Pregnancy = Tired
If this rings true for you, you are experiencing pregnancy fatigue. I understand that being extremely tired during pregnancy is frustrating. It can impact your productivity or your sense of competency at work. Being exhausted makes it harder to prioritize making a healthy dinner or getting some exercise. And many expecting couples go through a period where mom-to-be just wants to crash after supper and has no energy left to go out, hang out, or get anything done around the house. Truly finding a way to manage your fatigue is a central aspect of your wellbeing that will impact so many areas of your life.
If you are exhausted during pregnancy you are not alone. Fatigue in pregnancy is a common experience affecting up to 96% of pregnant women, especially fatigue in early pregnancy and after the 36th week of gestation. If you are newly pregnant take heart! Fatigue usually gets dramatically better around 15 weeks, and when it comes back on at the end of pregnancy it usually isn’t the totally-wiped-out exhaustion you may be feeling now, but rather a weariness or slowing down as your body and baby reach their maximum weight. Although fatigue usually doesn’t last throughout your whole pregnancy, it is a significant part of pregnancy for many women, and will visit you often throughout the process. Figuring out how to manage your fatigue is very worthwhile!
Acceptance is Half the Battle
Part of the management of fatigue in pregnancy is acceptance that it exists. Perhaps it is even valuable. Imagine with me, for a moment, that you treasured your exhaustion. Instead of feeling frustrated or down when your energy leaves you, imagine that you enter a dreamy haze where the mind slows, calm predominates, and you find your mind drifting off to a place where you are mesmerized by the miracle taking place within you. You indulge your curiosities about becoming a mom or who your baby will become. Your turn within and find there a graceful, feminine strength. You rest on your partners love or the beauty in the world.
This is an alternative way of experiencing fatigue. It is possible when we are truly free to relish in our exhaustion: free from other duties and demands on our time, and free from judgements, external or our own.
I believe fatigue is actually here to serve you during pregnancy. Being tired, and resting, can bring you many gifts. These can be more time alone with your partner, strengthening your bond as a couple, reserves of physical energy needed for the incredible demands of pregnancy, connection to your inner self, and a chance to bond with your unborn baby. Fatigue is not simply something to try to get rid of but also something to recognize, accept, appreciate and indulge in when possible.
Enjoying and benefiting from your fatigue requires two steps:
One: Create More Freedom to Be Tired
- Eliminate unnecessary work and busy-ness. Life is long, and there will be other seasons for giving. During your pregnancy, say no to committees, pass on over-time, limit your community involvements, ask siblings to share in the care of other family members. Let your friends know that you appreciate them but that you’re scaling back for a few months. Decline some social engagements and stay home.
- Make sure your partner understands how tired you are, and the importance of rest. Communication is key. Spend some time dreaming together about how you can enjoy life as a tired couple. Let them know that being with you in your fatigue and taking on more household tasks are a huge support.
- Drop the negative self-talk. If you feel worthless when you lay around or fear you may resemble a bloated, beached whale, it’s time to turn in those thoughts for a new focus. Remind yourself that resting is a gift to your baby and it also boosts your personal physical and mental health. Taking care of you both is your number one job, and you deserve kudos for doing it well in a culture where you might suffer some criticism for doing so. It’s not that anyone doesn’t think you should do what’s best for your baby, it’s just that they are misinformed about how crucial your rest is. Focus your mind on visions of love, and allow yourself to enjoy this time.
Two: Create Some Special Pregnancy Memories Relishing in Your Fatigue
- Take a pleasantly warm bath (not hot) when you get home from work. Add relaxing oils, and spend 20 minutes allowing both your mind and body to drift.
- Ask your partner to read aloud to your baby while you lie and rest.
- See a massage therapist, acupuncturist, cranialsacral or reiki practitioner regularly.
- Lie on the earth under a big shade tree or beneath the clouds.
- Listen to a birth meditation CD.
- Ask your partner to simply lay still with you, holding you or stroking your hair or feet.
- Ask them to spend 20 minutes doing the loving-touch guided relaxation.
When it’s Not Possible to Savor Your Sleepiness: Relief for Pregnancy Fatigue
Obviously rest isn’t always possible for purposeful, passionate women, nor would hours on end of deep relaxation create a satisfied, balanced life. Good energy is a joy, and there are measures that go a long way towards boosting your energy during pregnancy. Rest is one of your body’s physical needs. Connection with your partner, the earth, and spirit are emotional needs that can be met during rest. Meeting your additional physical and emotional needs will help optimize your energy so that you can enjoy the things that remain part of your life after appropriate reduction of your life activities.
Maternity Metabolism: Supporting digestion during pregnancy.
Metabolism, greek for “change,” is the set of all chemical changes on the cellular level that sustain life by breaking food down into usable parts and building up structures such as proteins and babies. Metabolism is the central activity of life. As we well know, pregnancy changes many things – our cellular metabolism certainly among them! Change of change (metabolism). No wonder pregnancy is exhausting.
