Energy levels in pregnancy can be extremely variable from person to person. During pregnancy, hormone levels can play a part in how energised or tired we feel, depending upon our responses to them as an individual. When tiredness strikes during pregnancy, it can often be quite dramatic and you may go from being quite active during your everyday life to needing to rest and sleep much more than usual.
Fortunately, for most people, this feeling usually disappears as you move into the second trimester, at around 14-16 weeks of pregnancy. Once feelings of sickness and nausea begin to diminish, you will hopefully begin to feel more energised.
Having more energy can be achieved by increasing physical activity levels. Doing this also has several other potential benefits during your pregnancy:
- Being more active can help to control weight gain.
- Exercising regularly reduces the likelihood of developing gestational diabetes and can also help to control blood sugar levels, combined with a healthy diet, if you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
- Can help with abdominal core strength to improve help to combat back ache and pelvic pain.
- Exercise and being more active has been shown to improve mental health.
How can I increase my energy levels during pregnancy?
- Eating healthily often isn’t easy during pregnancy if you’re not feeling on top form, you are suffering from nausea or you are just feeling generally tired. However, a more nutritious diet can improve energy levels.
Try to plan meals ahead so they are easy to cook or are prepared for the week ahead. When you are feeling tired, it will make it easier to reach for these instead of unhealthier snacks.
- Whilst processed foods and sugar will provide you with a short-lived energy boost, try to introduce more complex carbohydrate sources into your diet. These are found within whole grain foods such as brown rice, wholemeal pasta and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, for example. These foods help your energy levels stay higher for longer, avoiding ‘sugar crashes’ and sweet cravings.
- Build exercise into your daily or weekly routines. Try to set yourself goals to walk part of the way to work or go swimming twice a week. Involving a regular exercise partner can help with motivation, whether it’s a family member, friend or work colleague.
- Try a pregnancy specific exercise class such as yoga, pilates or swimming. These are usually gentle classes and can help you build and keep the fitness levels you need for pregnancy and birth. For example, those types of exercises will help with your core body strength, which is needed more when you reach the end of pregnancy and for labour, birth and postnatal recovery. These classes are also an excellent opportunity to develop friendships with other pregnant women.
- Get outside and into nature. Studies have shown that regularly being around trees, woodlands and nature not only boost energy levels but also have positive benefits to mental health and wellbeing.
When should I be worried about low energy levels?
- Feeling tired all the time may be the sign of a medical problem, so don’t always presume it is pregnancy related. Also, if you are still feeling as tired during your second trimester as you did during your first, discuss this with your midwife or GP.
- It can be quite common to develop anaemia (low iron levels) during pregnancy. To avoid this, include plenty of iron boosting foods into your diet and accompany these with foods rich in vitamin C, which helps iron absorption. Also, try to avoid caffeinated drinks around mealtimes, as caffeine inhibits the absorption of iron. Most pregnancy multivitamin supplements contain some form of iron, which can help prevent you from becoming anaemic.
You will be offered regular blood testing for this during pregnancy.
How to exercise safely in pregnancy
- If you have any unusual symptoms, such as abdominal cramps, or you feel sick or dizzy whilst exercising, it would be wise to stop and consult your doctor or midwife.
- Extreme exercise is not recommended. The aim to increase your heart rate, not to be so out of breath you can’t speak.
- It is fine to continue with most sports if you don’t feel as though you are becoming unsafe. For example, as you become more heavily pregnant your balance could change, therefore cycling or horse riding could become more dangerous.
Energy levels may feel depleted at times during your pregnancy and it can be difficult to be motivated as your bump grows. Taking care of your physical and emotional needs can help to boost energy levels and short periods of gentle exercise can help elevate your mood as well as prepare your body for the later stages of pregnancy, labour and the postnatal period.