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Coping with Tiredness During Pregnancy

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It is really common to feel exhausted throughout your pregnancy, particularly in your first trimester. Fatigue is one of the earliest signs of being pregnant, and whilst some women feel totally energized, the vast majority would confess to being tired.

What is causing this tiredness?

We don’t really know what causes this tiredness early on in pregnancy. It’s possible that all those hormonal changes are partly to blame, particularly a surge in progesterone. Nausea and vomiting will definitely deplete your energy, and if you are feeling anxious about your pregnancy or anything else going on in your life, this will likely add to the fatigue. Frequent urination, another symptom during the early weeks of pregnancy, can also do a good job of interrupting your nightly sleep.

Of course lifestyle factors can also be an issue. You might have a hectic work schedule or, if this is not your first pregnancy, other children at home to look after. This can definitely make fatigue worse and leave you continually feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. It’s impossible to burn the candle at both ends and not feel the effects. Even if the first few months of pregnancy, you will have to slow down and take as much help and time out of your schedule as you can to try and rest.

Tiredness can also be a symptom of iron deficiency anaemia – a common ailment during pregnancy. Iron is necessary for the production of red blood cells, and if you are low on iron or anaemic, you will find yourself lacking in energy. Your blood will be tested for this condition at your first pre-natal visit and again later in your pregnancy. However, if the feeling of fatigue is becoming overwhelming then you should definitely discuss this with your GP or obstetrician. They will likely advise a change in diet and might recommend an iron supplement.

How long will I feel like this?

As your body adjusts to the enormous metabolic changes necessary for your baby to grow and thrive, the fatigue should subside, usually between weeks 12 and 14 and you should begin to feel that pregnancy glow you have been longing for. As your pregnancy progresses into your seventh month and beyond though, you will likely start running out of steam again. By then you will be carrying a lot more weight and will be dealing with a kicking, moving baby mooching around in your belly.

So how do I cope?

Prioritise sleep

You can start by going to bed earlier than usual, and getting into the habit of using your bed as a place of rest and relaxation – that means no television, loud noises or bright lights. If you are still working try and get in to the habit of taking short cat naps whenever you can. If you have a door, close it and put your head on the desk for a few minutes.

Adjust your schedule

Take a holiday day midweek every now and again to get the rest you need and if you are feeling unwell, don’t be afraid to take a sick day. And setting these priorities extends to your home and social life too. Let the housework slide. If you’re a stay at home mum, get some help in if you can afford it or ask a friend or family member to give you a hand.

Eat well

A healthy diet is essential. Junk and fatty foods will drain what little energy you have so it’s time to ditch the chocolate and crisps in favour of energy boosting fruits, veg, whole grains and lean meats. Talk to your pharmacist about a good pregnancy supplement to ensure you are getting all the right nutrients for your body. If you are a vegetarian, you need to be particularly vigilant in ensuring you are getting all the vitamins and minerals you need. And make sure you are eating plenty of energy releasing iron-rich foods such as dark green leafy veg, eggs, dried fruits and fortified breakfast cereals.

And after baby …?

Newborn babies can sleep twenty hours or more a day, so in theory there should be plenty of time for mum and dad to catch some zzz’s of their own. But newborns are also born with tiny tummies (think about the size of a marble), which means they wake up regularly to feed, usually every two or three hours. Which of course means new parents have to keep this schedule too, particularly breastfeeding mums. Which leaves litte time for sleep.

Between two and three months old, babies begin to wake less between feeds. By four to six months, most babies will get enough calories during the day to sustain them through five or six hours of sleep at night. When it happens (and it will), this five or six hours will feel like the most glorious sleep in of your life. A couple of nights of these on the trot and you will most definitely begin to feel human again. So hang in there.

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