Fatigue, Exhaustion or just plain old Tiredness is often considered one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. And your first trimester exhaustion can hit you totally out of the blue when you least expect it, especially if you have an unexpected bundle on the way.
If you are anything like me the thought of falling asleep on the job, or with your little one climbing all over you (for those of us with one or more kids already) is just not an appealing idea.
Heck if you are not yet aware of the pregnancy you may even wonder if there is something wrong with your body. Falling asleep whenever you sit down is not an easy thing to handle, but for some women, it is a constant during the first trimester.
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Let’s get one thing clear upfront, Pregnancy is HARD WORK! On top of an ever-increasing work out that requires you to carry around additional weight all day every day there are a whole host of changes going on in your body that makes carrying that weight more challenging at the same time.
Add to that the fact that this is not a workout you can walk away from whenever you need a break and it really does seem like running a marathon and stuffing every pebble in your backpack along the way.
Having said that, here are some of the heavy lifters that could be causing your first-trimester exhaustion:
Building the placenta,
And increasing your blood volume and a whole host of other things needed for the baby. In the earliest days of pregnancy, it makes sense that your body would throw a tone of energy into building the environment housing your baby. This is after all the life-support system baby will rely on every day until birth, so it is important to get it built as quickly and strongly as possible.
Yeah, the fun thing about pregnancy is there are a LOT of hormones involved. Many of which affect things like your sleeping habits and patterns. Specifically, in the early stages of pregnancy, the hormone progesterone gets dumped into your system in large amounts which can make you waaaaaaay more sleepy than normal.
Morning Sickness or Pregnancy Nausea can strike at any time of the day. And honestly, things like throwing up, take energy and make us feel gross. Add the extra effort of trying to figure out how quickly you can get to the bathroom from your desk and you have a recipe for fatigue.
Your body needs more energy to build the placenta and provide baby with the nutrients it needs to thrive. So your Metabolism is ramping up. This means that (especially if you are not eating enough) your body will start pulling more energy out of it’s stores wich also takes work…this decreases the blood sugar levels you have easily available for use and means you will be more tired more quickly as your body re-fuels.
Increase in Blood Volume
In the first trimester, your blood pressure tends to be lower than normal because of the increase in the blood produced. Blood is the main carrier of all the building blocks and energy that your body (and now your baby) use all the time.
Over the course of your pregnancy, your blood volume will increase by 50%. So on top of building the placenta and baby your body is also ramping up production on the supporting systems. Which chews up energy making (you guessed it) you more tired.
Pregnancy insomnia or other symptoms
Pregnancy can include a whole host of symptoms from heartburn, backache and restless leg syndrome which can cause or worsen insomnia.
Toss in the occasional leg cramp due to low levels of magnesium or other trigger and you are likely to be waking up more frequently as well.
Mental Stress / Health
Any pregnancy can bring with it some worry, and the simple thought of having a baby can cause a lot of stress or anxiety for anyone. I remember during my first pregnancy loading my days up with lists of everything from potential baby names, to items we have to buy, to things to do before baby arrives, to… well you get the picture.
The point is I was totally head over heels loving the fact that I was pregnant and mentally causing myself anxiety and stress at the same time.
Having a Baby is not one of the most relaxed endeavors all the time. And the mental buzz that these kinds of thoughts can create is exhausting to deal with.
Honestly, the most exhausting thing I’ve dealt with during pregnancy is all the external stuff. And during the first trimester, exhaustion hit me hardest when I had another child to raise already, a full-time job, and all the normal day-to-day living that goes with having a family, friends, and a life!
When Does Exhaustion Start?
Exhaustion is often seen as an early sign of pregnancy for a reason, and many women experience fatigue in the first trimester. This can start right at conception or implantation and last all through pregnancy. Though usually, the exhaustion gets better around the start of the second trimester.
Just keep in mind that the intensity and duration will vary not just from Woman to Woman, but from Pregnancy to Pregnancy. I for one was mildly tired with my first, with my second I started to fall asleep while talking…
How Exhaustion Feels in the First Trimester
It can feel like everyday tasks are impossible challenges. There were days where I would wake up in the morning and the idea of getting out of bed was daunting. Even just the thought of getting my feet to the edge of the bed and sitting up took a pep talk or serious prodding from my husband (usually followed by him pulling me up by my arms).
Some women report having challenges doing simple things like pouring their own coffee or putting their laptops in the fridge instead of to charge. I ended up repeatedly doing the same tasks over and over at work or literally repeating the same sentence in conversations. I even fell asleep at my desk on occasion.
How to Deal with Exhaustion during your First Trimester
Exhaustion at any time, but especially during pregnancy is a signal from your body that you need to take it easier. So be gentle with yourself and get some rest, you can try the following to see if maybe you can re-capture some of your pre-pregnancy energy:
Ask for Help
People love to help pregnant women, it’s a fact. So use it, let those around you know that you are just beat and need an extra hand so they can take on things you normally would do but don’t have the energy for.
Get your other kiddos involved
For obvious reasons having other kids at home already can be even MORE exhausting, so you may be extra tired. OR you may not notice the fatigue because you are just used to being so run out of energy already, or like me too busy to even notice.
Either way, it’s hard to make yourself a priority with little ones around. But you need to try, explain to them in a way they will understand that growing a baby is hard work and you are more sleepy as a result. Then ask for their help doing things around the house where they can.
For instance, my oldest helps with things like laundry and dishes daily now because when I was pregnant with our second he was able to pitch in on those kinds of tasks.
It can also help to get younger kids more focused on Dad at this stage. Of course, Mom will never be replaced, that just not possible. But get Dad to step in more on things like kissing boo-boos, and reading stories if you are the primary parent kiddos run to for those kinds of things. Not only will this help give you a break but will help when the baby is born and your older kids won’t be getting as much of your time at least in the early weeks.
