There are lots of pregnancy symptoms which are common knowledge. Most women expect to feel at least a bit nauseous, everyone knows that pregnant women have to pee all the time, stretch marks may feel inevitable, and many women eagerly anticipate needing a larger bra size. But the constant fatigue catches many women off guard. Many of my patients report having to drag themselves out of bed, even after nine or ten hours, and feel ready for a nap hours later. Staying awake during the afternoon can feel like torture and evenings can be spent simply looking forward to bedtime. This is all well and good if you don’t work, don’t have other children, and can loll the day away on the couch. But that is not reality for most women.
So how does the average pregnant women handle the everlasting exhaustion?
It is challenging for many women to recognize that their body is suddenly different. You might not look all that different so it may come as a complete shock that you can’t stay up like you used to, and power through the next day on caffeine and adrenaline. Pregnancy hormones can be partly to blame, and there is not a lot one can do about it. Your body is building a baby and that takes energy. Which can drain you. But there are other things you can do to boost your energy stores.
Eat good food
I know this sounds obvious since everyone is always telling you to eat right for the baby but what you eat and how you eat can impact your fatigue level. Simple carbohydrates such as regular cereals, white bread, and baked goods can give you a boost of sugary energy briefly, but then you crash. Far better to eat protein and complex carbohydrates such as high fiber cereals and breads which stick with you and give you energy longer. And don’t skip breakfast!
Read more: 5 foods to avoid during pregnancy
No one talks about this but the fact is, most OBs advise their patients to limit caffeine consumption, and many pregnant women can’t stand the smell of coffee. If you were a Starbucks lover before you got pregnant, you might well be experiencing caffeine withdrawal. Ask your ob about how much caffeine is safe because although these coffee cafes serve beverages which can have hundreds of milligrams of caffeine per serving, tea has only about 40. And might provide the pick me up you need.
You might well need more hours of sleep per night than you did before you got pregnant. The key is how you feel in the morning. If your alarm wakes you out of a deep slumber and you want only to hit the snooze button, that indicates you didn’t get enough sleep. Do whatever you have to do to get to bed earlier in the evening. Recent research shows that the majority of pregnant women have insomnia throughout their pregnancy. This has to be a huge contributor to fatigue. Try to figure out what is negatively impacting your sleep. Trips to the bathroom? Increase fluid intake during the day and limit it later in the evening. Back pain? Ask your partner for a back rub before bed. Anxiety? Download some relaxation exercises onto your phone and use them at night to lull you back to sleep.
Read more: Pregnancy sleep problems–and how to fix them
Listen to your body. Most of us are used to ignoring signals. When we get a headache, instead of considering the fact that we might be tense and stressed, we pop some ibuprofen. When we can’t sleep, rather than contemplating the reasons we can’t sleep, we grab a pill. This is a time to tune in, and take care. When you are tired, rest. Don’t power on. At 8 pm when you are feeling drowsy, maybe your body is trying to tell you that you suddenly need 10 hours a night, not two more hours of surfing the internet or binging on Netflix.
Many women feel far more energetic during their second trimester. This is a good time to take advantage of the newfound energy. But wherever you are in your pregnancy, the reason for your fatigue might be solvable. Or at least bearable.