Why Your Energy Tanks During Pregnancy—and How to Get It Back
Feel fatigue 24/7? These five tips from ob-gyns can help.
If you're a mama-to-be, you can *probably* relate to this: One day, exhaustion hits you hard. And this isn't the regular kind of tired you feel after a long day. It comes out of nowhere, and it's a never-felt-anything-like-it, can-barely-make-it-through-the-day kind of tired. But while it might stink (and make going to work or taking care of other kids seriously challenging), just know that being exhausted is totally normal.
"Fatigue, as well as nausea and emotional fragility, are the three most common complaints in early pregnancy," says Jenna Flanagan. M.D., an ob-gyn at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. One study published in the journal PLOS One found 44 percent of women felt totally gassed in the early months. (Just to play things safe, make sure to mention your fatigue to your ob-gyn. Sometimes, tiredness can be a sign of other issues, such as anemia.)
You can blame being so darn tired on a whole slew of changes, the first of which is hormonal. One hormone in particular, progesterone, which rises throughout pregnancy, can lower blood sugar levels, decrease blood pressure, and cause sleepiness, explains Dr. Flanagan. (Related: Shop Everything That Got Me Through My First Trimester of Pregnancy)
Feeling nauseated-another lovely symptom of the first trimester!-and emotional, coupled with problems sleeping can exacerbate fatigue even more, notes Frederick Friedman, Jr., M.D., director of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive services at the Mount Sinai Health System in New York.
Then there's the whole creating a life thing. "In order to optimize baby's growth, mom's activity might slow down," he says. After all, developing new tissue and life in your uterus is no easy task and can deplete your energy.
The good news? Fatigue tends to peak in the first trimester when your body is going through rapid changes (maybe for the first time), says Dr. Flanagan. And while not operating at your usual speed can be frustrating, there are ways to combat tiredness. Here, what ob-gyns suggest.
1. Don't push yourself *too* hard, but definitely keep exercising.
If you're extremely tired, your body's trying to tell you something-likely that it's time to rest. So, first and foremost, don't overdo it.
That said, if you're used to daily Spin classes or long runs and suddenly stop your exercise routine in its tracks, it could cause your overall energy levels to sink, and you might notice your mood take a dip thanks to a change in endorphin levels, says Dr. Friedman. "It's important to stay active in pregnancy if you're accustomed to it," he says. (Related: 4 Ways You Need to Change Your Workout When You Get Pregnant)
A few things to remember: With a baby on the way, your heart rate's going to be higher than normal, which means you'll feel the effects of exercise (you're out of breath, you're sweating) sooner and from lower intensities. This will continue as your baby grows, too. (Working out pregnant is pretty much comparable to doing everything with a bag of weights.)
This is all to say that you can still go to your Spin classes or out for a jog, but you might just have to crank down the resistance or cut back your mileage. As for strength training, Dr. Friedman suggests decreasing weight and increasing reps. Fortunately, research finds that even low- to moderate-intensity exercise can quash fatigue and improve energy in pregnancy.
2. Give in to your desire to sleep.
Here's the other side of the coin: If you're craving your bed or feel your eyelids closing, it's probably best to make time for shut-eye, says Dr. Friedman. In fact, the National Institutes of Health notes that pregnant women could need a few more hours of sleep every night or a few naps during the day. Look at it as helping your baby: "You don't want to do anything that stresses you physically," he says (like being sleep deprived). "Resting can help maximize blood flow to the uterus."
3. Snack frequently on easy-to-digest, energizing foods.
If you're a breakfast, lunch, and dinner kind of gal, consider eating smaller, more frequent meals, suggests Dr. Friedman. While you might not *want to*, keeping your stomach full can help fend off nausea. And it's probably better physiologically and for energy levels than three set meals, helping you to avoid fluctuating blood sugar levels that can mess with energy, he says.
"The size of the stomach is also compressed with the baby pushing on it, so, really, it is better to eat four to five smaller snacks a day as opposed to trying to stuff it all into bigger meals," adds Dana Hunnes, Ph.D., R.D., a senior dietitian at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
Super nauseated? Energy can come in the form of more appealing foods that are easy on the stomach: pineapple, berries, whole grains, hummus, whole-wheat crackers, and non-gassy vegetables such as zucchini, says Hunnes.
4. Fill up on plant-based proteins.
You might be nibbling at bagels or feeling like you can only stomach toast. But if you're able, protein will give you more energy than carbs, says Dr. Friedman. Plant-based options are your best and healthiest bets, says Hunnes. Aim for protein options that don't smell (buh-bye hard-boiled eggs) if you're sick to your stomach. Instead, go for peanut butter, hummus, or avocado. (Related: 5 Weird Health Concerns That Can Pop Up During Pregnancy)
5. Consider vitamin B6.
Feel like nausea is what's draining you? Pick up some vitamin B6. The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends 10 to 25 mg of the vitamin three or four times a day to ease nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (something that can *seriously* drain your energy). The vitamin can even help improve your mood and sleep. Just make sure to touch base with your ob-gyn before starting any supplements.