boost your energy levels during pregnancy
Nutrition

How to boost your energy levels during pregnancy

Are you expecting and feeling fatigued? Follow consultant dietitian Sarah Keogh‘s great advice on how to boost your energy levels during pregnancy.

Let’s face it, when you heard you were going to be tired during pregnancy you thought it would be the last few weeks, not from the very beginning. It comes as quite a surprise to many women (and their partners) that energy levels can be at rock bottom in the first three months, long before you even start to show. You may pick up a little in the second trimester, but then you can be really floored again in the last.

So what’s going on?

In the first three months, your body is changing from the normal you, into a you that is making a whole new person. Your hormones have to rearrange themselves, your womb has to start expanding and your immune system is also working over time. Add to this the joy (not) of nausea and morning sickness and it is no wonder you feel like going to bed at three in the afternoon.

Things tend to improve in the second three months, but by the last three, you are physically heavier (or you should be) with a whole second person getting first go at all you eat. Your body is running at a higher temperature and a higher metabolism and you are busy making brains, intestines and all the other bits and pieces that go into your beautiful little bundle. Sleep can also take a hit as you toss and turn and need to get up to the loo five times a night.

Top tip

Regular snacks throughout the day will keep your energy levels up. Nuts, dried and fresh fruit are ideal.

What can we do?

First of all, eat. In the early months, nausea and morning (or all-day) sickness can leave you wanting to avoid food but this will just lower energy levels even more and you are more likely to get sick if you get too hungry. Don’t think about three square meals. Go for lots of snacks. If mornings are a bad time for you then eat a dry cracker before you even lift your head off the pillow. This helps to settle your stomach and makes it more likely that you will be able to face an actual breakfast. Keep it fairly dry as you are less likely to feel like getting sick. Try a handful of dry cereal. If you go for one that’s fortified then you will pick up some B vitamins and iron as well.

Later in the day, go for more dry crackers if you can’t face food, or try cold things like slices of ham or turkey from the fridge. Cold foods have less smell so they tend not to trigger nausea. Don’t wait until you are hungry, nibble all the time. Once you are past the nausea or are one of the lucky few who missed it, then focus on some key nutrients to keep energy levels as high as you can.

Water

boost your energy levels during pregnancy

Getting dehydrated not only zaps your energy, but it adds to foggy thinking and ‘pregnancy brain’. It is easy to get dehydrated if you have a lot of nausea or vomiting but you can also miss out if you are having bad heartburn or are simply too full after meals to have a drink. Keep a water bottle near you all day and sip as much as you can.

Lots of women find water hard to take when they are nauseous and strangely 7-Up with lots and lots of ice can be easier to drink than plain water at this stage. Use only if you’re really struggling, though as it can add up to a lot of sugar. Aim to have at least six to eight glasses of water per day.

Iron

This can be a tricky one for many women as most of us link iron with constipation. However, if you eat your iron in food, it has less of an impact than taking it as tablets. Great foods for iron are chickpeas, lentils, almonds, hazelnuts, red meat, chicken legs (but not the breast), eggs as well as spinach and kale. Try to have two of these foods everyday.

B Vitamins

This family of water-soluble vitamins help to reduce tiredness and fatigue. They help your body to extract the energy from your food so it’s crucial to keep well-stocked up. You will get some B vitamins in fortified breakfast cereals and wholegrains.

Go for wholegrain breads and cerals and try meals based on quinoa, buckwheat or brown pasta. Milk and yoghurt are also great places to get B vitamins especially B12. Make sure you are getting at least 3 servings or milk or yoghurt everyday. Try two glasses of milk and one pot of natural yoghurt.

Fibre

boost your energy levels during pregnancy

Constipation turns up in the early days (usually due to poor appetite) and in the last few months (due to relaxing of all your muscles in preparation for the big day). Being constipated is not only uncomfortable, but it also drains your energy and leaves you feeling sluggish and dull. Fibre is key to solving this. In the early days, stick to healthy guidelines with lots of fruit and vegetables, wholegrains and nuts and seeds. If appetite is a problem you can use some of the fibre supplements but talk to your dietitian or GP before you do.

In the later stages, you may be eating really well and still not getting the movement you need. This is the time to really up the fibre. Linseeds or flaxseeds are brilliant here. You can use up to four dessertspoons per day added to cereals, yoghurt or salads. Very high fibre cereals like All-Bran are brilliant if you’re really struggling. I would often recommend two bowls a day to women in their last few weeks of pregnancy. Remember that you also need to drink plenty of water if you increase fibre, especially if you go with linseeds.

Rest

Trust your body. Sometimes what you really need is to lie down. Your body is very busy and just like you need rest to recover from an illness, you need more rest when you are pregnant and no amount of healthy eating will take this away. Early nights (before 10pm) and naps when you come in from work, if you can will all really help. Try to limit how much you have to do both at work and in your social life. You really will have more energy if you let your body recharge its batteries now and again.

More like this:

Tackling tiredness with your pregnancy diet
Iron in pregnancy
Beating pregnancy fatigue

Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

A
In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.

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Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

A
In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.