Pregnancy fatigue is commonly seen during the first and the third trimesters. However, the symptoms and experiences of fatigue may vary from one woman to another. Fatigue or weariness is defined as the feeling of tiredness or lack of energy. Some women might feel fatigued throughout their pregnancy, while it might last for a few weeks in some. However, if the fatigue continues for longer along with other symptoms such as lethargy or disinterest, consult your doctor.
Read on to know more about pregnancy fatigue causes and ways to cope with it.
Is Extreme Fatigue Normal In Early Pregnancy?
Nutritional and energy demands increase during pregnancy as your body prepares to nurture a new life, making pregnancy fatigue a common experience. Besides hormonal changes, the following factors during pregnancy may add to the tiredness (1).
- Back and pelvic pain
- Morning sickness (nausea and vomiting)
- Stress and anxiety
- Sleep disturbances
What Causes Fatigue During Pregnancy?
Physical and emotional changes, along with hormonal alterations, make you feel tired while you prepare to grow a baby. During the first trimester, fatigue may be due to:
- Development of the placenta: The placenta is an organ that develops inside the uterus during pregnancy to supply oxygen and nutrients to the growing fetus and filter out the waste it generates. It causes a radical increase in the requirement of various resources of the body for growing its cellular structure and the blood supply network (2).
- Hormonal surge: A massive surge in the hormone progesterone is most likely to be responsible for the overwhelming tiredness encountered early in pregnancy. Progesterone is required to maintain pregnancy and helps in the growth of the fetus, but it slows down metabolism, causing fatigue. Hormones such as estrogen and progesterone may also cause mood swings that contribute to overall fatigue (1).
- Increased blood supply and metabolism: Extra blood needs to be created and pumped to support two lives. The metabolic rate increases to supply enough nutrients. This increased workload on your system can tire you out.
Once you reach the second trimester, your energy will return as your body adapts to the changes. It is known as the “Happy trimester,” and would-be mothers utilize this time to complete important tasks. Some women, however, may feel fatigued even during this time.
- Increased weight from your baby bump as your baby grows fast inside the womb. It makes moving about difficult.
- Sleep disturbances as it becomes difficult to position yourself properly with the baby bump. Instances of fetal movement, leg cramps, heartburn, and shortness of breath also increase during this period as the expanding uterus literally presses on the organs to position itself (4).
- Frequency of urination further increases during the third trimester with an increase in pressure on the urinary bladder. The act itself is tiresome and may disturb your sleep as well.
If fatigue is very severe and persistent, then it may indicate an underlying disorder such as (5):
- Hyperemesis gravidarum
- Gestational Diabetes
How To Cope With Fatigue During Pregnancy?
Fatigue of various degrees can make your pregnancy uncomfortable. It may be eased in the following ways.
- Rest and sleep: Take adequate rest and breaks throughout the day. Take short naps during the day, if possible but avoid napping before your usual sleep time. If you are a working woman and unable to take an afternoon nap, find a place to sit with your feet up during breaks. Try to sleep earlier than usual.
- Sleep positions: Try to adopt sleep positions to increase comfort during late pregnancy. Lying on your side with knees bent instead of sleeping on your back may make you comfortable. Some healthcare providers advise sleeping on your left side to improve blood flow and keep pressure off the liver. Use pillows under your stomach and between your legs to ease the pressure (6).
- Eat healthy: Take healthy meals to address increased nutritional demands, but in small portions at a time. Small, frequent meals help with digestion and nausea.
- Stay hydrated: Take enough water throughout the day but reduce your water intake before bedtime to avoid getting up at night to urinate.
- Moderate exercise: It is important to be physically active for overall health during pregnancy. According to the physical activity guidelines for Americans, a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity of moderate intensity is advised per week (7). Brisk walking, swimming, or yoga for a total of 30 minutes per day, five days a week, helps increase energy, aids sleep, and enhances mobility. However, make sure that the exercise is energizing you and not exhausting you. Consult your doctor to know the activities suitable for you (8).
- Avoid caffeinated beverages: Caffeine may provide an energy surge, but consuming caffeine post-meals may meddle with your sleep. About 200 milligrams per day is the recommended safe level of caffeine (about two cups of coffee), but it is better to avoid it to prevent sleep disturbances, which may contribute to fatigue. Check with your healthcare provider to know how safe it is for you to consume caffeine (9).
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How long does fatigue last in pregnancy?
Fatigue is a common symptom during the first trimester of pregnancy. Although they tend to get better during the second trimester, it is usually seen to return during the third trimester (3). However, as every pregnancy is different, some women experience it, and some do not.
2. When should I be worried about fatigue in pregnancy?
If your fatigue is persistent and accompanied by signs of dizziness or weakness, you should consult your doctor.
Fatigue is common during pregnancy and is not harmful to your growing baby unless some underlying medical condition is responsible for it. Do not hesitate to discuss any unusual tiredness with your healthcare provider during your prenatal visits. Take adequate rest, relax, and pamper yourself. Accept any help offered by friends and family in day-to-day activities so that you are not overworked and can keep up with your baby’s growth.
- Fatigue is common during pregnancy due to hormonal changes, stress, anxiety, and sleep disturbances.
- It is important that you rest well in a comfortable sleeping position to prevent fatigue.
- Take ample amounts of water and healthy fluids to stay hydrated. Maintain a healthy, sufficient diet.
- Avoid too much caffeine, and choose a convenient physical activity that helps you stay active and facilitates undisturbed sleep during pregnancy.
- Pregnancy – signs and symptoms.
- What is the placenta?
- Fatigue During Pregnancy.
- Cristina A. Reichner (2015) Insomnia and sleep deficiency in pregnancy.
- Pregnancy complications.
- Problems sleeping during pregnancy.
- Healthy Pregnant or Postpartum Women.
- Pregnancy and exercise.
- Pregnancy and Nutrition.