Tired all the time? How to treat pregnancy fatigue

You can experience anything from mild weariness to all-out, falling-asleep-at-your-desk exhaustion. 
Written by
Gemma Kaczerepa
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Last updated on
June 3, 2024
min read
Tired All the Time? Here's How to Treat Pregnancy Fatigue | Kin Fertility
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There’s no denying pregnancy comes with a lot of side effects: morning sickness, peeing all the time, insomnia, sore breasts, aversions to certain foods, mood swings, constipation… and that’s often just the first 3 months.

One of the other common symptoms of pregnancy is fatigue — anything from mild weariness to all-out, falling-asleep-at-your-desk exhaustion. 

If you’re battling pregnancy fatigue and wondering what’s causing it and how to combat it, we’ve put together a guide on everything you need to know. 

What does pregnancy fatigue feel like?

If you’re experiencing pregnancy fatigue, it can be pretty unmistakable: you simply feel really, really tired. But you might also notice one or some of the following:

  • Feeling constantly or frequently exhausted
  • Having trouble getting out of bed in the morning
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Experiencing a slump later in the day
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Struggling to finish tasks you normally wouldn’t find hard
  • Irritability as a result of feeling tired

Some people experience relatively mild fatigue, while for others, the tiredness is more severe.

When does fatigue start in pregnancy?

Pregnancy fatigue usually kicks off pretty early — like, first trimester early. It’s often felt in the first few weeks after conception, sometimes as early as one week into the pregnancy [1].

In many cases, fatigue disappears around the start of the second trimester and rears its energy-sapping head again in the third trimester.

Most pregnant women experience some degree of fatigue during pregnancy — 94.2% of women according to one study [2]. However, some women experience it later than the first trimester or not at all (unfair, we know).

Is fatigue an early sign of pregnancy?

It absolutely can be. When you first get pregnant, your body starts producing a lot more progesterone — a hormone that both establishes and supports your pregnancy, as well as milk production in your breasts [1].

Your body’s also working overtime to pump blood towards your uterus and the foetus, which is why many women experience fatigue very early on.

While early pregnancy symptoms do vary between women (and even between pregnancies), there are several other common signs to look out for beyond fatigue. These include:

  • Nausea
  • Food cravings or aversions
  • Mood swings
  • Urinating more than usual
  • Insomnia
  • Bowel changes, especially constipation
  • Light bleeding (also known as implantation bleeding)
  • Tender or swollen breasts
  • Headaches

When can I expect pregnancy fatigue to improve?

For many women, fatigue continues throughout the first trimester (so until the 12-week mark) and starts to improve by the second trimester — this is also when many other early pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness and mood swings tend to peter off. Sometimes, pregnancy fatigue returns in the third trimester.

That being said, everybody and even every pregnancy is different. One woman might suffer from heavy lethargy throughout her entire pregnancy, while another may experience no tiredness at all.

It can also vary between pregnancies; you might get severe fatigue in your first pregnancy, for example, but a milder version in your second.

What causes pregnancy fatigue?

Depending on whether pregnancy fatigue crops up in early or later pregnancy, there can be several different causes. Here are some of the most common.

First trimester

Hormonal changes

As we know, your hormones are fluctuating pretty wildly during the first trimester. Progesterone levels in particular are rising quickly, resulting in side effects like mood changes, hot flashes, headaches, bloating and, you guessed it, pregnancy fatigue. This is because progesterone is actually a naturally occurring sedative.

Physical changes

There’s so much going on inside your body when you first get pregnant. Along with the growing foetus (which requires plenty of extra blood and uses up lots of your body’s energy), you’re also creating a placenta — an organ that only emerges during pregnancy.

The placenta delivers nutrition and oxygen to the growing foetus and is vital for your baby’s development in the womb. Understandably, building an entire organ is draining work for your body, which is another reason you feel tired.

On top of all that, your blood pressure and blood sugar levels are lower during the first trimester.

Your placenta is fully formed and your hormones usually level out by the time the second trimester rolls around — which is why pregnancy exhaustion tends to taper off at this point.

Second trimester

Pregnancy tiredness isn’t overly common during the second trimester. In fact, it’s often quite the opposite; many women feel more energetic and less sluggish between weeks 13 and 26. 

But it’s not unheard of to continue experiencing fatigue during this phase of pregnancy. Symptoms like frequent urination, back pain and muscle aches can make it hard to sleep, leading to tiredness the next day.

