Having a baby is a big job and, as with any big job, it can be exhausting work. If you think about everything your body is going through it’s no wonder that you feel increasingly tired, but what can you do about it?
With the help of pregnancy experts Dr Dawn, a GP based in Gloucestershire, and Dr Sonia Kumar, who a partner at an East London surgery, gurgle has come up with some top tips to help you get the shut-eye you need.
Listen to your body
“In the first trimester, your body is going wild with hormones and going through some pretty major physiological changes,” explains Dr Kumar. “Feeling extra tired at this time is perfectly normal so embrace it and give yourself the rest you need. If you feel abnormally tired and lethargic, though, it’s worth mentioning it to your midwife. It could be the symptom of something else and it’s best to get checked out and treated if necessary.”
People are offering help for a reason – because you’re pregnant and you deserve it. “The extra time you’ll get by not doing the school run, letting someone else stand in at a meeting or get the groceries for you can be a godsend,” says Dr Dawn. “Sit down, turn off your phone, don’t answer the door and just relax. Even if you don’t sleep, simply sitting still and switching off will work wonders.”
“A balanced diet will give you and your baby the energy you need to get through the day,” explains Dr Kumar. “Try and make sure you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and reduce your salt and saturated fat intake. It’s also a good idea to adjust your eating pattern.
"Also, large meals could worsen any heartburn or nausea you may be experiencing and make you feel extra sleepy as your body puts all its energy into digesting, so try to eat little and often instead.”
Make like Popeye
Spinach is a great source of iron, which is essential for you and your baby’s wellbeing. “Iron deficiency anaemia is one of the most common causes of tiredness because developing pregnancy uses up your iron stores,” explains Dr Kumar. “It is easily diagnosed and treated, but by keeping your iron levels up in the first place it can be avoided, and the exhaustion that comes with it can be avoided too.”
More information on anaemia.
Take a walk
“Gentle exercise will boost your energy levels and make you sleep better,” says Dr Dawn. “It can be difficult to find the time but if you can fit in a stroll, a swim or some yoga a few times a week your body will thank you for it.” See our feature fitness for pregnancy for ideas on safe ways to exercise.
“Massages, aromatherapy and reflexology can all help you relax," says Dr Kumar, “but make sure you choose a qualified reflexologist and ask your healthcare team about what essential oils are safe to use when you’re pregnant, to put your mind and body at rest.”
Say no to Joe
“Avoid caffeine if you can," advises Dr Dawn. “It's artificial highs are often followed by sluggish lows which won’t help if you are already feeling tired and sleepy.”
In the last few weeks of pregnancy the exhaustion of carrying that extra weight around kicks in and after the ‘honeymoon’ mid-trimester, when you are full of energy, you’ll feel super-tired all over again.
What’s more, with your growing baby pressing on your bladder, your bulge making it difficult to find a comfortable position and your lungs being squeezed making you more breathless, getting a good night’s sleep can seem impossible. “Make your bed as comfortable as possible, ensure your room is totally dark and reduce noisy interruptions if you can,” suggests Dr Kumar. “If you do wake up for any reason, try and make sure things are in place to deal with the cause of it so that you can get back to sleep quickly. Sleep closer to the bathroom (if you can) if your bladder always gets you up, or have an extra blanket or a sheet handy in case you wake up too hot or too cold.
"When I was pregnant I had real problems with heartburn, so I had a big bottle of Gaviscon by my bed to glug if it woke me up!”
“I’m a great believer in pushing yourself,” admits Dr Dawn, “but when you are pregnant your growing baby takes priority and it’s important to take rest whenever you can. Napping is the perfect solution – it’s amazing how much a quick twenty minutes here and there can help.”
“If you reduce the potential causes of tiredness before you get pregnant you are less likely to suffer,” explains Dr Sonia. “Being overweight can often make you more tired when you are pregnant, so it might not be much fun, but if you are overweight and planning for a baby, try to change your diet and lifestyle in advance. A healthier body makes for a healthier pregnancy and an easier time giving birth.”