“Even my eight naps per day weren’t enough…”

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I have considered myself lucky in my pregnancy, with first trimester symptoms. I had very mild nausea. I didn’t vomit once. My constipation and digestive issues were dealt with relatively easily with acupuncture and herbs. Although I had very specific preferences for certain foods, at least some of them were healthy.

My big source of first trimester misery was the fatigue. Having the fortunate position of being an entrepreneur, I was able to set my schedule according to my body’s needs at the time, so my days went something like this…

1. Sleep in as late as possible
2. Get up and make a cup of green tea
3. Rest and recover in my reclining chair because making the tea took almost all of my energy
4. Make breakfast – an orange, a mango and rye toast with butter (like EVERY OTHER morning)
5. Eat breakfast
6. Answer some emails but quickly discover that my eyes are far too tired to focus on work
7. Take a nap
8. Get up and shower
9. Take a nap to recover from taking the shower
10. Get out of bed and dry my hair – which develops into some serious bed head when it dries during my nap
11. Take another nap to recover from drying my hair
12. Make lunch – rye toast with butter and an orange (again)
13. Drive to the office for a half day’s work
14. Take a nap on the spare massage table in the back between patients
15. Drive home
16. Discover that my husband is making something extra smelly for dinner and banish myself to the other end of the house to avoid cooking smells
17. Take a nap
18. Eat dinner (probably toast and oranges again, maybe with some veggies if the ones my husband made for dinner are not too smelly, not too cold, not too mushy and not too oily)
19. Try to read “Ina May’s Guide to Natural Childbirth” but realize I can’t keep my eyes open
20. Go to bed by 7:30pm
21. Sleep at least 12 hours
22. Repeat

Exhausted woman sleeping in front of computer

If you apply common sense to the idea of fatigue in pregnancy, its no surprise. Your body is working really hard, all the time, to build a whole other person! Many women find that their fatigue peaks around week 9 of pregnancy – this is when the placenta is under construction, which takes a lot of energy.

One of the best things you can do to help with fatigue in pregnancy is to eat foods which are as nutritionally dense as possible. I’m taking about whole foods like fresh fruits and veggies, organic meats, eggs and dairy products, nuts, seeds, whole grains and plenty of water. This can help you acquire and store up many of your much needed essential nutrients.

One of the main nutrients your body needs for ultimate baby construction is iron. Your body is basically doubling the blood supply in the first trimester – which means you need tones of iron. At this time, even if you’re not anaemic – it can sure feel like you are! Fatigue, dizziness, faintness, trouble seeing properly and other lovely symptoms can arise.

So what happens if you’re like me and the only thing you could possibly eat is oranges and toast (or some other specific food)? For me, herbs were the answer.

My herbalist made me a wonderful custom formula to help my tired body. This mild herbal pregnancy tea was nothing short of a miracle when it came to increasing energy. The formula featured a few wonderful herbs such as Red Raspberry Leaf to promote a healthy and strong uterus, Oatstraw to help me feel relaxed without making me drowsy and Marshmallow root to help keep my bowel movements regular and comfortable. The main attraction however, was the almighty Nettle Leaf.

Nettles are incredibly rich in trace minerals, especially iron. When steeped in an infusion (a tea) the nutrients are easily absorbed by the body. All minerals require an acidic environment in order to be absorbed optimally, so I always took my tea with a squirt of fresh lemon juice. I also regularly added a few slices of fresh ginger root to gently ease an upset tummy. My first trimester was in the winter so I always enjoyed my tea hot, but this formula also makes a lovely and refreshing iced tea in the hot summer months.

Although a custom blended formula, made by a qualified Herbalist or Naturopathic Doctor is the ultimate solution, you can still find relief by using straight nettle teabags or making a tea from fresh or dried nettles. Many health food stores sell organic nettle teabags – One of my favourite brands is the Traditional Medicinals Line of teas – check it out here. This brand is popular and can be found in many grocery and health food stores.

When my pregnant patients come to see me for treatment of fatigue, I also offer them the following recommendations.

1. Rest as much as you can – this seems like a common sense no brainer, but I see so many pregnant women still continuing to burn the candle at both ends, both at work and in personal life, just as they did before they were pregnant. Pregnancy is a time of vast shift in energy, physiology and attitude. The body is going through tremendous changes, so priorities must shift. Rest and reflection should now be at the top of the list of things most important. Our to do lists will always be endless, so try to do only what is absolutely necessary and spend allow more time for resting, reading, relaxing, sleeping and turning inward.
2. Eat as well as you are able – in theory, all pregnant women would eat a completely whole food, nutrient dense diet to provide optimal nutrition for both baby and mother. Unfortunately, with nausea and increased sense of smell and taste, this is not always possible. So just do the best you can with this. That’s all anyone can really ask of you.
3. Avoid processed sugar – sugar causes extreme highs and lows in blood sugar. This directly affects energy levels but it also has a more indirect chain reaction. Whacky blood sugar also affects the health of the liver, which plays a big role in hormone regulation and metabolism. Avoiding processed sugar can help keep the liver functioning optimally, which can help keep hormones in balance – essential to a healthy pregnancy.
4. Try acupuncture – I saw my acupuncturist every week for my first trimester, which was tremendously helpful. Acupuncture can help increase digestive function (and therefore nutrient absorbtion), encourage deeper and restful sleep, improve circulation, ease anxieties and calm emotions, as well as many other things.

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