How to Beat Exhaustion If You Are Pregnant with Your Second Child
Many mothers pregnant with their second child experience excessive fatigue. It is beyond comprehension how much energy is required to care for a toddler. In addition to this energy-depleting time in your life is the added energy requirement of starting a new pregnancy. If on top of being pregnant and having a toddler at home, you are also working, this triad is very hard to remedy.
On top of that, your body is flooded with the hormone progesterone. Progesterone prepares the uterine lining for implantation and growth. This hormone creates multiple other physiologic changes, but one of the side effects of progesterone is fatigue.
It is always better to be able to plan for a future pregnancy. That way, you can have your blood count checked before pregnancy, and if you are anemic, you can supplement with iron to bring your blood count back to normal. In addition, a daily exercise routine is actually an energy booster.
If you are planning your pregnancy, hopefully, you can create a routine that results in an afternoon naptime for your toddler. That way, you can also rest or nap during this time.
In addition, many women stop drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages altogether. Rapid withdrawal from caffeine can result in headaches and fatigue. Complete caffeine cessation is not necessary. Moderate caffeine consumption (<200 mg/day) does not appear to be a major contributing factor to miscarriage or preterm birth. The relationship of caffeine to growth restriction remains undetermined and it remains unclear whether there is a correlation between high caffeine intake and miscarriage. To give you some perspective, a brewed eight-ounce cup of coffee has an average of 137 mg of caffeine, and instant coffee has only 76 mg. Eight ounces of brewed tea has 48 mg of caffeine, and 12 ounces of a caffeinated soft drink has an average of 37 mg.
Tips to help with exhaustion:
- Drink plenty of water – When you are dehydrated, it can make you feel tired and sleepy, and it can also lead to headaches. Be sure that you are drinking 8 to 12 cups (64 to 96 ounces) of water daily.
- Eat a well-balanced meal – Highly processed foods can make you sluggish. Aim to incorporate foods that will boost your energy. Foods rich in iron can help with pregnancy fatigue. Dark leafy greens, red meats, legumes, eggs and nuts are all great options for foods higher in iron.
- Exercise – Your fatigue may have you feeling like exercise is the last thing you want to do, but it really can help boost energy levels and moods. Exercise in pregnancy has also been shown to be associated with a higher incidence of vaginal delivery and lower incidence of excessive weight gain, lower back pain, gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Encourage and help your firstborn with independent play – If your firstborn is old enough, encourage their problem-solving and independence, so they feel comfortable playing with themselves for a little bit. Teaching these skills will also be helpful when the new baby arrives. Independent play can occur in a pack ‘n play for younger babies or a play yard or bedroom for toddlers. Schedule playtime at the same time every day and provide your child with several age-appropriate toys. If you are starting out, it can be for 5 minutes, and you can gradually increase your goal.
- Ask for help – This seems obvious, but if you need a break, see if a family member or friend might be willing to watch your firstborn for a little bit so you can rest. It is Ok to ask others for help and take time for yourself.
In summary, fatigue in pregnancy is normal. It can be exacerbated by having other children at home or by having a job preventing rest during the day. Pre-pregnancy preparation is key, including maintaining a normal blood count, staying well hydrated, and having an exercise program, as exercise can increase energy stores. If you can tolerate your vitamins at the beginning of pregnancy, you should continue them. Create rest periods during the day to regenerate energy stores. If you routinely have caffeine during the day, you can be relieved to know that you do not have to stop all caffeine cold turkey.
If fatigue is excessive, be sure to report this to your obstetrician so they can check for other possible reasons for fatigue, such as thyroid disorders, hypertensive disorders or medications.
Schedule an appointment with Dr. Benjamin Dorton.
Editor's note: This blog was originally published on Oct, 15 2014 and has since been updated.