First trimester fatigue: How long it lasts, how to ease it

Sleepwalking through early pregnancy? Here’s how to cope with first trimester tiredness

Pregnant woman lying sideways on bed.

Is it normal to feel so tired during pregnancy?

Yes, although the extreme tiredness of the first trimester can come as quite a surprise. It can be an especially hard transition for those who are normally go-getters with lots of energy. Women who usually need only six hours of sleep at night may find they need nearly double that during these first weeks of pregnancy.

And for others, daytime tiredness is paired with trouble sleeping deeply or for more than a few hours at night. Nausea and vomiting can also be a big drain on your energy.

Why am I so tired?

Creating human life is a big job that takes lots of time and energy. Fatigue in the first trimester is a signal from your body to slow down and give it time to adjust to the incredible changes happening inside.

Several factors may contribute to first trimester pregnancy fatigue, including:

  • Hormones. Hormonal changes play a big role in making you feel tired, especially the hormone progesterone. This hormone rises sharply in the first trimester.
  • Increased blood volume. Your blood volume has doubled to ensure your baby is getting the nutrients it needs to grow. To accommodate this increase, your heart is pumping harder and stronger. This in turn increases your metabolism and lowers your blood sugar and blood pressure, adding to your fatigue.
  • Anemia. Iron levels can drop in pregnancy, resulting in iron-deficiency anemia. If you are experiencing extreme fatigue, talk to your provider about testing your iron levels.

How long will I feel like this?

For most women, the extreme fatigue of the first trimester is soon forgotten with the glow and boost in energy that comes with the second trimester. So, don’t worry if it seems like all you’re doing these first few weeks is lying around, dozing or napping. It’s normal. Although fatigue often returns in the third trimester because of disrupted sleep and increasing discomforts, this too will pass in time.

What can I do to feel better?

  • Sleep. Try to go to bed early and take naps when you can.
  • Adjust your schedule. There’s no need to fill every waking minute of your day with work and tasks. Recognize the things that can wait until tomorrow to allow yourself some much-needed rest. Reduce any extra job or social commitments during these first few weeks so you can be as productive as possible in your regular responsibilities.
  • Eat right and eat often. Protein and complex carbohydrates are your friends. Start your day with protein and eat small, frequent, healthy meals to help stabilize your blood sugar.
  • Exercise. A little exercise can energize you and may help you get some quality zzz’s at bedtime. Get up and walk around the office, do some deep stretches or take a break outside. When you can, go on a brisk 20-minute walk.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink enough fluids during the day. If you’re struggling with frequent urination during the night, limit your fluids several hours before bedtime.

What should you avoid? Squelch the urge to drink coffee or other caffeinated drinks to stay alert, as too much caffeine really isn’t good for your developing baby. Instead, drink plenty of water.

Tips to avoid sleepless nights

Pregnancy is tiresome work, but some women still have trouble sleeping when they do get the chance.

How can you sleep more comfortably while pregnant? Try these tips:

  • Get into a routine. Go to bed at around the same time each night.
  • Get in position. Sleep tilted to one side with pillows supporting your knees, back and belly. Lying on one side can help the baby get good blood flow, but it’s OK if you roll over onto your back during the night. Also, propping yourself up even slightly can help with heartburn.
  • Limit distractions. Keep your room comfortable and dark. Limit screen or phone time, TV watching and computer use in the bedroom.
  • Watch what you eat or drink. Stay hydrated with water throughout the day but limit it at night. Don’t eat immediately before sleeping as this can increase heartburn. Avoid spicy and acidic foods at dinner if your heartburn flares up at night.
  • Exercise. In addition to giving you an energy boost to fight fatigue, exercising every day helps you sleep better at night.
  • Relax. Try calming music, white noise, meditation, a warm bath or deep breathing to calm your restless mind.
  • Treat pain first. If you have back, hip or leg pain, try a heating pad before bed or take Tylenol before lying down to help soothe those aches.

If you’ve tried everything and still cannot sleep, talk to your doctor for more suggestions and recommendations.

Give yourself a break

It’s easy to feel guilty about not being able to do everything like you’re used to. It’s OK to step back, relax and pamper yourself.

Remember this is only temporary. Don’t let your fatigue put a damper on your pregnancy joy. You are creating life, and that’s definitely something to celebrate.

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Posted In Health Information, Pregnancy, Women's