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Tips for Fighting Fatigue When Pregnant

Medical experts are still debating what causes exhaustion early in pregnancy. Some specialists have suggested that the fatigue is a result of a combination of factors: physical, psychological, and situational. Kimberly Gregory, M.D., M.P.H., vice chair of women’s healthcare quality and performance improvement at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, explains that these factors may include, “increased oxygen consumption, cardiovascular and respiratory changes, metabolic needs related to fetal development, nutritional and hormonal level changes.

Whatever the cause, what most women really want to know is what they can do to combat it.

Foods to Fight Fatigue
The March of Dimes recommends that women who are at a normal weight at the start of their pregnancy add about 300 extra calories a day to their diet. Although you may be feeling nauseous, don’t try to handle your queasy stomach by skipping meals. Calories are energy, and a lack of food can aggravate your fatigue. “The importance of a healthy balanced diet and appropriate weight gain cannot be overemphasized,” says Dr. Gregory.

Maintaining a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and protein will help keep you energized. And when you’re away from your kitchen, remember to carry healthy snacks like easy-to-eat fruits or cut-up veggies for on-the-spot energy any time.

Don’t rely on caffeine to get you through the day. Mothers-to-be should avoid any kind of quick-fix stimulants to banish exhaustion, although that doesn’t mean you have to give up coffee or tea entirely. “If a woman’s normal routine is to drink a cup of coffee during the day, this shouldn’t be harmful during pregnancy,” says Todd Rosen, M.D., director of perinatal research in the division of maternal-fetal medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital/ Columbia University Medical Center in Manhattan, who advises that moderation is the key. Just drinking plenty of water may help banish sluggishness, since dehydration can make you feel tired.

Exercising For Energy
Unless your doctor advises against it, maintain a regular exercise program to boost your metabolism and lessen your fatigue. Moderate activity, such as walking for 30 minutes daily, can make you feel more alert during the daytime and more tired in the evening when you need to get a good night’s sleep.

The Pregnancy Power Nap
Your body may be busy creating a new person, but that doesn’t mean you’re Superwoman. You might have to give in to your fatigue just a bit to get over it. Try reducing your personal commitments if they’re adding to your exhaustion. Delegate household responsibilities to your partner. Most importantly, learn to listen to your body. When you feel tired, try to lie down even if it’s just for a few minutes in your office or on the couch at home. You deserve the rest!

If debilitating exhaustion persists into your second trimester, or if your fatigue doesn’t go away with adequate rest, you’ll need to discuss your symptoms with your doctor. In rare cases, fatigue may be the sign of more serious conditions like depression, anemia, and hypothyroidism.

This article was originally published in the Spring 2006 issue of Conceive Magazine.