Many women feel fatigued and experience a lack of energy in their first trimester. That’s because there are many changes happening in a woman's body during pregnancy, especially during the first few months. In traditional Chinese medicine, we use the ancient theory of yin and yang, or dualism, to look at your qi, also known as your energy. During your first trimester, there’s a sudden demand on your qi to help form the placenta and manage the hormonal shifts. This may manifest in various ways. To find a recommendation that's personalized for you, first, we look at how that is showing up physiologically. Keeping reading to find which condition best describes your current energy levels, and follow a TCM-approved treatment.
Feeling tired but not quite to the point of exhaustion? This may show up for you as:
- Qi Deficiency: Feeling tired after exertion but better after resting.
- Liver Qi Stagnation: This type of fatigue is exacerbated by suppressed emotions or frustrations, stress, and inactivity.
Experiencing more extreme fatigue? This may point to:
- Yang Deficiency: Tiredness that gets worse throughout the day and after even the smallest activities. Feeling cold especially in the extremities.
Blood Deficiency: Feeling weakness overall, dry skin and lips, and sudden changes in memory.
- Yin Deficiency: Fatigue accompanied by restlessness. Nighttime heat symptoms such as night sweats, dry mouth, or low-grade fever.1
Sound familiar? Instead of trying to get more energy your first trimester, embrace the slow down.
There can be an urge to push through fatigue to maintain the same energy as before conception, but this can end up taxing you and your baby in the long run. Here are some natural remedies and lifestyle changes that will help you embrace the slow down.
Acupuncture can be a great asset to a woman who, despite all her efforts towards R&R still struggles with extreme exhaustion at any phase of her pregnancy. The exhaustion or fatigue could be due to a variety of underlying deficiencies so targeting the root cause of the issue is the most important factor.
Diet is at the forefront of traditional Chinese medicine. Depending on the symptoms present, the recommendation changes. But overall, it’s important for every woman to avoid refined foods and opt for whole, organic, fresh foods whenever possible. It’s also advised to avoid calcium-inhibitors like caffeine and soft drinks. Mineral-rich sweeteners like honey and molasses are great substitutes for refined and synthetic sweeteners. Eating foods rich in Omega-3, magnesium, calcium, and folate is important for fetal development and support during pregnancy.2 For women experiencing exhaustion during pregnancy, I usually recommend the following diet:
- Yang Deficiency: Avoid cold and raw foods and instead nourish the yang energy with cooked, warm foods. An easy way to warm any dish is adding in ginger, cinnamon, or other warming spices.
- Blood Deficiency: Foods that are rich in iron are essential to help build the blood back up in this type of condition. Beetroot, dark leafy greens, beans, dried apricots, sprouted buckwheat, and wheatgrass are just a few.
- Yin Deficiency: Incorporate rich and cooling foods like dairy, coconut milk, mango, bananas, beans, and fish. Eat more frequent, lighter meals throughout the day rather than larger meals infrequently.
While it’s important to maintain a certain level of activity, take the time to listen to your body during this time and rest if you need it. Mental rest can be just as important as physical rest, and recognizing what is making you tired can be a good start.
- Qi and Yang Deficiency: Reduce your physical workload and make sure to keep your body warm. Reduce activities that involve being in a cold environment.
- Yin Deficiency: Make the time to slow down and use soothing practices such as meditation, tai chi, or yin yoga.
- Blood Deficiency: One of the main organs responsible for blood supply according to TCM is the liver. From 1 to 3 p.m. the liver is at its weakest. In order to support the liver and therefore the blood, schedule a daily thirty-minute power-nap. Even a little time to shut the eyes can be beneficial.
- Liver Qi Stagnation: Before conception, you may have depended on high-intensity workouts to boost your mood and let off steam. But now is the time for soothing activities like easy hikes, yoga, or swimming on a more regular basis. Eat smaller and more frequent meals to avoid overeating in one sitting and help maintain a smooth flow of liver qi.3
Have you experienced fatigue in your first trimester? What practices have you found useful? Be sure to share by joining the conversation on social or by subscribing to the Perelel newsletter.
Samantha Manka-Segal is a Board Certified Physician of Traditional Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture in the state of California. She is dedicated to her passion for helping people heal naturally with traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, herbs, and lifestyle adjustments at her clinic in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, California.
1 Betts, D., Deadman, P., & Heese, I. (2006). The essential guide to acupuncture in pregnancy & childbirth. Hove, East Sussex, England: Journal of Chinese Medicine.
2 Pitchford, P. (2009). Healing with whole foods: Asian traditions and modern nutrition. North Atlantic Books.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.