Tiredness in pregnancy

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Why am I so tired now that I’m pregnant?

It’s completely normal to feel tired, especially in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. That’s when huge changes take place in virtually every system in your body, making you feel extremely tired.

Even if you’re usually a night owl, you may find staying awake for a film, or even your favourite soap, virtually impossible now you’re that pregnant.

Throughout pregnancy your body works hard. But the biggest effort comes in the first trimester. That’s when your baby’s major organs are formed, and the placenta, your baby’s life-support system, starts growing.

Your hormone levels and metabolism are rapidly changing, while your blood sugar and blood pressure levels tend to drop.

If you’re used to sleeping on your back, you may be struggling to get used to sleeping on your side, which can make it harder to get enough shut-eye. But side-sleeping in the third trimester actually reduces the risk of stillbirth, so it’s well worth persevering.

This all contributes to a sense of constant tiredness, which can make you absent-minded and forgetful.

When is tiredness in pregnancy a worry?

Tiredness and low energy levels can sometimes mean that you’re too low in iron (anaemia), which is fairly common in pregnancy.

Your midwife will check your blood for anaemia during your booking visit and later on in pregnancy, as part of your routine blood tests.

Being tired and run-down can also make you feel a bit low. Occasionally, being exhausted and having trouble sleeping can be symptoms of depression.

If you have feelings of hopelessness and have lost interest in things you used to enjoy, speak to your GP or midwife. It’s important to get help now, because the depression may not lift after you’ve had your baby.

How long will my tiredness last?

It’s different for every mum-to-be, but you’re most likely to feel very tired in your first trimester and your third trimester. So you may be struggling with exhaustion before you’ve even told other people that you’re pregnant.

In your first trimester, fatigue is often one of the symptoms of pregnancy sickness, along with nausea, loss of appetite and sometimes vomiting.

If feeling and being sick are disturbing your sleep then you’ll feel even more tired and irritable. Try to get as much rest as you can, because fatigue can make nausea and vomiting much worse.

You may find that your pregnancy sickness eases by 16 weeks. But varying levels of nausea can last until 20 weeks, or even longer, for some women.

Most women don’t feel as tired in the second trimester, but you’ll probably lose steam again some time around 28 weeks. By this time, your bump will be getting bigger and it may be harder for you to get comfortable in bed and get a good night’s sleep.

Sleeping with a bump

It’s hard to rest comfortably with a bump getting in the way. Our video shows two positions that will help you sleep.More pregnancy videos

The extra weight you’re carrying later in pregnancy can make you feel tired during the day.

However, it’s not the same for every woman or even for every pregnancy. You may feel tired throughout the whole of your pregnancy, or you may hardly slow down at all. Many women say they’re far more tired in second or subsequent pregnancies.

What can I do to cope with tiredness?

1. Listen to your body’s signals. If you can, take naps or have an early night. You’ll need more sleep in early pregnancy, so rest whenever you can.

2. Try to adjust your schedule. You could reduce your hours at work, or if that’s not possible, perhaps adjust the hours when you work. Or, if you’re already a mum, give yourself a break now and then and leave your children with someone else, so you can catch up on your sleep. Ask your family and friends for support, and accept offers of help.

3. Try to make sure you’re eating well. A healthy diet will keep your energy levels up. Have a combination of:

Eating well while you’re feeling sick isn’t easy, but try to eat little and often. Having an empty stomach can make you feel even more queasy and tired. Keep your blood sugar levels on an even keel by nibbling small amounts of bland, dry food during the day. Try some of our healthy pregnancy snacks if you can’t face a main meal.

4. Take gentle exercise, even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing. Going for a walk or a swim can give you an energy boost, and help you to feel less tired.

5. Hang in there, because you’ll soon be in your second trimester and hopefully feeling more like yourself. You may even feel up to seeing a film or going on a weekend break before your newborn arrives, and sleepless nights start all over again.

Feeling tired won’t harm you or your baby, although it can be frustrating and wearing. Do try to get as much rest as you can, whenever you can.

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