Fatigue is defined as mental and/or physical exhaustion, and it can be your body’s way of letting you know that you need more sleep and relaxation. Fatigue during pregnancy is common, and at times, it can feel pretty debilitating.
Many women cope by taking naps, but this may not be possible, especially for those who work and or have other children at home. The good news is with some lifestyle changes you can beat fatigue and make it through the day without feeling like crashing on the nearest couch. In this article, we answer some common questions about fatigue during pregnancy and share tips for how to beat it.
Why do I have fatigue during pregnancy?
Mild fatigue can be one of the early signs of pregnancy. Many women experience fatigue during the first trimester, but others may experience it throughout their entire pregnancy.
Fatigue during the first trimester may be due to your body producing more progesterone. This hormone is important to promote the thickening of the uterine lining necessary for pregnancy and to encourage the growth of glands in the breasts that produce milk.
Sleeping well at night during pregnancy can be challenging due to difficulty getting comfortable with your growing belly, getting up more often to urinate, and experiencing restless legs syndrome.
How much sleep do I need during pregnancy?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults typically require 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Pregnant women, however, may require more than that.
One observational study of women in their ninth month of pregnancy found that those who slept 6 hours per night or less had longer labors and were more likely to have a cesarean section. This study provides yet another reason to get more sleep during pregnancy. It concluded that healthcare professionals should prescribe 8 hours of sleep per night to their pregnant patients.
How can I beat fatigue during pregnancy?
It is common to try to do everything on your list before the baby arrives, but this may not be realistic. Don’t deny yourself the sleep you need at night. Here are some strategies to help you get the sleep you need, and beat fatigue during pregnancy.
Just say no to unnecessary commitments.
A full schedule can totally drain your energy. Nighttime commitments such as classes, meetings, dining out with friends or book club can interfere with getting to sleep at a reasonable hour. Get to know your limits on activity. Say no more often and adhere to a schedule that allows you enough time to sleep at night.
Find a comfortable sleeping position.
Sleeping well at night during pregnancy can be a challenge due to some issues such as difficulty getting comfortable.
Doctors recommend sleeping on your left side to allow for improved circulation to the heart and blood flow to the uterus. However, don’t lie awake worrying about staying on your left side all night long. It is natural to move around a lot during sleep. Talk to your doctor about this if you’re concerned.
Try to cut down on nighttime visits to the bathroom.
Your body produces more urine during pregnancy due to extra blood flow to your kidneys. Your growing uterus will press on your bladder too. You can cut down on nighttime trips to the bathroom by stopping eating and drinking three or more hours before bedtime.
Manage restless leg syndrome.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a common pregnancy complaint and can make it difficult to sleep at night. Symptoms of RLS can include tingling, aching or pain in the legs in the evening, causing an irresistible urge to move the legs to relieve these sensations.
The cause of RLS during pregnancy is not well understood. Be sure to discuss your symptoms with your healthcare provider. Recommendations to manage RLS include moderate exercise and minimizing caffeine intake. Compression socks may help too.
Limit caffeine consumption.
Studies have found that high caffeine consumption is connected to increased risk of low birth weight. This may be due to the decreased ability of pregnant women to metabolize caffeine. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends consuming less than 200 mg caffeine per day. Here is a caffeine chart that can help you determine how much caffeine is in certain foods and drink.
Participate in moderate exercise.
For most pregnant women, it is safe to participate in moderate exercise. Not only can exercise help you sleep better at night, but it can also help alleviate RLS, constipation, and back pain. Studies show that exercise also helps reduce the risk for gestational diabetes and cesarean delivery.
Stay away from activities that include:
- Risk of falls or body trauma such as contact sports.
- Extreme heat or cold
- Altitude: beyond 6000 feet (1800 meters).
- Lying on your back: after your fourth month of pregnancy this can decrease cardiac output and restrict blood flow from the abdominal aorta, reducing blood flow to the uterus.
Plan well-balanced meals.
Eating healthfully during pregnancy is very important. Fatigue can happen because your blood sugar drops too low. This is known as hypoglycemia. Eating balanced meals including healthy foods with protein, fat, and carbohydrate at every meal and snack can help keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable.
A healthy, balanced meal could consist of whole wheat spaghetti tossed with olive oil or sauce, topped with parmesan cheese and turkey meatballs, along with a large green salad.
Get adequate iron.
A mother’s iron needs increase during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. Not getting enough iron can lead to iron deficiency, which can cause you to feel tired. Be sure to eat foods rich in iron and take a prenatal vitamin containing enough iron to support you and your growing baby.
If you can manage fatigue during pregnancy by sleeping more at night, exercising regularly, eating healthy, balanced meals, and saying no to unnecessary commitments, you and your family may benefit from these healthy habits for years to come.
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