This too shall pass, and here's what you can do about it in the meantime.
Pregnant and struggling to stay awake on a virtual conference call? Dozing off on the floor of the playroom while your kids run around you? Sounds like you’ve got a classic case of pregnancy fatigue.
If you’re pregnant and experiencing such intense exhaustion that you’re wondering if you’ve suddenly become narcoleptic, know that you’re far from alone. An estimated 95% of pregnant women experience fatigue to some degree, and many deal with such severe fatigue that it affects their quality of life.
Luckily there are a number of things you can do (or not do!) to handle your fatigue and get through the next few months. Here are 5 strategies to help you deal with pregnancy exhaustion.
1Get more sleep, any way you can
Women who are pregnant need a few more hours of sleep—growing a baby is serious work! Your first line of defense against fatigue is to go to bed earlier than you usually would, and plan on taking naps during the day. If you have older kids at home, that might mean making sure to rest during your toddler’s nap, or putting on a movie for your older kids for an hour in the afternoon. Whatever you have to do, plan ahead to get the rest you need.
2Focus on good nutrition and vitamins
In many cases, fatigue is linked to a nutritional deficit. If you’re running low on protein, magnesium, iron, Vitamin B6, or Vitamin D, that deficiency could be causing your exhaustion. It might alleviate fatigue to take a quality prenatal vitamin, eat a balanced diet high in protein, and possibly supplement with additional vitamins as needed. Talk to your doctor or midwife if you’d like to have them test for nutritional deficiencies, and to check what supplements are safe to take during pregnancy.
Eating small, frequent meals may help, as you’ll have a steady supply of energy, and an empty stomach can trigger fatigue or nausea. Dehydration is also a cause of fatigue for many pregnant women, so it may help to drink more water, perhaps mixed with an electrolyte drink for an extra boost. Some women find that drinking coffee or caffeinated tea helps combat fatigue too.
3Outsource everything possible
Pregnancy fatigue can make even the simplest actions feel impossibly draining, and you need to rest as much as possible. Consider yourself officially in “survival mode.” If there was ever a time to lean on your family and friends, delegate whatever you can, and say “no” to all but the most essential tasks, this is it.
Have your husband or other family members take over the household work you usually do. Your husband can make dinner, or at least put a frozen meal in the oven. Can your 8-year-old use the toaster? Perfect, he’s making toast or frozen waffles for everyone’s breakfast. (If you’re feeling guilty about having your child do this job, know that kids who do chores and help out at home are more successful later in life. It’s good for them!)
If your family is available to help around the house or babysit, or a local friend offers to watch your kids for an afternoon, accept any and all offers of help. You might even hire a cleaning service or daytime babysitter if it’s in the budget. Dishes and laundry can wait. Focus on doing only what is necessary and conserving your energy.
4Be OK with temporarily lowering your standards
If you’re struggling with fatigue, you’re not going to be able to keep up with things the way you usually do, so accept and make peace with the fact that standards will have to be lowered for a time. This doesn’t mean things will be this way forever, and your children will not be negatively affected. Just do what you need to do to get through this season.
I learned this lesson firsthand when I was pregnant with my third child, and experienced such severe fatigue and nausea that even basic tasks were difficult. We are usually a family that watches minimal screen time, but because I was so tired, my older children spent many hours each day watching TV. Healthy meals were replaced with frozen pizza and easy prepackaged snacks. I felt so defeated, and worried that I was failing my children.
But once I felt better, we quickly bounced back to our former habits, as though that hard time had never happened. And then, to my shock, I realized that my children loved being in “survival mode.” They still look back on that time as a golden era, and fondly reminisce about all the movies and treats they got to enjoy. More importantly, they got the incomparable, lifelong gift of a little sibling. Every minute of that tough season was so very worth it.
5Remember that this is a season and it will pass
After weeks of debilitating exhaustion, you might worry that you won’t bounce back from it. Will you ever regain your former energy for work and family life? When will you stop falling asleep all day? Keep at the front of your mind that this intense fatigue is temporary. You will get back to your former lifestyle and energy level. Just get through each day while this lasts, and take comfort in knowing that the end is near and will all be worth it when you’re holding your new baby!