Why do I feel so tired during pregnancy?

By Dr Mark Sillender, Consultant Obstetrician, Glengarry Private Hospital

Along with a missed period and nausea, feeling tired is a very common symptom in early pregnancy. This can throw many women off guard, both by its severity and that it occurs so early on in pregnancy. Even though there may be no obvious bump and you may still be in shock that you are expecting, there are an incredible amount of changes happening within your body in those first few weeks: the placenta is forming, your baby’s nervous system is developing, the foundations are being laid for the major organs, and the head and brain are beginning to form.

A lot of energy from the mother is needed for all of these to happen. On top of this, increases in the hormone progesterone are surging through your body, which makes you sleepy.

Take heart because there is some good news: by the second trimester, most women report feeling a lot more energetic and relatively like themselves again. In the third trimester, though, you might be feeling lethargic again but for very different reasons than those that plagued you in the first trimester. You may feel heavy, have swollen feet, and have issues sleeping because of frequent toilet trips and being unable to find comfortable positions.

Tips for the first and second trimester

There are a few things you can do to help the situation. Firstly, make sure you eat nutritious food and get some moderate exercise. Even if physical activity is the very last thing you feel like doing when you’re exhausted, it is one of the best ways to boost your energy levels. It doesn’t have to be strenuous; a walk is ideal.

Adjust your bedtime once you are pregnant. If you find you need to sleep at 8pm, then go ahead and sleep early. During the day, rest whenever you can and even take a 15- to 20-minute nap if possible. If you are able to cut back on your work hours or move your schedule around, that may also help.

Tips for the third trimester

People talk about a lack of sleep once the baby has arrived, but most women have sleeping difficulties well before giving birth. Heartburn, frequent urination, being uncomfortable with your size, and a constantly moving and kicking baby are very common reasons sleep is disturbed.

What can help:

  • Put one pillow beneath your tummy and another between your knees
  • Always aim to sleep on your left side
  • Avoid caffeine (especially after lunchtime) and second-hand cigarette smoke
  • Avoid liquids after dinner to prevent night-time trips to the toilet
  • Go to bed only when you’re tired. Listen to your body’s cues
  • Relax in the evenings and avoid stimulants like smartphones and TV
  • Go for a walk in the afternoon or early evening
  • Avoid overheating.

Excessive tiredness could indicate a bigger problem like iron deficiency, so don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor or midwife.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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