Third trimester

Carrying extra weight

Once you reach the third trimester, you’re likely to be bearing quite a bit of extra weight — mostly because you’ve now got an almost-fully grown baby inside of you. It goes without saying that carrying a few extra kilos can make day-to-day tasks more taxing and leave you feeling wiped.

Sleep problems

In the later stages of pregnancy, it’s normal to experience insomnia. This can often be due to the other discomforts associated with the third trimester, like frequent urination, body aches, heartburn, leg cramps and just the general discomfort of having to maneuver your now-sizeable bump in bed.

The result? Third trimester fatigue.

How to manage pregnancy fatigue

If you’re experiencing fatigue during any stage of pregnancy, you’ll be glad to know there are several ways to handle it. 

We can’t promise it’ll go away entirely (after all, things like placenta creation and carrying a growing baby are frankly unavoidable) but with a few lifestyle tweaks, you may find it easier to manage.

Create a solid sleep routine

Even though you might still be getting up frequently throughout the night to pee, you want to give yourself the best possible chance of having a good night’s sleep.

Make your room cool, dark and quiet, avoid using screens (including your phone) close to bedtime, limit your caffeine intake (which you might be doing anyway to stick to pregnancy guidelines), and try to keep your sleep and wake-up times consistent [3][4].

If you can, go for an earlier bedtime, too, to give yourself more hours of sleep each night. Everyone has different sleep needs, but 8-10 hours is ideal.

Rest when you can

Rest should be your number one priority. It doesn’t necessarily have to be sleep but try to take things easy to relieve the pressure on your already-exhausted body.

Don’t feel bad for saying no to evening plans if you’re just too tired. Take advantage of your lunch break at work and relax at your desk rather than combing through your inbox. 

And if your schedule allows, see if you can squeeze in a nap each day. Even if you’re not used to taking naps, you might find that an hour of daytime sleep makes a world of difference to your energy levels.

Stick to a nutritious diet

While it’s tempting to reach for a bar of chocolate or a second cup of coffee when you suffer from an energy slump, you might find that doing so results in a bigger slump later on.

Instead, opt for foods that are high in protein and complex carbs — these will keep your energy levels stable throughout the day. You want to ensure you’re getting enough iron, too, to try and ward off pregnancy-induced anaemia. And lastly, go for water instead of coffee to maintain your hydration levels.

Eating smaller meals more regularly might also stabilise your energy levels. You may also find this relieves other symptoms like morning sickness and tummy problems.

If you want to up your protein intake to support your energy levels, you could also consider a protein supplement — like Kin’s Essential Protein. Packed with 22.4g of bioavailable protein in every serving, along with other vital pregnancy nutrients, our Essential Protein helps maintain your energy and nourish both you and your growing bub.

And don’t forget to stick to your prenatal vitamins throughout pregnancy, too. In combination with a balanced and nutritious diet, a good prenatal will deliver much-needed nutrients to your body to ensure you and bub stay healthy throughout your pregnancy (and beyond). 

Keep moving

We totally get how tempting it can be to skip your morning workout and opt for a sleep-in instead. And sometimes, that’s exactly what your body needs at that moment.

If you can, though, try to do some light to moderate exercise later in the day. It’s actually recommended to get about 150 minutes of exercise every week, which you can easily break down into 30-minute chunks 5 days a week [5]. Your workout session can be as simple as a brisk walk, a prenatal yoga or Pilates class or even gardening.

Exercise is great during pregnancy as it improves blood flow around your body, encourages healthy weight gain and can even decrease pregnancy discomforts like back pain. You might also find it boosts your energy levels.

Is extreme fatigue normal in pregnancy? When to seek advice from your doctor

There’s definitely a wide range of what’s considered normal pregnancy fatigue. Some women may only feel pooped at certain times while others experience a more acute version of pregnancy tiredness and can barely keep their eyes open all day.

But extreme exhaustion can sometimes be an indication that something’s not quite right. If your pregnancy fatigue is constant, severe or is accompanied by symptoms like fever, extreme thirst, weakness, trouble breathing or feelings of depression, reach out to your doctor. The same goes if you have any other health concerns.

In some cases, fatigue can be a result of conditions like anaemia (low iron levels), gestational diabetes, an infection, chronic fatigue syndrome, thyroid issues or even prenatal depression.

Your doctor will be able to perform a thorough examination and, if they find any underlying complications, guide you through appropriate treatments.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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