Tiredness During Pregnancy

Tiredness and difficulty sleeping is common throughout pregnancy.

In the first 12 weeks you may feel particularly tired and this is believed to be because of the hormonal changes you are going through at this time.

From around 16 weeks, and as you continue to get bigger, you may find it harder to get comfortable at night which can lead to sleeplessness and cause tiredness the following day. Also after 16 weeks, when you lie flat on your back the growing baby presses on the main blood vessels. The effect is that less blood is pumped around your body and this may lead to low blood pressure (hypotension) so you may want to sleep on your side instead. Later on in pregnancy you may feel tired because of the extra weight you are carrying.

Tiredness in pregnancy could also be linked to a lack of iron in your body (known as iron-deficiency anaemia). Iron is needed during pregnancy for the blood supply to your growing baby so it is important to eat plenty of foods high in iron to prevent deficiency, which can lead to your baby having a low birth weight.

Some groups of women may have a higher risk of iron deficiency if their intake of iron was low before becoming pregnant, such as young women and those on a vegetarian or vegan diet. You will be offered a range of blood tests during pregnancy, including one for anaemia, and you will be advised if you need to take supplements or boost the amount of iron needed from your diet.

Iron is found in red meat (such as lean beef), pulses (such as lentils and beans, e.g. kidney beans), wholemeal bread, green leafy vegetables (such as spinach and watercress), dried fruit (e.g. apricots) and fortified foods like breakfast cereals. There are certain things in the diet that can affect how much iron is absorbed from your food. Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron from plant sources, so having a glass of fruit juice with a meal can help you get the most from your food. On the other hand, milk, tea and coffee can stop your body absorbing iron, so try not to drink them with meals.

It is important to eat a variety of foods to ensure that you obtain all the nutrients you and your baby need. Unfortunately, no single food or nutrient will guarantee you a good night’s sleep, but making sure you have enough of certain vitamins and minerals is important (see table below).

Nutrient Role Food Sources
Folate Contributes to normal red blood cell formation
  • Beans and legumes e.g. black eye beans or lentils
  • Vegetables e.g. asparagus or spinach
  • Berries e.g. strawberries
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) Contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue
  • Dairy e.g. milk or plain yogurt
  • Nuts and seeds e.g. almonds or pumpkin seeds
  • Oily fish e.g. mackerel or sardines*
  • Eggs

Vitamin B3

(Niacin)

Contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue
  • Fish e.g. haddock, salmon or tuna*
  • Lean meat and poultry e.g. chicken, turkey or lean cuts of beef
Vitamin B6 Contributes to normal red blood cell formation
  • Nuts, legumes and seeds e.g. walnuts, peanuts or sesame seeds
  • Oily fish e.g. mackerel or tuna*
  • Certain fruit e.g. avocados or bananas
Vitamin B12 Contributes to normal red blood cell formation
  • Meat and animal products e.g. milk, eggs, lean meat or fish*
Vitamin C Contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue
  • Fruits e.g. blackberries, oranges or strawberries
  • Vegetables e.g. broccoli, peppers or peas
Magnesium Contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue
  • Dark leafy greens e.g. baby spinach
  • Nuts and seeds e.g. almonds, cashews or sunflower seeds


*Fish is an excellent source of various vitamins and minerals and oily fish contains essential omega 3 fatty acids, but some types of fish should be avoided or limited. Read more about fish here.