feel tired during the day, take a nap. It’s amazing what 15–20 minutes of shut-eye can do. If you have to work and are lucky enough have an office, shut the door and put your head down for a few minutes. Grab a little rest as often as you can. If you’re tired, rest. Don’t force yourself to stay awake until your normal bedtime; go to sleep.

Exercise: As tired as you are, a little exercise can actually amp you up again. Take a short walk, or do pelvic rocks. It seems counterintuitive, but it really does work. Avoid major workouts, as this will only add to your fatigue in the moment. Keep it short and sweet.

Eat properly: As an expectant mother, you only need an extra 300 calories a day. Instead of getting these calories from refined sugars, eat fruits and veggies for snacks. Eating these small portions will keep your energy levels where they need to be.

Avoid liquids: Never avoid liquids during the day, but reduce your intake for the last hour or two before you go to bed. This will reduce the number of times you have to get up to use the restroom during the night when you’re trying to get your sleep.

Tell people: Keep your partner, family, friends, and other children involved. Keeping them informed can help them understand what you are going through. If you hide your feelings of fatigue, it can make it difficult for your loved ones to sympathize with you.

[Page updated September 2015]