One of the earliest symptoms of pregnancy you’ll probably experience is the almost overwhelming sense of fatigue. The need for sleep during the first trimester is evidence of the complicated changes happening inside your body. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible for you to stop what you’re doing to take a nap. Understanding what contributes to tiredness in the first trimester, as well as how to manage it, can help you cope.
Although doctors don’t know for certain what causes fatigue in pregnancy, they believe an increase in the hormone progesterone is to blame, according to the March of Dimes website. When the corpus luteum, the follicle that contains the egg, releases the egg into the fallopian tube, it also releases progesterone. Progesterone thickens the lining of the uterus and prepares it for implantation. Likewise, it is also responsible for keeping the pregnancy viable until you deliver your baby. During pregnancy, the hormone inhibits your immune response to foreign bodies and prevents cervical contractions. Similarly, progesterone decreases prostaglandins, the hormone responsible for labor. Another reason why you might experience first-trimester fatigue is due to the increase in blood volume. According to Merck, your heart pumps 30 to 50 percent more blood during pregnancy than a non-pregnant woman’s, putting additional strain on your heart, lungs and organs. Physical discomfort and emotional distress can also cause you to feel tired.
Though first-trimester fatigue generally subsides by the second trimester, you should tell your physician if you feel overly tired or if you’re having trouble functioning. The March of Dimes reports that a blood condition called iron-deficiency anemia affects approximately 50 percent of all pregnant women. Your body requires iron to make hemoglobin, the oxygen-rich component of blood. But an iron deficiency means there isn’t enough hemoglobin to transport oxygen to the rest of the body. Symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia include shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, weakness, pallid skin and feelings of dizziness.
You can manage pregnancy fatigue with simple lifestyle changes. First, get as much sleep as possible. Smaller, frequent meals keep blood sugar stable. Complex carbohydrates in the form of whole-grain toast and oatmeal, combined with the protein of an egg, sustain energy levels. Likewise, drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day also helps fight fatigue. Though exercise might be the last thing on your mind, you’ll feel instantly energized by an outdoor walk. Finally, there is no shame in asking for help with the house or other children.
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