You may have noticed that your energy levels during pregnancy can change month to month and even day to day. Both physical changes of pregnancy and the mental toll of adjusting to being pregnant cause fatigue. With these six healthy tricks, you can jumpstart your body and mind. The Pulse wants to help you feel more awake and ready to enjoy your pregnancy.
What Causes a Lack of Energy in Pregnancy?
It has not been this tough to get out of bed since you were a teenager, correct? There are many reasons why pregnant women feel tired, unmotivated, exhausted, depleted, and downright sloth-like. These include:
- Hormone changes
- Weight gain
- Difficulty sleeping (falling asleep, staying asleep, insomnia)
- Drinking less caffeine
- The physical and metabolic challenges of growing a placenta, expanding your blood volume by 50%, and creating an entirely new human from scratch!
- Physical discomforts (joint pain, restless leg syndrome, frequent nighttime pee breaks, and heartburn, to name a few)
- Anemia, typically around 20 weeks of pregnancy as blood volume expands and depletes your iron stores
- Gestational Diabetes, screened for at 26-28 weeks, can cause fatigue and be challenging to separate from usual pregnancy weariness.
When To Check With Your Doctor about Your Low Energy Levels
- When Your Pee is Dark Yellow
Dehydration causes lethargy, so make sure you are drinking enough water and make sure excessive vomiting isn’t further dehydrating you.
- You have a history of thyroid changes or take thyroid medication.
Pregnancy impacts your thyroid. Fatigue can be a symptom of low thyroid levels (hypothyroidism).
- You feel dizzy or lightheaded. You could have low iron levels (anemia), low blood sugar levels, or be dehydrated. Make sure to eat regular, balanced meals, drink plenty of water, and get up slowly from sitting. Check with your doctor if you frequently feel dizzy, faint, or have headaches with your dizziness.
- You feel exhausted, are peeing more than is normal for you, and seem thirsty all of the time. Gestational Diabetes can cause these symptoms.
- Your fatigue is severe, lasts all day, every day, and seems to last throughout your entire pregnancy. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is not harmful to your baby, but your doctor might have suggestions for how to help you feel better.
- You feel sad, hopeless, notice a change in your appetite, or have thoughts of harming yourself. Depression is common in pregnancy and nothing to be ashamed of. Your doctor can help you find the best kind of treatment with therapy or medication to help you.
When Do Most Women Feel Pregnancy Exhaustion?
Extreme fatigue can be one of the first signs women have that they are pregnant. High levels of the hormone progesterone are the cause of the first-trimester fatigue so many women encounter. Typically, women regain some energy in their second trimester and then begin feeling sluggish again in their third trimester. However, as with all pregnancy-related symptoms, not all women struggle with low energy and may experience fatigue at different times besides the first and third trimesters.
Don’t Succumb To Your Inner Sloth
Looking for ways to jumpstart your body and brain? Pregnancy is exhausting, but trying these six tricks may help you ignore the constant call of the couch or your bed.
- Get more sleep
Easier said than done, but sometimes prioritizing your sleep for one or two nights can make all the difference. Maybe it is borrowing a friend’s pregnancy pillow or asking the grandparents to take care of your younger child for a night — do what you have to get a solid 8-10 hours of interrupted sleep. Other strategies for sleeping better during pregnancy are relaxing in a warm bath before bed, turning off all electronics one hour before bed, or hitting the hay one hour earlier than your usual bedtime.
- Stay active.
It seems counterintuitive, but getting exercise actually increases how energetic you feel. Exercise releases a natural shot of those feel-good endorphins your pregnancy-weary brain is craving. Consider scheduling a regular exercise class or walk with a friend — it is harder to back out at the last minute if it means standing up a friend.
- Take a load off.
Even if you have to be at work all day, take a break and elevate your feet and legs up on a chair or your desk. Even better, try lying on your back with your legs up the wall (with a pillow under your right hip). Raising your feet and legs above the level of your heart helps decrease swelling, eases pain and calf cramps, helps with restless legs and can give you a jolt of energy. This is the same reason why wearing compression stockings also helps your legs feel less tired if you are on your feet all day.
- Pass the protein and skip the sugar.
Many of us are accustomed to reaching for a candy bar or a cup of coffee when we need a quick energy boost. Unfortunately, both of these are only short-lived jolts that can leave you feeling even more tired. Protein-rich snacks are a smarter way to give your body (and brain) a long-lasting, constant supply of pregnancy-friendly energy. A scoop of peanut butter on whole-wheat crackers, a hard-boiled egg, or some yogurt with fresh berries all can keep your blood sugar (and energy levels) from bottoming out. In addition, eating six small meals instead of three large ones can keep your blood sugar and energy steady.
Pack snacks in your car, purse, workout bag, and at work to be ready for those times when your tank starts running on empty. Light snacking every couple of hours will help keep some food in your stomach if you struggle with morning sickness and keep you alert and awake, despite nausea and fatigue.
- Stick to acupuncture.
In acupuncture, a trained practitioner places tiny needles in key spots called meridians all over your body. Practitioners of acupuncture believe that the needles can interrupt the messaging between different parts of your body or better tune communication to improve your bodily functions. One 2019 review of 16 studies found acupuncture reduced fatigue severity better than other similar alternative therapies in those with diagnosed chronic fatigue syndrome. While studies of acupuncture in pregnant women are limited, we know that acupuncture is relatively safe during pregnancy. At the very least, scheduling 1-2 acupuncture sessions per week guarantees you some quiet self-care time when you can lie down and recharge, regardless of what those tiny needles are doing!
- Seek out foods rich in Magnesium and Vitamin B6.
Foods that contain a lot of Vitamin B6, like bananas, chickpeas, chicken, or mixed dry-roasted nuts, are especially good for revving up your energy level. Vitamin B6 helps your body recharge and boosts serotonin levels, improving your mood and making you feel more energized. The one-two punch of easing first-trimester fatigue and morning sickness makes Vitamin B6 a common supplement taken by many pregnant women.
While pregnancy requirements for magnesium in pregnancy (350mg daily) are not that much higher for non-pregnant women (310-320 mg), not all prenatal vitamins contain magnesium. Plus, research suggests that getting adequate magnesium during pregnancy can help prevent preterm labor and other pregnancy complications. Magnesium is best absorbed from your diet, and it is relatively easy to meet the pregnancy magnesium requirements if you eat a balanced diet. Instead of taking an additional magnesium supplement, add in magnesium-rich foods such as black beans, edamame, or chia seeds. Almonds pack a magnesium super-punch, are high in protein, fiber) and are great portable snacks.
Get Ready to Get Up and Go
It can be hard to cope or plan, never knowing whether your body will feel like getting-up-and-going or sleeping on the sofa all day. Thank goodness for these tips and tricks try on those days or weeks when your energy levels are flagging. While you may be able to jumpstart your pregnancy energy levels temporarily, don’t ignore what your body might be telling you. Give yourself permission to nap and rest. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get everything done in a day that you had hoped to — remember your body is busy growing a baby!
Zhang Q, Gong J, Dong H, Xu S, Wang W, Huang G. Acupuncture for chronic fatigue syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Acupuncture in Medicine. 2019;37(4):211-222. doi:10.1136/acupmed-2017-011582