By Tan Yi Lin
Pregnancy can be a very exciting and elating time. While some mothers-to-be enjoy a breezy nine months, others tend to feel tired most of the time; and this can sometimes dampen the happy mood. Your body starts acting up like you’ve never known it to and suddenly it seems to have a separate life of its own – one that feels totally sapped of energy and begs to be put to bed by 9pm every night. You even start wondering whether the body-snatchers stormed into your room last night and secretly swapped your body with that of a 94 year-old!
Why You’re Feeling Tired
If you’re in your first trimester, think of yourself as a baby-making machine whose gears are in action 24/7. You’re not only producing a baby – your body is working tremendously hard to grow an entire life-support system within itself in the form of increased blood volume, placenta and amniotic fluid. You should be feeling mighty accomplished! The increase in progesterone levels can also induce sleepiness and fatigue, and so can reduced blood sugar and blood pressure levels, to the point of making you feel as if you’re coming down with the flu. In addition, many women suffer from appetite loss, nausea and vomiting as a result of morning sickness. These can take a toll on your physical wellbeing and disturb your sleep even more, thus contributing to the sense of overwhelming fatigue. The good news is, symptoms of morning sickness and fatigue will start to ease after 12 weeks of pregnancy, and you can expect to get back your pre-pregnancy energy levels soon.
If you are in your third trimester, congratulations on surviving the first two trimesters – you have now reached the homestretch! However, the fatigue seems to be making a comeback, simply because you are carrying more weight around than before, which may also be causing you some restless nights.
How to Manage Fatigue
If you’re at work, it may be more difficult to snatch a catnap or two during lunchtime at your work place, especially if you have yet to break the news of your pregnancy to your colleagues. Find a quiet spot such as the office library or your car if you can’t put your head down on your desk. If you’re at home, just sit back and put your feet up for 15 minutes before continuing with the next task. Over the weekend, don’t beat yourself up for not being the weekend warrior that you used to be. Go ahead and treat yourself to that luxurious five-hour afternoon nap – you need it!
While you may be tempted to have lunch at your work station, it will be a good break to move away from your seat and eat out occasionally. The short walk and fresh air will help revitalise you. Learn some gentle stretches that you can do while seated at your desk to liven yourself up when you’re tired.
A regular workout helps to prevent fatigue during the day by keeping the muscles moving, the heart pumping and the blood flowing, and helps you sleep better at night. But don’t exercise too late into the night – finishing up and cooling down at least three hours before you hit the sheets will give your body and mind time to calm down and get ready for bed.
Make minor lifestyle changes
Meeting friends for dinner, watching a movie past 9pm or staying out for late-night drinks may no longer be possible or as enjoyable as before. In fact, you might feel pretty bad for morphing into a grumpy, antisocial party-pooper while everybody else is out having fun on a Friday night. Consider seeing your friends over lunch or on the weekend instead so that you can head home early and crawl into bed. At home, if your housekeeping chores involve sweeping, vacuuming or mopping, ask your partner to take these on while you help with easier chores such as sorting and folding the laundry, for example.
You need to eat healthily, not in large quantities. Too much food in one sitting can slow down your digestion and make you feel sleepy and lethargic. Choose energising foods like whole grains, lean meat, fruits and vegetables. Eating small and frequent meals can help keep energy levels up and your blood sugar at a constant level, as dips in the blood sugar level can leave you feeling drained. Keep healthy snacks within easy reach, such as at your desk or in your handbag to keep you going throughout the day. You should also refrain from caffeine (in the form of coffee, tea, soft drinks and chocolate) in the later part of the day as it may keep you awake late into the night.
Lying in bed for many hours while struggling to fall asleep or suffering from disturbed sleep will hamper your body from getting the sufficient rest that it needs. Here are some tips to promote good and restful sleep at night:
- Drink plenty of fluids during the day to keep hydrated but reduce the amount you consume later in the day, so that you don’t have to make repeated trips to the toilet in the middle of the night;
- Indigestion and heartburn resulting from a sluggish digestive system during pregnancy can cause some women considerable pain and discomfort at bedtime. Having a lighter dinner earlier can help prevent this. If a growling tummy is keeping you awake at night, having a milky drink or bowl of cereal can help you sleep in peace.
- Train yourself to sleep on your left side, especially if your growing breasts and tummy are making it uncomfortable to sleep on your stomach and back. Besides alleviating pressure on your chest, internal organs and back, sleeping on your left side has the additional benefit of improving blood flow from your heart to the rest of your body.
Take heart - while the fatigue may make getting through each day seem like an endless marathon, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Give yourself as many opportunities as possible to get ample and complete rest, which may become a rarity once the baby comes along!