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Pregnancy Fatigue: What’s Normal and What’s Not

Are you dragging these days? Does a nap sound fantastic right now?

Life can be exhausting at times, but especially when you’re pregnant. It’s totally normal to have some degree of fatigue right now—you are growing a human inside of you!

“Fatigue may be one of the most common first symptoms of pregnancy a woman experiences,” said Kelley Saunders, MD, an OBGYN at Banner – University Medicine Women’s Institute in Phoenix, AZ. “It is very common and quite significant in the first trimester. For many women, this improves in the second trimester and returns in the late third trimester.”

Although it’s common among pregnant women, you may still wonder why.

Why does pregnancy make you so tired?

The biggest reason: It’s hard work making a baby and it can be taxing to your body. “Your body has to adjust to maintain your health and the health of the baby inside of you,” Dr. Saunders said. “The physiologic changes and increased metabolic demand start in early pregnancy and can continue even after childbirth while breastfeeding.”

Beginning somewhere between conception and implantation, pregnancy hormones kick in – affecting your body, mood and sleep. During the first trimester, you may also experience morning sickness, frequent nighttime bathroom breaks and leg cramps, which can leave you feeling pretty tired.

Then starting around your second trimester, you may start to get a little pep in your step. You may start to feel more like yourself again. But don’t be alarmed if you are still pretty exhausted—especially if you have other children to care for. Fatigue is still possible during the second trimester.

In late pregnancy, you’ll most likely begin to feel tired again. At this point, your baby has grown quite a bit and is putting more physical demands on your body. You’re carrying around extra weight and it’s more difficult to get comfortable when you sleep. Add in leg cramps and heartburn, and sleep becomes even more elusive.

When is pregnancy exhaustion not normal?

While exhaustion is a common symptom of pregnancy, extreme fatigue is not normal and may be a sign of an underlying health condition. Dr. Saunders said you should see your health care provider if your fatigue is severe and persistent.

“A sudden onset of exhaustion and continual symptoms may be a sign of abnormal fatigue,” she said. “When fatigue is associated with fever, chest pain, difficulty breathing or an inability to perform routine daily activities, you should see your OBGYN for evaluation.”

Some of the potential underlying causes for your fatigue both during and outside of pregnancy may be due to the following:

  • Gestational diabetes: Your body may become resistant to insulin during pregnancy, which can cause you to feel very tired. Other symptoms include extreme thirst and frequent urination.
  • Anemia: A lack of iron can cause you to have an insufficient number of red blood cells to transport oxygen to your tissues and can cause you to feel tired, lightheaded and weak.
  • Infections (viral, bacterial or fungal): Being pregnant can make you more vulnerable to infections, such as urinary tract infections, which can make you fatigued.
  • Thyroid problems: Having too much or too little thyroid hormones can cause you fatigue, along with fluctuations in your weight, irritability and depression.
  • Prenatal depression: Feeling tired all the time can also be a side effect of depression. Other symptoms may include sadness, feelings of hopelessness and an inability to complete daily tasks or activities.

If you’re in need of a health care provider or have questions or concerns, you can find a Banner Health specialist at bannerhealth.com who can help.

Have a happy, healthy pregnancy

For helpful tips to boost your energy and stay healthy throughout your pregnancy, check out the following posts:

Women's Health Pregnancy

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