Nikki is feeling a teeny bit worn out in her 'Smoothie Crop' in confetti/black. Fair enough too, this photo was taken during her fifth pregnancy with four others running around!
I distinctly remember when I was pregnant with my first child, and not even four weeks along...and I just had to eat and sleep...ALL. THE. TIME. My fiancé Matt (now husband!) and I went on a massive road trip just after we found out I was pregnant to get to our own wedding, and Matt had been doing most of the driving and was tired, so I said I’d take the reins for a time. After only about five minutes I had to pull over and get him back in the driver’s seat, I was falling asleep at the wheel! Never had I known such fatigue! Now that I’m pregnant with my third child, the fatigue hasn’t been as severe, and I don’t know if it’s because I am already a mother of two and I’m just used to functioning on less sleep, or if it’s because I’m a little wiser to what my body needs to grow a human! I'm trying to eat well, I'm exercising, I'm letting a few things go, I nap on days when I can, and I'm always in bed, usually asleep by 8:30pm, if not earlier! Last Saturday night I was asleep by 7pm...so good.
It’s always fun writing these blogs, but especially fun (and informative!) when I get to research a topic that actually pertains to me...right this instant. Very handy. To figure out the best ways to reduce fatigue during pregnancy I’ve collated a bunch of tips from a variety of experts, so you know you’re getting the good oil!
Contributing to this piece we have Midwife Emily Woods, Lorraine Scapens creator of 'The Fit Mum Programs,’ and a personal trainer who has worked with thousands of pregnant women for over 25 years, highly sought after Registered Qualified Nutritionist and owner of 'Feel Fresh Nutrition' Abbie O'Rourke, and last but not least, Clinical Psychologist and owner of ‘EmpowerMums’ - Dr. Missy Wolfman. With their powers combined, I think we’ve come up with a stellar list to help any of you out there struggling to stay awake during this precious time. We hope some of these tips work for you!
1. Prioritise sleep. Taking naps if possible during the day (maximum 20 minutes) can really help with reducing tiredness especially in the afternoon, but make sure you’re making the most of early nights and sleeping in as often as you can!
2. Exercise. It doesn’t have to be overly tiresome - in fact you should be dialling things down a bit. Pregnancy is not the time to be hitting massive fitness goals, but you should be doing some form of movement, around 30 minutes a day to keep active. However, for every minute you do exercise, you should also allow yourself the same amount of time to rest, that could be in the form of a nap, or just reading a book or watching telly. Make sure your feet are up so you really are getting the most out of your break!
Olympian and (now) mother of three Alysia Montaño gets ready to ward off her pregnancy fatigue with a quick (probably very quick!) jog around the track. Alysia is wearing her 'Evolve Bra,' a 'Casual Tank,' and a pair of 'Maternity Bike Shorts.'
3. Be mindful of ‘should’ statements we have around obligations, commitments and plans. Often we twist ourselves into knots trying to please everybody but our energy everyday is limited! You are growing a whole human so be kind and compassionate to yourself. There are phases in pregnancy that energy picks up (e.g. the second trimester) and there are phases when fatigue is very real (e.g. first and late part of the third trimester) so it’s important to listen to your body.
4. Eliminate, Simplify, Automate and Delegate (ESAD) is the four step process to protecting your energy levels and well-being. Ask yourself whether there are tasks or activities that you can eliminate - if so, eliminate them! If not, is there a way to simplify things? For example, creating a simple and nutritious meal plan so you save your energy for eating and nourishing your body rather than slaving away in the kitchen. If you can't simplify, perhaps you can subscribe to meal kits or a meal delivery service? Make other small changes like automating your bill paying process so you don’t have to think about bills! Or lastly, delegate! Is there anything you can palm off to other people or companies? Can you hire a cleaner or ask for help from your partner or family for certain tasks?
5. Drink water and lots of it! The recommended amount is eight to 12 cups a day (64 to 96 ounces). Get slurping, there are a plethora of health benefits to drinking water, but of course it will keep you hydrated and therefore offer you up more energy.
6. Eating every two or three hours is a good idea as well, beginning with a balanced breakfast. Stores are depleted quickly when pregnant as your body is not only feeding the baby, but using a whole lot of energy to grow it! It’s a good idea to crank up your snacks if you don’t usually eat them, to ensure you're eating regularly. Try to include at least one whole grain and a fruit or vegetable with each snack.
7. In regards to foods you should be eating a lot of to fight fatigue, choose nutrient and protein-rich foods such as milk, yoghurt, beans, meat (red and white) and nut butter (i.e. peanut, almond, cashew). Try to avoid sugary foods and drinks. A chocolate bar or ice-cream might be a temporary sugar fix, but these types of foods won't fill you up for long, and will leave you feeling even more tired. If you're thinking of having an energy drink - check the ingredients as it might not be safe for your baby. As a general rule, energy drinks should be avoided during pregnancy.
Some nutritious, delicious, easy and quick snack ideas for pregnancy include:
- A handful of nuts and seeds.
- Fruit or vegetables.
- Peanut butter with celery, or carrot sticks.
- Hard-boiled eggs.
- Greek yoghurt with nuts.
- Roasted chickpeas.
8. It’s a good idea to get your iron checked, as many women develop anemia during pregnancy which will make you even more fatigued! Iron tablets help you keep sufficient levels for you and your baby. Avoid taking calcium supplements or calcium rich foods/drinks around the same time of day as you take the iron tablet, as calcium inhibits absorption. Vitamin C on the other hand helps absorption...so give those a go with the iron tablets. If you feel you're eating well but still feeling fatigued, chat to your doctor or a respected dietitian/nutritionist about prenatal supplements that could help you.
9. Limit your caffeine intake. While guidelines vary, most professionals recommend consuming no more than 300 mg of caffeine (or about two 230 ml/8 ounce cups of coffee) a day while pregnant. Remember to count the caffeine in other beverages, such as tea or soda/fizzy drinks. Decaf coffee and decaf tea are great alternatives if you just crave the taste and these drinks are embedded in your daily routine.
10. Prioritise self-care and listen to your body. Our body can tell us so much of what we need during pregnancy. Cravings can be a helpful indicator that our body needs certain nutrients. For example if you’re craving red meat and dairy, your body is telling you you need more protein, iron and calcium. Look up what you're craving so you can get more of an idea of what your body is asking for...and get the healthiest form of it, i.e. if you're craving orange juice, perhaps try having an actual orange instead - cut back on the sugar! Be kind to yourself and give yourself a few treats (go get your nails done, get a massage, read a whole book in a day!) your body is doing such a huge and important job, one that is a 'super extra' to all of the normal jobs it has to do.
And there you have it! Follow all of these 10 points and you'll be well on your way to feeling less tired and more energised! Keep in mind though, that some days you will just be exhausted no matter what you do. Who knows, maybe you grew a whole kidney that day? (Jokes, but you know what I mean!) So just chill on those days as much as you can. Need more sleep? Sleep. Need to eat a massive steak? Eat it. Need to lay in bed and binge on Netflix? Do it. Just take care of you - your body is doing things your conscious has no idea about...so listen to it, it knows what it needs.
Rest up mama, and remember, tired or not, you've totally got this!
Written by Ellen Chisholm in conjunction with leading professionals - Emily Woods, Lorraine Scapens, Abbie O'Rourke and Dr. Missy Wolfman.