Don't skimp on sleep Whether it was your very first pregnancy symptom or it hit you a few weeks after the pee stick read positive, you're pregnant -- and suddenly you've never been so tired! (Hey, carrying around that extra weight and growing that life inside you is hard work.) You don't have to sleep your way through your pregnancy, though. Here are 18 ways to stay rested and awake.
You probably don't need a reminder to turn in early -- fatigue in pregnancy (especially in the first trimester, when your body is busy creating the placenta) can be crushing. Naps help, but if your schedule can't accommodate one, be sure to add an extra hour or two for an optimum nine-hour slumber. Another reason to ramp up shut eye: A recent study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that sleeping less than six hours (or more than 10) each night in early pregnancy ups risk of elevated blood pressure in the third trimester. If you can't sleep because you're uncomfortable (or an overactive bladder keeps you running to the bathroom), turn over and position yourself on all fours for a few minutes, says Carrie Parker Gastelu, a childbirth educator and yoga instructor in New York City. “This will help shift the baby off your bladder and make you more comfortable.”
Make the sleep you do get better If you're tossing and turning at night, the rest you're getting is not restorative. Many moms rely on special body pillows, like the Leachco Snoggle Total Body Pillow, designed to support your back and be tucked between your knees. But really, you don't have to shell out cash to get the zzz's you need: Gastelu says simply placing any old pillow or cushion between your knees will help ease any lower back and hip discomfort that you may experience while sleeping on your side. “Keeping the knees level reduces the strain on your joints,” she says. You can also prop a pillow behind your back for additional support and comfort while side-sleeping, which is recommended during pregnancy.
Skip the sweet stuff Craving sweets? Sugary treats may give you an instant energy boost, but when your blood sugar drops, you'll feel even more tired than before. That's because simple carbs, like a doughnut or a cookie, are metabolized faster, says Ximena Jimenez, M.D., R.D., national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. A better choice: complex carbohydrates, such as yogurt or a piece of fruit with a slice of cheese. If possible, combine carbs with protein; the combo will take longer to digest so you'll have a sustained source of energy. Smart suggestions from Jimenez: whole grain toast and a slice of cheese or yogurt and ½ cup blueberries.
Hold the housework and head out for a walk Why walk? “Increasing the blood flow boosts energy and getting the endorphins going just makes you feel better -- even if you just go around the block,” says Virginia R. Lupo, MD, a maternal fetal medicine specialist in Minneapolis and spokesperson for American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Since your center of gravity changes weekly (if not daily) Lupo recommends you take it a little slower. “You don't want to raise your heart rate,” she stresses. “The rule of thumb: you should be able to maintain a conversation while you're walking. You shouldn't be huffing and puffing.”
And don't feel guilty about letting the housework slide to get a little exercise in -- you'll be doing your baby a favor while getting an energy boost. Honest! A recent study found a link between housework and premature birth. (Surprising fact: It's not the exertion, it's the monotony. Researchers think it may be that boring tasks increase levels of stress hormones.)
Streamline your schedule Take a long, hard look at your calendar. Are you over-committed? You have enough on your mind -- worrying about everything from the health of your baby to the color of your nursery -- so don't overextend yourself. Even when you're sitting still, your body is doing so much. “It's easy to forget that and move through your day as if everything is normal. But, inside there's tremendous activity and change,” says Gastelu. “If you can keep a sense of that reality, it makes it easier for you to reduce commitments, and refocus your energy on what really matters.”
Tune in to upbeat music One mama-to-be in New York City says her iPod playlist only includes music with a fast tempo. She tunes in whenever she needs a little lift during the workday -- and she's on to something: Studies on exercisers have found their pace increased along with the tempo of the music they were listening to. So when you're falling asleep on your feet, tune in for a little lift a la Lady Gaga.
Up your water intake Surprisingly, a glass of water does more for energy levels than a cup of joe. That's because fatigue is often a symptom of dehydration. Being hydrated is essential to feeling energized, says Jimenez. The ideal amount: at least six to eight glasses a day, (more if you're in the heat or exercising). Another way to meet your quota: Fill up on soups, fruits and vegetables. Their high water content counts toward daily hydration totals.