The metabolic changes of pregnancy would fill a very large physiology text book. Your body is making remarkable shifts in the way you process and store food, energy reserves, and physical matter in order to create a baby and sustain both your own and your baby’s essential metabolic activities. One of the best ways to support this process is by optimizing digestion. Healthy digestion begins with healthy food, and also requires enzymes, vitamins, minerals, beneficial bacteria, and oxygen. Boosting your digestion will result in greater energy.
The following measures may help you boost your energy. They will help your body get the nutrients, energy, and the physical building blocks it requires during pregnancy.
Eliminate or reduce empty calories: soda pop, white bread, refined sugar, alcohol, caffeine, ho-hos and swedish fish.
- Avoid fast food and trans-fats: switch to natural peanut butter, skip the deep-fat frier. Buy food that will rot if you don’t eat it soon.
- Increase dark leafy greens. Really do it. They will change everything.
- Include citrus daily.
- Eat a colorful diet (naturally colorful, blue-razzzzzberry doesn’t count).
- Include a good protein source with every meal and snack.
- Include cultured foods, such as natural yogurt, in your diet.
- Eat frequent small meals.
- Read articles about pregnancy nutrition.
- Consider a probiotic supplement.
- Papaya enzyme pills, or other digestive enzyme blends, may decrease bloating and increase digestion.
- Herbal infusions of red raspberry leaf, nettles, and oatstraw (here, in a Third Trimester Tea) support both nutrition and digestion, as well as several other body functions. Most women I know, myself included, who drink them regularly throughout pregnancy have greater energy and less bloating and constipation than their pregnant peers. While the tradition of using herbs to support pregnancy predates written history (herstory in this case), Susan Weed may well be the woman who has best promoted the pass down and growth of this knowledge into modern times, largely through books such as Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year. Here is an online article authored by her regarding red raspberry and nettles for pregnancy.
- Dried sea weed, such as Nori, makes a snack that packs a mighty mineral boost.
- Eat slowly, chew well.
- Breathe deeply, both during mealtimes and otherwise.
Exercise for the Exhausted: Finding the Right Moves to Restore Vitality
It is true that sometimes like begets like. Laying around because we feel exhausted can lead to more exhaustion. Many pregnant women find that if they get up and get going exercise perks them up and they actually feel better after exercising even though they thought they were too tired to start.
That being said, many other pregnant women know that they “should be exercising” yet find that exercise wears them out. Finding the type of exercise that works for you may be the key to tapping into the benefits of exercise for energies sake. Here are some ideas:
- Restorative Yoga: Restorative yoga is a type of yoga that uses props to support your body while you gain the benefits of the pose through passive stretching rather than active poses. Most people find it incredibly relaxing and rejuvenating. This site explains restorative yoga and its benefits. This site has some nice pictures illustrating restorative yoga poses.
- Swimming: Swimming can feel great in pregnancy. You can choose gentle floating strokes on low-energy days, and come away feeling weightless and wonderful.
- Stroll Through A Garden: No need to power-walk on your most exhausting days. Take your walk to a place where beauty and quiet will fill your spirit and slow it to a stroll.
- Put on Some Music and Dance: Even slow dancing is enough to increase your circulation and pick the heart rate up just a bit!
- Pelvic Rocks and Shoulder Stretches just to get you going: Something as simple as coming up to your hands and knees and alternatively arching or curving your back with each inhale/exhale can pull you out of a slump and get the blood flowing. Be careful not to over arch your back in pregnancy. While in this hands and knees position, do some hip circles and move your head from side to side. Bring your head towards the ground and stretch your back. Sit or stand and raise one arm at a time, leaning to create a good stretch along your side and armpit. Switch sides. Now open both arms wide to your sides and open your heart. There – that’s a bit better. Now that you have begun to move it may be easier to get up and do whatever type of gentle exercise you most enjoy.
Get Enough Sleep
Deep relaxation is great and goes a long way, but it is not a substitute for adequate sleep. Commit to a bed time and a rising time that afford you at least 8 hours of sleep every night. If you are having trouble sleeping, implement practices that encourage good sleep, and talk to your care provider about additional possibilities.
- Practice good sleep routines.
- Create a calm sleep environment.
- Use outlets, such as journaling or talking with a friend, to process the things that keep your mind spinning.
- Leave work at work. Even if you work from home, create closure around the time when you are attending to your work.
- Try aids like warm milk.
- Exercise at a new time, or initiate exercise. Most people find that exercising by day helps them sleep better by night. Some people have a hard time resting within 2 hours or so after exercise.
Inner Energizers: Doing the Things You Love
And finally, prioritize the things that really make you come alive. I can’t emphasize this enough. Our personal energy is at its best when we are at our best, and are enjoying the things we love. Create a top-ten list and do them often. Here’s mine:
- Good hair days / unique, flattering clothes.
- Great conversations or connecting with friends.
- Expansive views.
- Holding, watching, smelling, and smiling with my baby.
- Large bodies of water.
- Beautiful food.
- My husband’s smile.
- Spying on my kids when they are learning, playing pretend, or being tender with one another.
- Hearing my clients get excited about their visions and accomplishments – noticing their beauty, and feeling like I am a small part of a big difference in the lives of many.
- Business planning.