One of the most common, yet often overlooked, symptom in the first trimester is fatigue. With the plethora of life-changing events that seize your mind and body, there is little wonder that you’re fighting to stay awake through the day.
Causes of fatigue in early pregnancy
The fatigue you experience in early pregnancy is a reminder of what a monumental task your body is performing – building a tiny human cell by cell within nine months is no mean feat. Everyone would blame the hormones but they’re right. Your body is producing more blood to carry the nutrients necessary for your baby’s initial neural and physiological development. This means your heart has to work overtime causing an increased heart rate. Add lower blood sugar, blood pressure and iron levels to the mix – it is no wonder you’re a walking zombie.
Progesterone, a key hormone for strengthening the uterus lining, increases in early pregnancy and is also the culprit behind your lethargy. The spiked production of progesterone levels cause nausea at varying degrees for different women and needless to say, every ounce of energy you gather goes into projectile vomiting.
Finally, the emotional rollercoaster you’re on about this life-changing explosion of life will undoubtedly drain you to the point of exhaustion. Here’s a word of assurance – fatigue is not in your head, it’s real so don’t fight it!
(N)ever lasting lethargy
The good news is this extreme fatigue and lethargy wears off by Weeks 12 – 14 for most women, which is why the second trimester is often celebrated as the ‘honeymoon phase.’ Apart from rare cases of chronic nausea and exhaustion, the instances of struggling to stay awake are fortunately confined to the first few weeks till your body gets adjusted to the additional workload.
Beat the blues
- Listen to your body – Pregnancy fatigue is simply the body’s cue to slow down and move into a position of defence to prevent you from doing anything that could endanger the pregnancy. So heed your body’s signals and add a couple of cat naps into your day or step out of the office for short breaks.
- Nutritious snacks – Eating could be last on your mind at this point but small and frequent snacks of fresh and dried fruit, nuts and yoghurt will help maintain sugar levels and ensure you retain some nutrients essential to foetal development.
- Work it out – You may not feel up to do a run, but swimming, yoga or a simple brisk walk will give your system that burst of energy you need to get through the day.
- Avoid caffeine – Yes, this one is hard to resist especially if your eyelids are drooping post-lunch. Too much caffeine is not just bad for the baby but can also be dehydrating. Try replacing this with fresh juices or a refreshing shake.
- Supplements daily, diligently – If you’re struggling to keep food down, there is a high chance of not getting all the nutrients you really need to keep you going. Be diligent about your intake of folic acid, iron and other supplements your obstetrician prescribes.
- Healthy diet – Cutting down on the carbohydrates and maintaining a low-fat diet rich in iron and protein is key to combatting fatigue.
- Lie with your feet up – Keeping your feet elevated above your chest for about 15 minutes can help improve blood flow and leave you feeling energised.
- Sleep early – It’s as easy as that! This is the best time to compensate for all the rest you may be deprived of when the little human is out of your womb and in your arms.
Don’t feel guilty about saying NO to extra responsibilities or get demoralised by your limited abilities in early pregnancy. It is OK to be pampered. However if you experience breathlessness, palpitations or feel faint alongside your fatigue, it may be best to seek medical help to be sure there is nothing serious going on.