Tiredness During Pregnancy
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When most women discover they are pregnant they might feel elation, excitement or trepidation. However, the most common feeling that sets in after a few days is exhaustion. For many women, fatigue and tiredness dominate their first and last trimesters. This can put a dampener on the whole experience of pregnancy.
Pregnancy is such a unique experience and watching how your body changes to allow your baby to grow is nothing short of amazing. Yet all the body's hard work takes its toll, leaving most women barely able to keep their eyes open throughout the evenings.
The fatigue felt by most mums-to-be during the first trimester is overwhelming, with many women describing it as being like nothing else they have experienced before. Unlike a bout of exhaustion caused by a bad night's sleep, having a couple of early nights does nothing to dispel the feeling of needing to close your eyes.
Before becoming pregnant, many people think that tiredness is caused by having to carry around a heavy bump all of the time but in reality, this only accounts for a small proportion of the exhaustion.
Much of the underlying cause is how hard your body is working to create a whole new life. In the first weeks of pregnancy, a woman's body has to provide the growing baby with a placenta, which is a source of nutrients that will last the whole of the nine months. While your body is working away in the background, both your blood sugar and blood pressure are likely to be lower, leading to dizziness and contributing to the fatigue.
The other major factor that can make tiredness worse in the first trimester is the misleadingly-named morning sickness. Nausea in pregnancy can vary between the odd sensation of queasiness to full blown vomiting all day long. The most severe cases require hospitalisation to combat dehydration, but thankfully, very few women need treatment. However, even low level nausea and vomiting, if persistent, can be extremely draining.
Imagine the after effects of a stomach bug, when you are still feeling nauseous and can't face the thought of food. For most people, this means an extended stay on the sofa, under a duvet with a spot of daytime TV for company. Some pregnant women have to battle through this feeling on a daily basis for the first 13 weeks, or for the unfortunate few, even longer.
It is hardly surprising then that with so much going on inside and less than the ideal amount of nutrition being absorbed that many women feel shattered. This can make the first three months of pregnancy difficult to enjoy.
Tiredness in the later stages of pregnancy
The last trimester is tiring for more obvious reasons. In the final weeks a woman's tummy can start to feel really uncomfortable and the weight can be very awkward and unbalanced at times. While the baby is completely safe as it moves into different positions, it can put a real strain on a woman's back and hips, making even a trip up the stairs seem like a marathon.
The good news is that for the majority of expectant mums, the second trimester is much more fun. A woman's bump is not yet big enough to be a cause of irritation and with the worst of the fatigue and sickness having passed, the middle period is the time when most women start to enjoy pregnancy.
Combat your tiredness!
So what can be done for the early and latter days when tiredness can be very difficult to deal with?
It is essential to listen to your body. You are tired for a very good reason and struggling to stick to pre-pregnancy routines will leave you reaching the delivery date already worn out. When your little one finally arrives, you will regret not stocking up on your sleep whilst you had the chance! If you are tired, try and schedule in regular naps. If you are working, try to find somewhere you can have a 20 minute sleep during your lunch hour. If all else fails, go and sit in your car - at the very least you will be able to close your eyes, even if you can't actually doze off.
Most women find that their friends and family will bend over backwards to help them when they are pregnant. For those who already have children, accepting offers to babysit can mean the chance to get an uninterrupted nap.
For women who are working, find out whether your employers would be willing to adjust your working pattern to accommodate how you are feeling. Or maybe they would let you work from home part of the time? Could you catch up over the weekend, enabling you to work shorter days in the week?
Eating is another important factor in easing tiredness. Good nutrition is vital for the health of a mother. Some women worry that if they do not eat well enough the baby will suffer, but in reality, the growing bump can obtain all the nutrients it needs; it is the mother's wellbeing that pays the price of a diet lacking in vitamins and minerals.
Nausea and vomiting can make eating difficult and while many doctors will tell you that eating is important, this is much easier said than done. If you are unlucky enough to suffer from bad morning sickness, try eating little and often as low blood sugar is said to make queasiness worse. Try to get as much food and fluid intake as possible, so eat whatever you can face, even if there is very little variety. A good pregnancy multivitamin can help make up for a diet ravaged by sickness.
Once the worst of the morning sickness has passed - and it will! - ensure that you do not consume too many calories, especially from junk food. The notion of having to eat for two is an myth and will simply lead to you piling on unwanted pounds. However, pregnancy is most definitely not a time for dieting and it is important to eat a diet rich in essential fats as well as vitamins and minerals. One word of comfort: if you opt to breastfeed the pounds will soon drop off you once the baby is born.
Fluid is very important and keeping a regular intake of the right kind of drinks is a big help towards boosting energy levels. Caffeine should be avoided in pregnancy and diuretics such as tea, coffee and cola should generally be kept to a minimum because they can lead to increased urination, a factor which can worsen dehydration.
Whilst it may be the last thing you feel like, some women have said that gentle exercise can help fight the effects of fatigue. A short stroll around the park or even some pregnancy-centric yoga can improve energy levels.
Fatigue in the early and late stages are very different to each other as when you have a big bump, everyone tends to be a lot more understanding. In the early days, many people may not be aware of the pregnancy, especially for the first 12 weeks when many women opt to keep it secret. This can mean a less than sympathetic attitude from those around you, while you are battling the worst of hormone surges and tiredness.
Pregnancy can be quite a scary time for some women, with the responsibility of carrying a baby coupled with the worry that something could go wrong. No words can adequately describe just how tired you are likely to feel and some women can feel quite anxious in case this is a sign that there is a problem. In all likelihood it is just an indication that your baby is growing well and getting your body to work hard, but if you have any concerns speak to your midwife or doctor, both of whom will be more than happy to provide reassurance.
Although the majority of women are delighted to be pregnant, it can be quite an isolating experience at times as many of your usual activities may be out of the question. Meeting other women at the same stage of pregnancy as you can really help to boost morale as well as provide some peace of mind that you are not the only one feeling the way you do. If you do not get the chance to do this at antenatal groups or pregnancy exercise classes, there are a number of online communities which allow women to provide support to each other via the internet. This can be especially valuable for first time mums.
Tiredness can make pregnancy a rough ride but learning to give yourself a break and napping when you get the chance will help you make it through. It will also prove to be good practice as you will need the very same coping techniques to get you through the sleepless nights once the little one arrives.