Pregnancy brings so many changes to our bodies. We get bigger and often not just in our bellies (hello, swollen summer ankles). As we cycle through trimesters, our blood volume changes, our metabolism and body temperature start to shift and our hormones fluctuate as estrogen and progesterone skyrocket. This doesn’t include all the other shifts that occur like our newly hyper-attuned senses (taste, smells, touch), skin discolorations, vision changes, and breast changes. The point is we change: big time.
With all of these rapidly occurring changes and the fact that we are growing another human being inside of us, it’s no wonder pregnancy makes women feel so tired! Instead of that energy being reserved and available for other uses, it is now going towards the very complex process of supporting a baby. Naturally, our hunger increases but even with extra fuel, it can be a challenge to find the balance of energy we are looking for.
As a working mom of 2 kids and another on the way, I’ve had to try many different things to keep my energy levels up. Going through 3 pregnancies, I’ve had my moments of complete exhaustion but overall I would say I’ve been able to attain a good amount of energy through all 3 trimesters of each pregnancy. I’ve been able to be a mom, workout, run a business, and actually “feel” pretty energized (on most days, certainly not ALL) by using the tips below.
- Quit the Caffeine (at least the coffee)
It is common belief that “caffeine gives us energy” and we should “definitely drink it if we want to feel “awake” and “energized”. I found the total opposite to be true. If I’ve gone long periods without caffeine and then drink it occasionally, sure, I do feel bursts of energy, but if I drink it daily it starts to wear down my adrenal glands and I start to feel exhausted throughout the day. Further, caffeine is known to affect your sleep cycles1. For me, I would wake up periodically throughout the night if I drank it, leading to decreased sleep quality and time, which left me feeling even more exhausted in the mornings and throughout the day.
I also would get the infamous “restless leg syndrome” during my pregnancies when I drank caffeine, which further contributes to lack of sleep. As soon as I cut it out, this went away completely. My energy levels improved dramatically as well. I would wake up feeling refreshed and energized, my sleep improved to the point where I would rarely wake up during the night, and when I slept, I slept deeper. I’ve also experimented with coffee vs. tea. I’ve noticed that having either decreases my overall energy level but for the times that I was going to drink one of them, tea had a far less negative effect than coffee, with less blood sugar fluctuations throughout the day and more stable energy levels overall.
The most important thing to drink throughout your pregnancy is ENOUGH WATER. Even mild dehydration can cause you to feel tired and moody. 10 cups a day is the suggested amount2 but listen to your body.
- Get enough sleep (go to bed early if you have to)
Obviously, this is NOT easy if you already have kids. I don’t know about your kids but mine have not been the best sleepers… My first one would wake up several times throughout the night until she was about 4 years old (now I can’t get her to wake up!). My second slept amazingly until she was 17 months, now I can’t get her to sleep or to stay asleep (sigh). My only solution to this is go to bed early. If I know I’m going to be waking up at 4:30 or 5:00 I will try and be in bed by 8. Not always the case but I do my best to make sure I get as much rest time as I can because I know I’m not going to get any throughout the day.
- Eat healthy foods and focus on proteins, fruits and vegetables
If you want to totally zap your energy, eat sugary, processed foods and lots of carbs. I can’t stress this enough… As tempting as those breads, cakes, cookies, and pastas are, I’ve found that most of the time I’d rather have energy. If I eat these foods, and eat them often, I feel tired and will not have sustained energy levels (plus I keep craving these foods). The more you eat, the more you want. (There is a scientific reason behind all of this by the way, but that’s for another blog.)
Of course, different bodies and blood types may have different requirements but for me personally, I find I do best with lots of proteins, fruits and vegetables. I avoid gluten but I will include other grains such as quinoa or brown rice. I’m also not going to waste my energy being extreme with these practices. I believe it’s what you do most of the time that makes the biggest difference. A cookie here and there is certainly not going to kill you.
For me, a good rule of thumb is to make sure I have a protein in every meal. For breakfast, that might be Greek yogurt, or eggs and bacon. For snacks, I like to include nuts, nut butters or hummus. For lunches and dinners, it could be chicken, fish, steak, or beans. I try to eat a variety of different things every week to get in many different sources of nutrition. When I want something sweet I try and keep it simple and as unprocessed as possible: dark chocolate and almond butter or dates and peanut butter are very satisfying. I also love Hail Merry’s Tarts. They include maple syrup, are gluten free and are super delicious!
- Get some exercise (but listen to your body)
A brisk walk, light jog or yoga class help keep my energy levels up. I’ve also learned from experience that if I just do it out of “routine” without tuning into my body to see if that is what I actually need, I can overdo it and become tired. A simple check in with my body before I attempt to work out works wonders. If my body says to slow down and rest, I opt for a lower energy workout or rest that day. If I am feeling energized and up for it, I’ll do something a little more intense. Exercise also helps regulate sleep and mood3, 4 so those are other reasons to keep a modified workout routine going during your pregnancy.
- Find work/life balance
Work/life balance can mean many different things depending on your situation. As a “working outside the home” mom it means trying to balance my “outside the home work” with my “inside the home work” and also getting in rest, play, social time, and self-care. I’m not sure if “balance” ever actually happens when you have these many things to juggle but I do notice that if I’m doing too much of one thing I start to feel drained, especially when being pregnant. For example, if I’m working “too much” and not getting enough “family” or “play” time in, I start to feel drained (and it sneaks up on you!). Although a work in progress, I try to set boundaries as much as I can and reserve family time as “family time” and work time as “work time”. Within these two main domains of life I do my best to sprinkle in the lunch dates with friends and “rest moments” so I can re-tune into the fact that I am pregnant and cherish it while it is here.
Pregnancy definitely takes a lot out of you but with a few adjustments here and there you can add a lot back “in” and get your energy levels balanced.
What works for you? Comment below.
– Written by Cassandra Curtis, Founder & COO, Once Upon a Farm
Cassandra is a mother of two girls Divinaka, age 5 and Skyla age 18 months. She lives in San Diego with her husband, 2 daughters (soon to be 3!), 2 cats and dog. Cassandra works full time as the founder and COO (still wearing many hats) of Once Upon a Farm and as a mom. In the rare free time that she does get, she loves to do Yoga (she is a certified yoga teacher), cook healthy meals, run, travel, and spend time with friends and family.