If you are struggling with exhaustion in pregnancy, you are not alone. It can be phenomenally overpowering – the total fatigue, the can-I-last-another-minute-awake feeling. You are soooo tired, you can’t think straight, and to move in any direction you have to drag your feet.
In first trimester, and even at other stages along the road, exhaustion in pregnancy is so normal! Most of the time when you feel this insane tiredness during pregnancy, it is your body’s message to you to STOP!!! You need to rest. Simple. There is so much productivity going on in your inside, there isn’t much energy for productivity in your outside world.
The best thing you can do is to listen to your body and rest. Your baby is demanding your energy (‘qi’), and this is not the last time your baby will demand your qi and undivided attention! If you power on, you are stretching your energy and tapping into your reserves – not a healthy start.
Sometimes, other toddlers, life events and work mean we can’t really take the time that we need. First, try to re-prioritise and recruit more support. Try to really value your rest time. Take the guilt out of it. Next, if you simply can’t rest and sleep more, then you need to go to bed much earlier, eat super well and do some nourishing activities like meditation, tai chi or slow yoga.
When fatigue continues beyond first trimester, it’s worth taking a closer look.
Here are some of the most common reasons fatigue continues:
1) You have some catching up to do! You really didn’t listen and respond by resting early on, right? Or maybe you came into pregnancy overworked and under-slept. Don’t worry, it’s still normal! So here is some commonsense advice – go rest and sleep. If you want to speed your recovery along, get some acupuncture. It can work so well and so quickly.
2) Nutrient deficiency:
- Anemia (iron deficiency) is one really common cause of terrible fatigue in pregnancy.
- B12 can also commonly be deficient, especially in vegetarians and vegans.
- There are many more potential deficiencies such as iodine, magnesium, zinc, vitamin D and so on.
It’s best to check in with a good naturopath or nutritionist who will suggest some testing, and follow up with the right supplements and dietary changes to get you back on track.
3) Digestion imbalance – During pregnancy, your gut can really play up. Many women complain of nausea, vomiting, constipation, bloating, reflux, abnormal bowel movements and flatulence. When your gut isn’t working as well as it should, it’s harder for you to convert your food into energy. So cut the crap!
The first step is to give yourself a cleaner diet that’s easy to digest. Cut down the sugar and bad fats and increase wholefoods and proteins. You could think about giving yourself a daily probiotic to restore gut health. If you are still struggling, get some help! Consult a nutritionist, or receive acupuncture and tailored advice to help regulate your digestion.
4) Sleep – Sleep is very powerful at restoring energy. During pregnancy, so many things can interfere with sound sleep: hormones, feeling hot, reflux, hunger, needing to pee, back and hip pain, leg cramps and anxiety. Read about our clues to getting a better night’s sleep.
5) Pain – Ugh. It’s so easy for your body to get out of alignment during pregnancy. It’s quite a challenge to keep up with the rapid changes as your weight, the baby’s position and your centre of balance keep shifting. Add to that some pregnancy hormones that do their best to trick the pelvis out of stability. You can end up with back pain, neck pain, headaches, leg cramps, pubic symphysis pain and more.
We recommend you keep moving in positive and healthy ways. Daily light exercise, like walking, is fabulous. Prenatal yoga and pilates can be brilliant at helping you maintain and develop stability, flexibility and relaxation. Heat packs are great (not too hot on your lower back and belly!). Careful with medication – remember you can’t take Nurofen! If pain is persisting, check in with an experienced, specialised osteopath. They can help you get your back and hips in alignment to support a flowing, natural birth.
6) Emotional factors – Having a baby is one of the biggest changes of your life. It ruffles up your identity, your lifestyle, your relationship, your career, your home and your body. No wonder if you are having a hard time catching up emotionally. It’s a hell of a lot to process. And emotional processing requires energy, and it’s draining and tiring. So this is normal.
Many women suffer from severe anxiety and depression, and have decreased or come off their medications. If this is you, we know this can be scary. Also, you may get a slam of some of your old symptoms, and fatigue can creep in alongside depression and anxiety.
Please consult with your GP, midwife, obstetrician or psychiatrist when making decisions around your medications, and make these changes gently and with compassion to yourself. If you choose to reduce or stop medication, acupuncture can be so supportive. Read about an amazing study showing how acupuncture can reduce depression in pregnancy.
An acupuncturist’s perspective on pregnancy exhaustion
In Chinese medicine, we see exhaustion during pregnancy as either:
- a deficiency of yin, yang or qi (energy)
- poor blood quality or quantity
- blocked qi (energy is not circulating properly).
If there is too little qi, then the best solution is usually to remedy your diet and repair your digestion so you can convert food into qi and start to rebuild. Signs that you need to focus more on your diet and digestion during pregnancy are bloating, nausea, vomiting (morning sickness), reflux, constipation, diarrhea and hemorrhoids. Signs that your blood quality isn’t great include paleness, dizziness and insomnia.
The first step is to get some blood tests done. Check for deficiencies in iron, B12 and zinc (to be comprehensive, check with your nutritionist/naturopath). Then focus on your diet and cut out processed, sugary foods, and also cut down on raw foods and anything straight out of the fridge. Eat more stews, soups and slow-cooked meat.
Here is a beautiful acupressure point you can use to build your energy by restoring and regulating your digestion. Use this point twice daily by applying pressure to both sides for 3 minutes. Best used with moxa.
In pregnancy, your baby is leaching all your best nutrients – in Chinese medicine a growing baby draws on its mother’s kidney energy. To restore kidney energy you need rest or meditation, a diet with meat, and if the baby isn’t leaving enough kidney energy for you, then you need herbs to deeply restore that depletion.
Signs of kidney depletion in pregnancy are dull lower back pain, breech presentation, knee pain, bags under your eyes and edema. More serious kidney depletion signs are babies who are small for the date, congenital abnormalities, low amniotic fluid, threatened miscarriage and hormonal imbalances.
Ask your partner to locate these points on you for tonifying your kidney qi, yin and yang. Press deeply into these points twice daily for 3–5 minutes. These points are best used with moxa.
Sometimes there is plenty of qi, yin and yang present but it’s not moving properly. We call this qi stagnation and it involves the Chinese version of the liver. You feel exhausted because you can’t access the qi that is there – it’s just not flowing.
Signs of qi stagnation include experiencing emotional rollercoasters, high irritability, depression, anxiety, headaches, pain, migraines, nausea and vomiting (morning sickness). More serious complications can involve cholestasis, preeclampsia and eclampsia, issues with placenta blood flow and DVT after birth.
The best remedies are:
- movement – walking, swimming, yoga, pilates
- emotional support – therapy, chatting with a friend, reflection, opening up, communicating, expressing and releasing issues.
Apply this acupressure point for 3–5 minutes twice daily to get qi moving again. This point can feel quite tender!
We hope this article helps you identify some possible causes for your fatigue, and that you’ve found a few tips to support you. If you need more support, here at Red Tent we have experienced and highly qualified practitioners whose services you can hopefully access. We truly hope that soon you will be enjoying your pregnancy with abundant energy!
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