Pregnancy Fatigue: How to Deal with Exhaustion
Are you expecting a baby and feeling completely exhausted? Pregnancy fatigue is a common early pregnancy symptom. When your body’s making a baby, it’s doing a lot more work than usual!
But there are some ways to combat fatigue during pregnancy and feel less exhausted. Get the best tips from moms-to-be and medical professionals on coping with heavy physical demands while preparing for motherhood.
Is pregnancy fatigue normal?
It’s normal for pregnant people to experience fatigue during pregnancy. In fact, it’s one of the most common symptoms in early pregnancy. But sometimes fatigue during pregnancy is more than just being tired — it can be exhausting!
If you are finding yourself constantly worn out or struggling to keep up with everyday tasks due to extreme fatigue or tiredness, understanding the causes of your fatigue can help you better manage the overwhelming exhaustion that comes with carrying a child.
What does pregnancy fatigue feel like?
Many people are surprised by the level of fatigue they experience during pregnancy. Prior to pregnancy, you may have felt tired after a busy day at work or a long workout session – but pregnancy fatigue is on a whole different level!
Many people note that their pregnancy fatigue makes them feel like sleeping is their second job. In addition to sleeping through the night, many people who are pregnant need naps after work or a few extra hours of sleep on the weekend just to function.
If you add in the possibility of needing to care for an older child or complete some extra tasks at work before taking maternity leave, pregnancy fatigue can sometimes feel overwhelming.
When does pregnancy fatigue occur?
Pregnancy fatigue is typically felt the most during early pregnancy. First-trimester fatigue is one of the most common early signs of pregnancy, and many people notice that this starts as early as 5 weeks of pregnancy.
While some people experience fatigue throughout the pregnancy, many people note that their fatigue is worse in the first few weeks of the first trimester as their body and placenta begin to produce different levels of pregnancy hormones such as progesterone. The fatigue may improve a little bit in the second trimester for some people, and then worsen again in the third trimester when most pregnant people have trouble sleeping with many physical discomforts.
The hormonal changes in pregnancy produce a wide range of symptoms, and fatigue is right at the top. According to a recent study, about 94% of pregnant people experience fatigue during pregnancy.
While some people notice that their fatigue improves in the second trimester as previously mentioned, many people note that their energy levels do not go back to normal until after the birth of their baby (or even later, if they are breastfeeding).
Difference between pregnancy fatigue and regular “tiredness”
Pregnancy causes many physical changes that can be causes of fatigue. In pregnancy, it is common to have low blood pressure, changes to blood sugar regulation, and morning sickness which may all cause fatigue. Additionally, the extra weight that you gain to grow a healthy baby can also cause you to feel more tired.
Pregnancy Hormones Can Cause Sleep Issues
Many of the normal hormonal changes and uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms do double duty. First, the symptoms themselves can be bothersome - everything from frequent urination to back pain and leg cramps make it hard to concentrate and complete normal tasks during the day. Second, many people find that these uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms keep them awake at night and cause their sleep to worsen throughout pregnancy.
Changes to Daily Routines and Habits
In addition to experiencing the above-mentioned symptoms, many people who are pregnant have had a change in routine. Because of fatigue, it can be harder to maintain previous habits, like getting movement or exercise every day. Although it can be challenging, carrying on a normal routine with work and exercise can help you get those precious hours of sleep at night.
Iron Deficiency During Pregnancy
While fatigue is a normal part of pregnancy for most people and is common during a healthy pregnancy, there are also some medical conditions that can develop during pregnancy and cause extreme fatigue. As your blood volume expands to help your baby get lots of oxygen and nutrients, anemia can occur.
Your body has to work hard to increase red blood cells in pregnancy. Eating foods high in protein and iron can help your body keep up.
People are tested regularly for anemia during pregnancy, but if you note that your fatigue is severe, talk to your healthcare provider about whether an extra blood count or other tests like thyroid labs should be done.
Cramping, Back Pain and Other Discomforts
Some people note that their sleep is interrupted by common pregnancy symptoms such as back pain, leg cramps, or heartburn. If you are experiencing these symptoms, talk to your OB/GYN or midwife about what options are available to improve these symptoms.
As the pregnancy progresses through the third trimester and your body undergoes many physical changes due to the growing baby, most pregnant people rate their level of fatigue quite high.
Tips for helping with pregnancy fatigue
While pregnancy fatigue is a common symptom, there are some things you can do that might improve your fatigue.
Eat a Nutritious, High-Protein Diet
Once the nausea improves, focus on having a healthy diet, with foods that are high in protein and full of good vitamins and minerals.
Drink More Water (But Not Before Bed!)
Many people find that their energy levels get a boost when they drink plenty of water but try to focus on doing this earlier in the day. Waking up several times at night to empty your bladder makes it hard to get a good night’s sleep, so focus on increasing your fluid intake earlier in the day and try not to drink as much after dinner. This can help cut back on broken sleep due to frequent urination.
Limit Sugar Simple Carbs
When you are tired it is tempting to reach for a high-carb snack or a latte to help, but these can actually be more harmful than helpful. Try to cut back on sweets and coffee, because both of these can give a quick energy boost - but then a “crash” occurs after a period of time and the fatigue can be even more severe.
Do Regular Light Exercise
While it can be hard to stick with an exercise routine during pregnancy, many people find that even light exercise, like prenatal yoga, can help with sleep quality and energy levels. Many people who have regular exercise are able to sleep more deeply at night.
People who participate in prenatal yoga also notice an overall reduction in anxiety, which can improve sleep patterns. If you don’t have time for a formal prenatal yoga class, even self-guided options like deep breathing and meditation before bedtime might improve your quality of sleep.
Take a Break from Chores and Responsibilities
Prioritizing your exercise routine is important, but pregnancy might also be a good time to evaluate your other activities and decide whether they are still a good fit.
Pregnancy might be the right time to consider stepping back from a committee at work, asking another parent to pitch in for parent-teacher association tasks, or even thinking about hiring someone to help you around the house.
Many people receive offers of help during pregnancy or the newborn phase. If you are one of those people, don’t hesitate to take your friends and family up on any offers of help.
In summary, pregnancy fatigue is common and most people will experience fatigue at some point during the pregnancy. Fatigue during pregnancy is bothersome and can make it difficult to carry out normal life tasks.
Try the tips and tricks above to see if you get any improvement, and don’t be afraid to speak with your healthcare provider if your fatigue seems unusual or severe.
Aflahiyah, S., Gunawan Tamtono, D. & Prasetya, H. (2020). Effectiveness of prenatal yoga on sleep quality and reduction of anxiety during pregnancy: A meta-analysis. Journal of Maternal and Child Health 5(6), 629-640. https://doi.org/10.26911/thejmch.2020.05.06.03
Effati-Saryani, F.., Mohammad-Alizadeh-Charandabi, S., Mohammadi, A., Zarei, S. & MIrghafourvand, M. (2021). Fatigue and sleep quality in different trimesters of pregnancy. Sleep Science 14(1), 69-74. doi: 10.5935/1984-0063.20200091
Working during pregnancy: Do’s and don’ts https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy/art-20047441
Was this article helpful?