How do I help pregnancy fatigue?

Q: I'm completely exhausted all the time now that I'm pregnant. What can I do?

A: There's tired, and then there's pregnancy tired. It's normal to feel like you've got the world's worst case of jet lag when you're pregnant, especially in the first trimester. In fact, for some women, this early pregnancy fatigue is even more of an adjustment than morning sickness. Even though it's frustrating, being tired is actually a good sign, since (like nausea) it indicates that your pregnancy hormones are circulating and your body is hard at work helping your baby grow. There are many reasons why you feel tired all the time now, including:

- You're not sleeping as well these days. - Chronic morning sickness is exhausting and makes it hard for you to eat, which is how you get re-energized. - Increased levels of the hormone progesterone can make you extra sleepy. - Your heart is pumping harder to accommodate an increase in blood volume. - Sharing vital nutrients (like iron) with your baby can leave you deficient and fatigued. - Carrying extra weight is tiring (this is mainly in the third trimester).

You should note that extreme fatigue, while common in pregnancy, is sometimes a sign of hypothyroidism, so you should mention it on your next doctor visit. But if that's ruled out, all you can really do about this fatigue is to give in to it. Rest when you need to and whittle down your to-do list so you don't get as run-down. Make an effort to turn in a half-hour or hour earlier at night so you're getting a solid eight hours of sleep -- or more if you feel you need it. Eating a low-fat diet that's high in iron and protein (if you can stomach it) may also help, as can light exercise, like taking a brisk walk when you start to feel like you'll conk out at work. Above all, be patient and take care of yourself: Your energy will most likely return in the second trimester.

Copyright 2009

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