Is it normal to feel so exhausted pregnancy?
As with morning sickness, no one really understands why it is that so many women feel so tired during the early weeks of pregnancy. Some doctors believe that the rapid changes taking place in your body and your metabolism in response to your pregnancy are simply tiring you out. Another explanation is that it is due to the speed of development of the embryo inside you. (Again, I must stress that if you don’t feel overly tired you should not worry – every pregnancy is different and it is even common for the same woman to feel exhausted in one pregnancy and absolutely fine in another.)
This lack of energy can be very debilitating and rather overwhelming for many women, but it is important to understand that it is perfectly normal and whatever the reason for these feelings, rest and sleep are essential.
Take catnaps during the day, or longer siestas if you can, and go to bed earlier at night.
In general, any feelings of lethargy or tiredness disappear by the end of the first trimester, after which women often find they are once again full of energy.
If sickness does strike in the morning, try nibbling on a biscuit to boost blood sugar levels before you face the day.
The first trimester is the most important in terms of laying the foundation for a healthy pregnancy, both for you and your developing baby By the end of the 13th week, the tiny cluster of cells that embedded in your uterus at the start of pregnancy is already a fully formed human being. All the major organs are in place and your pregnancy is no longer supported by complex hormonal interactions, but by the fully established placenta instead.
By the end of pregnancy the amount of blood being pumped through your heart increases by 40-50 per cent.
Your baby By the time the fertilized egg has started to divide, travelled down the fallopian tube, and embedded in the endometrium, or uterine lining, the resulting cluster of cells numbers around 60 and is called a blastocyst. This process has taken around three days.
After another two to three days, the blastocyst has fully embedded in the endometrium and has subdivided further to around 100 cells. There are two distinct layers of cells by now: the outer layer, called trophoblast cells, which will become the placenta; and the inner cells, which will develop into the embryo.
This inner mass of cells further specializes during the second week after conception into three types of cells. Each type develops into a different part of the body: the outer layer, or ectoderm, forms the skin, hair, nails, tooth enamel, and also, crucially, the brain and nervous system. The middle layer, or mesoderm, forms the skeleton, muscles, kidneys, heart, blood vessels, and reproductive organs. The inner layer, or endoderm, forms the respiratory and digestive systems, as well
as the bladder and urinary tract. So it is that, even before you even know you are pregnant, a huge amount of development has taken place and the key parts of your baby’s body are starting to form.
By the end of week 6, the embryo measures around 4mm in length, weighs less than lg (0.03oz), and resembles a tadpole or a comma. It has folded in on itself, and a bulge in the middle represents the
beginnings of a heart, which starts to flutter and pulse, like a heart beat.
A structure called the neural tube starts to form into what will become the spinal cord at the lower end, enveloped by a rudimentary spinal column, and the brain at the upper end. Nerve cells form the various folds and hollows that will develop into the different parts of the brain. The beginnings of a mouth and eyes are almost visible.
The embryo floats in a bubble-like fluid-filled sac, the amniotic sac, which protects it from the outside world.
It receives its sustenance from a balloon-like structure called a yolk-sac, attached to it by a stalk. The outer part of the amniotic sac is called the chorion and part of this will eventually become the placenta.
By six weeks gestation all the heart cells are beating as one and the basic fetal nervous system is in place.
Your body When the blastocyst embeds in the uterine lining, it starts to secrete human chorionic gonadotrophin ! hCG), which in turn tells the corpus luteum (the tissue mass formed by the follicle after the egg has been released from it) to secrete progesterone to help keep the embryo in place. This hormone also thickens your cervical mucus to form a plug, which seals off your uterus. Raised levels of oestrogen have also helped to thicken the endometrium to allow the embryo to embed. If the level of either of these hormones drops in the first trimester, the pregnancy will end in miscarriage.
By the end of the sixth week your uterus, which was about the size of a plum, has expanded to the size of an apple.
Your metabolic rate will increase by as much as 10 to 25 per cent to allow the production of sufficent oxygen to reach all the tissues of all your organs. By the end of the sixth week, the blood supply to your uterus has doubled. Your uterus has started to expand and your blood volume has started to increase to ensure that it can fill all the newly formed blood vessels in the uterus and, eventually, the placenta. All your major organs will receive a boost in blood flow during pregnancy. Because the volume of blood increases from about 5 litres (8% pints) to around 7 to 8 litres (12 to 14 pints), the number of red blood cells also needs to rise. This is why maintaining a good intake of iron-rich foods is so important.