There is perhaps no better way to describe pregnancy fatigue than to say it’s an exhaustion unlike anything you’ve ever known. On the plus side, this means that those early months of pregnancy may bring you some of the deepest sleep you’ll experience in your life. Alternately, you may want to hit the snooze button on, well, everything.
But, hey — cut your body some slack. After all, it’s busy baking up an entire tiny human. Still, fatigue is a common pregnancy symptom, so it’s helpful to know what you can expect.
When does pregnancy fatigue kick in?
You may start to feel unusually tired as early as the first week after conception. For this reason, women often cite pregnancy fatigue as one of the earliest indicators that they’re expecting. In fact, per the American Pregnancy Association, pregnancy fatigue is most common in the first trimester. It then tends to dissipate during the second trimester (no wonder it’s called “The Happy Trimester”) and return during the home stretch.
How will you know when it hits? In an exploratory study published by the US National Library of Medicine, 90 percent of 25- to 30-year old women polled experienced fatigue — and this fatigue significantly impacted their ability to maintain their personal and social activities.
What causes fatigue during pregnancy?
There’s a logical reason pregnancy fatigue often plagues women during their first trimester — your newly pregnant body is a swirling vortex of increased blood and hormonal changes. Things like a spike in progesterone levels and your body adapting to its new physical demands can zap you of energy.
In later stages of pregnancy, fatigue may also be exacerbated by a lack of sleep. Between raging heartburn and your burgeoning belly, there are plenty of reasons you can’t get comfortable enough at night to enjoy quality slumber. We’d be remiss not to remind you that roughly 100 of those reasons will be all the times you get up to go pee in the middle of the night now.
What can you do to help with fatigue?
This may sound deceptively simple, but arguably the best way to combat pregnancy fatigue is to get some rest. If you feel tired and have the opportunity or ability to indulge that feeling, take a nap. Spend a lazy day inside binge-watching Netflix. It goes without saying that slowing down can be easier said than done. Still, you should stock up on that super-deep-pregnancy-fatigue sleep however and whenever you can.
You might also have to master the art of saying no. If your commitments — whether they’re personal or professional — start to feel overwhelming, scale them back for the sake of saving your energy. Eating a well-balanced diet, staying hydrated, and incorporating moderate activity (think a 30-minute walk after lunch) can all help you feel more energized, too.
What should you avoid?
While it’s totally understandable to feel like you need to mainline coffee just to stay awake, it’s advisable to avoid caffeine during pregnancy (or at least limit your intake). It’s better to drink plenty of water, instead.
Is pregnancy fatigue ever a cause for concern?
Fortunately, pregnancy fatigue typically doesn’t negatively impact anything but your social life. It’s simply your body’s response to the monumental task of harboring a little human in your uterus. So, in other words, it’s normal. However, if you have any concerns about how tired you feel, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor. In rare cases, underlying conditions like anemia or chronic fatigue syndrome could be contributing to your exhaustion and require attention. Most likely, though, you’ve got nothing to worry about (other than figuring out your favorite napping spot).
Written by Julie Sprankles.