Eat to beat fatigue You may not be hungry. Heck, you may be hurling. But you need sustenance for your baby—and to help sidestep the sleepies. “When we're pregnant, we tend to focus on how many extra calories we're supposed to be getting,” says Jiminez. “But to boost energy, it's better to focus on the quality of the food, not the quantity.” By eating a balanced diet, you're sure to keep your energy levels up. An easy way to do it: Eat mini meals throughout the day. (Remember how you feel after eating a huge meal? Yeah, tired.)
Pick out a little pick-me-up It worked for this expectant mom: “I bought myself a gorgeous pin from Anthropologie,” says Bonnie of New York City. “I'm feeling kind of like a house these days and all of my maternity clothes have been worn to death, so the pin makes me feel a little feminine, more like my pre-pregnancy self.” Taking the time to pamper yourself, even a little, will provide a shot of confidence and may just add more pep to your step.
Get a breath of fresh air Feeling cooped up? That could be to blame for your flagging energy. “We're not only more sedentary when we're indoors, we're more prone to breathing re-circulated air, which drains energy and exposes you to pathogens,” Lupo explains. Take regular breaks and get out into the fresh air to oxygenate your body. A little natural light doesn't hurt either: “Sunshine is great because it helps raise vitamin D levels,” she says. “People who are sufficient in D report a better sense of well-being." To reap the benefits, have hands and arms exposed for just 10 minutes a day -- all you need to feel a lift.
Pump some Iron …And we're not talking dumbbells. Iron-rich foods, such as legumes, lentils and lean meats, will help rev energy and provide vital nutrients for your baby, says Jiminez. To boost the benefit, also eat foods high in Vitamin C -- like orange juice, tomatoes, red peppers, leafy greens -- which helps your body absorb the iron. On the other hand, avoid eating iron-rich foods with milk, yogurt and cheese. Dairy blocks the absorption of energy-boosting iron. And take note: Extreme fatigue is a symptom of iron deficiency, so mention it to your doctor if you're concerned. She may test you for anemia.
Go for protein Eat a balanced, low-fat diet that's loaded with protein -- because if you skimp on protein, you'll feel even more tired. “Lean meats and poultry are good sources of fatigue-fighting vitamins b6 and b12,” says Jimenez, “which play an important role in converting the nutrients in food into energy.”
Biceps for baby You have nine months to get buff, toned arms that will help you carry your bundle of joy. But there's another reason to lift weights: The mood and energy boosting benefits you get from pumping iron. Experts agree that strength training while pregnant is safe, but fitness expert Ellen Barrett, creator of seven fitness DVDs including Happy Baby, Fit Mama, recommends lifting lighter weights, such as 2- to 3-pound dumbbells, and doing more repetitions. Your body is undergoing tremendous changes -- your center of gravity is shifting, and your knees and feet may have trouble supporting additional weight -- so keep it light. You'll gain energy without overexerting yourself.
Tea for two Though it's best to avoid the use of herbs and herbal teas while pregnant (the reason, says Jiminez, is that they're not governed by the FDB), one brew gets the all-clear: Ginger tea. Sip it to alleviate morning sickness, and enjoy the uplifting aroma, which can provide a caffeine-free jolt.
Cozy up to the barista Sometimes nothing works quite like a cup of coffee or a can of cola. Go ahead, indulge -- in moderation. New research shows that it's safe to consume 200 milligrams of caffeine daily, which is roughly one 12-ounce cup of joe. In moderation, caffeine is fine, Jiminez says, but if you're still worried, discuss risks with your doctor.
Strike a (pregnant) pose One of the benefits of a regular yoga practice is better posture, and alignment is important for energy because rounded shoulders impede lung capacity, says Barrett. “An open chest allows an optimal amount of oxygen to get into your body.” Try this preggers-friendly standing backbend: Stand with feet slightly apart and hands in your “back pockets.” Draw elbows toward one another and lift your chest slightly. Take a few deep breaths.
Sometimes, though, what we perceive as physical fatigue is really mental fatigue, says Barrett. Simply breathing in and out and focusing on extending the exhalation will help increase oxygen intake. Gastelu agrees: “By slowly, gradually, effortlessly lengthening the exhale, your lungs will have more room to receive an inhale.”
Chill Just like a dip in a cool pool on a hot day, splashing cool water on your face can instantly refresh. Ayurvedic (and Western) medicine maintains that rinsing your face with cool water helps to disperse heat, which can perk you up instantly. For a mid-day boost that won't wreck your makeup, apply cool water to pulse points, such as wrists and the back of the neck.