If you have kids at home already you know you’ll have to divide your focus, but if this is your first take the time to enjoy taking care of yourself now. This isn’t the moment to try and be a super mom. Things like dishes, or vacuuming are not nearly as important as taking care of you and the soon to be bump!
Hire out Tasks
In this day and age, you can hire people to help with all sorts of things. From hiring a Maid or Cleaning Service to keep your house spotless, or ordering your groceries for delivery online. Take those annoying tasks that sap your energy and hand them off to someone else.
Or alternately, buy something that handles the workload for you. Like one of those Robots that vacuum or mop, bonus train the kids to tidy up the floor then have them set it going as one of their daily chores.
Decline the Unnecessary
Especially when it comes to all the extra social commitments, you don’t need to be at everything. Start getting more selective with where you spend your time, you’ll end up enjoying it more when you do go out because you’ll have the energy to.
Most of us know to expect nesting to start closer to when the baby is going to be born. However, it can (and often does) strike at various stages of pregnancy in different intensities.
For instance, in my first pregnancy, it was a rather mild “I should likely clean more” until a couple of days before the baby was born. But with my second…well it hit hard in the first trimester and I just wanted to “do it all” until I had to stop for medical reasons!
If this is kicking in make sure you are asking for help! I didn’t this last time and ended up dealing with a muscle separation called Diastasis Recti in early pregnancy which made it harder to do most things for the rest of the pregnancy.
Declutter the Crap
I know this likely sounds like more work but stay with me. Decluttering some of the stuff that is lying around but not being used will actually mean you have more energy because you stop thinking about ditching all that stuff you don’t need.
I’m not recommending going into full-blown throw-it-all-away mode here, just those things that you wanted to get rid of but haven’t gotten around to yet.
Chances are you are going to think about getting rid of them later when the nesting mode hits full force. The problem then is that you may not be able to physically lift some of the bulkier or heavier items so ditch them now. Oh, and with the big or bulky ask for help with those 😉 let someone feel good for helping the pregnant lady they know.
Move your Bedtime
Most of us don’t have the luxury of sleeping in every day, so move that bedtime earlier. I know it seems kinda obvious that if you are tiered getting more sleep makes sense but sometimes we are just too tired to see these things.
Also, watch how you feel after if you are waking up groggy or feel like you need a lot of caffeine all the time chances are you are not getting the right amount of sleep (or you are addicted to caffeine).
A good rule of thumb is to sleep in 1.5-hour increments, as this works with the natural sleep rhythm the human adult has. If you have kids in the house that sleep in your room or you are breastfeeding your rhythm will have modified to match your kids so a similar sleep routine or timing will work better.
Add a Nap
Naps are a GOD SEND for dealing with exhaustion in the first trimester. If you work a job try naping on your lunch break (just make sure you eat first or can eat at your desk).
In both my pregnancies I used to head out to my vehicle and set the driver’s seat flat as I could and snooze on my lunch. Please make sure you set a timer or alarm to wake you to be back in time though okay?
On your days off curl up for a nap in your own bed at home.
Make more time to Relax
Sometimes just putting your feet up for a few minutes, or grabbing a book, or even putting on some relaxing music for a few minutes can help you get some energy back.
Our bodies work better when they are properly hydrated so drink plenty of water, and cut back on things like caffeine and sugary drinks. If you are getting up to pee frequently during the night then try drinking less water a few hours before bedtime and get more in earlier in the day.
To help your energy levels stay steadier you need to fuel up with the good stuff! Avoiding things like sugar and reducing your caffeine can also help you avoid things like energy spikes which are usually followed by energy lows or crashes. This can also help with a steady and healthy weight gain during pregnancy too!
To fuel up with the best make sure you are following your Health Care Provider’s recommendations on healthy eating during pregnancy and focus on healthy, long-lasting energy boosters like protein and complex carbs.
You’ll also want to make sure you are getting enough food into your system which can be a challenge if you are dealing with morning sickness but is worth the effort.
A healthy, well-balanced diet is always a good idea.
It’s a good practice to eat smaller meals more often. By fueling up more frequently it becomes easier to keep your blood sugar levels more even. So resist skipping a meal and opt for smaller more frequent mini-meals and snacks.
Do you like to “move-it, move it?”
Believe me I know that the couch looks inviting, and the idea of a Netflix marathon sounds really good right now! Especially if you are cuddled up with hubby and whatever you may be craving… but if you can get up and move around a bit, or even go for a short walk you may find that is more energizing than your fav show to fall asleep to.
So take a simple walk around the block, or park, or find a prenatal yoga class to help you feel peppier. Not only can the movement help your energy levels but it can improve your mood and help you sleep at night. And that doesn’t even begin to get into the benefits for both you and your baby.
Can fatigue hurt my baby?
For most women exhaustion during pregnancy is a challenge but does not harm the baby. After all, your body is tackling this amazing job of growing another human being and it is normal to feel exhausted from all the work that takes.
When to call your Doctor/Midwife
Ok, Pregnancy Exhaustion is pretty normal, so normal that many of us use it as an early sign of pregnancy. But if you are at all concerned about your health call your health care provider to help rule out any underlying conditions that could be either causing your symptoms or making them worse.
Conditions like anemia (iron deficiency) can cause some problems when left untreated. As this is easy to treat through things like diet changes or taking an iron supplement a blood sample and chat with your doctor could make your exhaustion easier to handle.
In rare cases, extreme fatigue could be a symptom of chronic fatigue syndrome. While it normally isn’t harmful to the baby it has been linked to more serious forms of morning sickness/nausea known as hyperemesis gravidarum.
Either way, if you have concerns you should always talk to your Health Care Provider for options and plans that are specifically designed to meet your needs and situation.