Energy-Boosting Tips to Help You Manage First-Trimester Fatigue
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Beyond tired? Just because it's normal doesn't mean you have to suffer through it. Our experts are here to help.
- First-trimester fatigue isn't in your head—it's the result of a whole range of pregnancy hormones mixed with everything else your body is doing to grow a baby.
- Little changes, like eating small meals throughout the day and stepping up your sleep routine, can boost energy and make pregnant life feel more manageable.
- If you're up for it, movement has also been shown to help. Check out the Nike (M)ove Like a Mother programme in NTC for workouts that meet you where you are.
Read on to learn more …
*This content is designed to inform and inspire, but it is not meant to diagnose, treat or give specific medical advice. Always check with your health care provider about how to stay healthy and safe before, during and after pregnancy.
There is a special kind of exhaustion that may wash over you when you're newly pregnant. "The fatigue of the first trimester is unparalleled", says Amanda Williams, MD, a board-certified obstetrician-gynaecologist in Oakland, California, and a member of the Nike (M)ove Like a Mother advisory board. "It's the time when the foetus and the placenta are growing the most rapidly, so there is such a metabolic demand on your body". It's also when certain hormones, such as oestrogen, progesterone and HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin, the pregnancy hormone released by the placenta), rise sharply, which can make you feel, well, rubbish.
Think of it this way: your body is beginning to grow a human and build its home for the next nine-ish months, so it's no wonder you may not feel energised to get off the sofa, let alone exercise (truly, no shade). Even pro athletes feel sidelined at this stage: Adia Barnes, a Nike athlete, the head coach of the University of Arizona Wildcats women's basketball team, and a mum of two, remembers feeling "just tremendous fatigue" during her first trimester.
Still, you don't have to let the exhaustion keep you down. Here's how to manage.
Give yourself a pass.
Acknowledge that "your body is doing something incredible", says Dr Williams. "Often, people, especially those who are athletic, say they feel they should be doing more or achieving more. But remember that you are doing something phenomenal just by sitting on the sofa and growing the placenta". In other words, even if you're not running a 5K every day, your body feels like it's running a 5K every day with all the work it's doing. It's OK to just chill if you need to.
Take naps if you can.
You probably know that it's healthy to rest. But "it's easier said than done", notes Meghan Rosenfeld, a Nike Trainer and the founder of Trimester Fit Body in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. She suggests blocking off time in your calendar for daily naps. "Just shut your eyes for 15 to 20 minutes and you will feel more refreshed, even if you don't fall into a deep sleep", says Rosenfeld. Go ahead and lose any guilt you might feel about taking time for yourself—it's neither helpful nor necessary, and it's good practice for postnatal life (both the napping and the no guilt bit).
Eat and drink (water) regularly.
Small nutrient-packed snacks throughout the day can help keep your energy up and, bonus, curb nausea, says Dr Williams. She recommends options like a handful of berries and/or nuts, which are nutritious and easy to grab and go. Or try cheese and crackers, houmous on whole-wheat toast or apple slices dipped in peanut butter. Just listen to your body when it says you're full, since overeating may end up making you feel more beat, says Rosenfeld. She also notes that dehydration can contribute to fatigue, so sip water throughout the day. If water is unappealing to you right now, try adding a little lemon or mint or switching to sparkling water.
Stick to a sleep routine.
The hormonal changes of the first trimester coupled with the extra stress of being newly pregnant can make it hard to get quality shut-eye even if you're totally wiped, says Grace Pien, MD, an assistant professor and the director of the sleep medicine fellowship at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Add nausea to the mix, and it may feel as though a good night's rest is just a dream. Dr Pien suggests that you dim the lights, listen to relaxing music and avoid screens before bed, all of which help signal to your brain that it's time to snooze.
As for that bedtime nausea, Dr Williams suggests avoiding acidic foods at night, which can irritate the stomach lining. She also recommends that you keep some plain crackers by your bedside to quell the queasy feeling if it strikes in the middle of the night, or stash some pickled ginger (the kind that comes with sushi) in the fridge.
Move your body.
As long as your doctor gives you the thumbs-up, even a little exercise can give you some life and help regulate your blood sugar levels, which can prevent major dips in energy, says Rosenfeld. "Even on the days that you just want to be horizontal, go for a short walk. It can be 10 minutes", she says. "You may even end up going for a longer walk than what you originally set out for".
If, however, you just can't muster the motivation to exercise (it's seriously OK!), try spending a few minutes doing some diaphragmatic breathing, which can help strengthen your core and pelvic floor and give you a mindful moment to centre yourself. To do it, expand your ribcage while relaxing your pelvic floor on the inhale, then engage your abdominals and pelvic floor on the exhale.
What might energise you even more than the tips above? Knowing that this trimester is typically the suckiest in terms of exhaustion. You'll most likely feel more like yourself soon.
Words: Rachel Rabkin Peachman
Photography: Vivian Kim