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Why am I so tired now that I'm pregnant?It's completely normal to feel tired when you're pregnant.
At the moment, huge changes are taking place in virtually every system in your body, which can make you feel extremely tired (Murray and Hassall 2009, PRODIGY 2009). Even if you're usually a night owl, you may find staying awake for a film, or even a 30-minute soap, virtually impossible now that you're pregnant.
Throughout pregnancy, but especially in the first trimester, your body works tremendously hard. You're making the placenta, which is your baby's life-support system. Your hormone levels and metabolism are rapidly changing (NHS Choices 2011), while your blood sugar and blood pressure levels tend to lower. This all contributes to your sense of constant fatigue.
When is tiredness a sign of something else?Being tired and run-down can make you feel low. But occasionally, being exhausted and having trouble sleeping can be symptoms of depression (NHS Choices 2011). If you have feelings of hopelessness and have lost interest in the things you used to enjoy, speak to your GP or midwife.
Tiredness and low energy levels can also sometimes be a symptom of anaemia, which is not uncommon in pregnancy (Pendry 2010). Your midwife will check your blood for anaemia during your booking visit and later on in pregnancy, as part of your routine blood tests (NCCWCH 2008).
How long will my tiredness last?It's different for every mum-to-be, but you are most likely to experience fatigue in your first and third trimesters (NHS Choices 2011). So you may be struggling with exhaustion before you've even told other people that you're pregnant (NHS Choices 2011).
In your first trimester, fatigue is often one of the symptoms of pregnancy sickness, along with nausea, loss of appetite and sometimes vomiting (PRODIGY 2008). If your symptoms are disturbing your sleep then you'll feel even more tired and irritable. Try to get as much rest as you can, because fatigue can make nausea and vomiting much worse (PRODIGY 2008).
You may find that your pregnancy sickness eases at about 14 weeks to 16 weeks of your pregnancy (PRODIGY 2008). But varying levels of nausea can last until 20 weeks, or even longer, for some women.
You'll probably lose steam again sometime around 28 weeks. By this time, your bump will be getting bigger and it may be harder for you to get comfortable in bed and get a good night's sleep. And the extra weight you are carrying can make you feel tired during the day (Murray and Hassall 2009, NHS Choices 2011).
However, it's not the same for every woman. You may feel tired throughout the whole of your pregnancy, or you may hardly slow down at all.
What can I do to cope with tiredness?1. Listen to your body's signals. Try taking catnaps or have an early night. You'll need more sleep in early pregnancy, so rest and get plenty of sleep whenever you can (PRODIGY 2008).
At work, even a 15-minute nap can make a difference, so if you're lucky enough to have an office door, close it, put your head down on your desk and rest. Or have a nap in your lunch hour in your car if there's nowhere else for you to sleep. If you are at home, make time to sit with your feet up during the day (NHS Choices 2011).
Sleeping with a bump
It's hard to rest comfortably with a bump getting in the way. Our video shows two positions that will help you sleep.More pregnancy videos
3. Try to make sure you're eating well. A healthy diet made up of wholegrain carbohydrates, dairy products, pulses, eggs, fish and lean meat can help you to keep your energy levels up. And aim for at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
Eating well while you're feeling sick isn't easy, but try to eat little and often, as having an empty stomach can make you feel even more queasy and tired. Keep your blood sugar levels on an even keel by nibbling small amounts of bland, dry food during the day. Try some of our healthy pregnancy snacks if you can't face a main meal.
4. Do some gentle exercise, even if it's the last thing you feel like doing. Going for a walk or a swim can make you feel better, and help you to sleep at night (RCOG 2006).
5. Hang in there, because you'll soon be in your second trimester and hopefully raring to go again. You may even feel up to seeing a film or going on a weekend break before your newborn arrives and sleepless nights start all over again.
Rest assured that feeling tired won't harm you or your baby. But do try to get as much rest as you can, whenever you can.
Find out how other mums cope with tiredness in pregnancy.
Last reviewed: October 2012
Murray I, Hassall J. 2009. Change and adaptation in pregnancy. In: Fraser DM, Cooper MA. eds. Myles Textbook for Midwives. 15th ed. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 189-225
NCCWCH. 2008. Antenatal care: routine care for the healthy pregnant woman. National Collaborating Centre for Women's and Children's Health, Clinical guideline. London: NICE. nice.org.uk [Accessed October 2012]
NHS Choices. 2011. Sleeplessness and feeling tired. NHS Choices, Pregnancy and baby. nhs.uk [Accessed October 2012]
Pendry K. 2010. Obstetric anaemia – the OTIS survey. transfusionguidelines.org.uk [Accessed October 2012]
PRODIGY. 2008. Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. PRODIGY Clarity, Clinical topic. prodigy.clarity.co.uk [Accessed October 2012]
PRODIGY. 2009. Tiredness/fatigue in adults. PRODIGY Clarity, Clinical topic. prodigy.clarity.co.uk [Accessed October 2012]
RCOG. 2006. Exercise in Pregnancy. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Statement, 4. rcog.org.uk [pdf file, accessed October 2012]