Pregnant and feeling YUCK? Here are 3 easy ways to feel instantly better
So you’ve made it through the first trimester, congrats!
Hopefully, you've left behind the nausea, vomiting and extreme fatigue that made going to bed at dinner-time seem like a perfectly logical idea.
By the 13th week of pregnancy, you’re supposed to be full of happy hormones, have clear skin, great hair and improved energy levels... right? Well, while most women will start to feel a bit better in the second trimester, there are many for whom it’s a real struggle to feel good.
You shouldn’t have to suffer in silence (never a good plan for anyone feeling bad) and figuring out what may be causing your symptoms, aside from just the fact that you’re pregnant, will give you the chance to do something about it.
Here are a few tips to get you back on track if you’ve been feeling cheated of that pregnancy ‘glow’.
There’s a big difference between being short-tempered and cranky because you’ve been up half the night going to the loo or you've got other children to look after versus feeling a persistent sadness or a loss of interest in engaging in daily activities.
At least 25 per cent of women feel anything but rosy during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. I’m leaving the first trimester out because this is when women are usually feeling rubbish anyway, but by the time you hit that 13th week, and the placenta has officially taken over, low moods would normally start to improve, unless there is something else going on.
What's the health fix?
I know I’ve mentioned this many times before, but did you know just how important Vitamin D is important for balanced moods, as well as fertility? Research has found that symptoms of depression were closely associated with low vitamin D levels in test subjects, so if you're pregnant and feeling unusually low, it could be that your Vitamin D levels are below normal. Ask your doctor for your levels to be tested and supplement if necessary, to help your moods recover.
Also, make sure that your thyroid function has been checked out. This is especially important if you already have a history of hypothyroidism or a close family member has it. It’s very common for it to manifest during pregnancy. Make sure that you don’t just have testing for TSH and T4, but also Free T3 (the bioavailable thyroxine) to see if you have any issues in this area. If you do, your GP can prescribe Eltroxin to support your thyroid function during your pregnancy, which can have a significant knock-on impact on your mood.
Many of my pregnant clients often ask: "What’s going on with me – I thought I was supposed to be coming out of this ‘haze’ now that I’m in the second trimester, and yet I still feel like I’m dragging myself out of bed in the morning and can’t focus properly at work?"
Low energy is such a common complaint during pregnancy. It can be very frustrating for women who are used to being highly efficient and capable of ploughing through a multitude of tasks, to suddenly find that they lack the energy reserves to do even the simplest jobs.
What's the health fix?
One of the most common reasons for energy slumps in pregnancy is low blood sugar. This may come as a surprise, but even if you are eating healthily, it’s the timing of when you eat that is really crucial. I once dealt with a lady who had to keep a bowl of fruit and nuts by her bed at night because she would wake up in the middle of the night with a headache – it turned out to be due to a decline in blood sugar levels - her body was waking her up in order to eat something.
Growing a baby places large demands on your body’s resources and during the second and third trimester, the foetus is likely to go through some growth spurts that will leave you feeling exhausted for no apparent reason.
If you’ve been eating regular meals and your iron levels are good, but you still feel whacked, then ask to have your B12 levels checked. Low levels will affect how your body uses folate for red blood cell production, which can leave you feeling sluggish and worn out.
Forgetfulness (aka 'pregnancy brain')
I’m afraid this isn’t just a figure of speech – ‘pregnancy brain’ is a real issue. It can be a bit of a shock to find suddenly that words escape you and keys are being inexplicably left in the car door, but this is a very common phenomena.
Studies have found that part of the reason for this is that during pregnancy the brain shifts focus to more emotional and intuitive thinking. It’s thought that this process helps mums-to-be improve the connection with their baby’s needs.
What's the health fix?
Omega 3 fats are extremely important during pregnancy. In the third trimester a woman’s brain actually shrinks slightly, such are the demands the growing foetus is putting on her fat stores.
Thankfully, this situation corrects itself after the birth, but it’s a good reminder of why you shouldn’t avoid eating healthy fats while pregnant. These fats won’t make you put on weight, but rather they will feed your brain, protect your nerve signalling pathways and curb your appetite because healthy fats are very satiating. Stock up on avocados, walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds and have oily fish at least once per week. If you aren’t keen on fish, opt for a high-quality fish oil supplement instead.
Choline-rich foods are another great asset to the diet because choline is used by the neurotransmitters within the brain, which affects how fast we respond to stimuli. In short, your alertness and focus should improve if your diet is rich in choline-containing foods, such as egg yolks, edamame beans, nuts and citrus fruit.
And give yourself a break...
In spite of your best efforts, there may still be days where you feel tired, moody or not that interested in work. It’s normal to feel this way sometimes during pregnancy, but if your symptoms persist and you can’t seem to shake them, make sure you seek professional advice as there could be a hormonal imbalance or nutrient deficiency getting in the way of you enjoying the rest of your pregnancy.
Jessica Bourke is a Natural Fertility Specialist, who deals with all aspects of reproductive health. Her clinical approach is based on evidence-based nutrition protocols, acupuncture treatment, and she also offers functional lab tests to support you on your journey to parenthood. She's a regular contributor to Irish media and co-author of the 'Guilt Free Gourmet' cook-book. As a Mum of two, Jessica understands the challenges of pregnancy and parenting. For more, visit jessicabourke.com.