Navigating the First Trimester

By: Gloria Miles

Congratulations! You were either trying or surprised, but you've tested and came back with a BFP (big fat positive).

BFP!

Due 2019!!

You're pregnant! You have so much to look forward to in the next nine months! I'm assuming that you are in your very first trimester (and that's why you've clicked on the blog post).

Sometimes women don't realize they are pregnant until much later. Very rarely women show up in the emergency room with intestinal distress only to find out they're actually in labor. (We've all heard the stories!)

Either way, we'll assume the first trimester. 

Now what?

The very first step (aside from figuring out how to announce it your partner, friends and family) is setting up your first prenatal appointment. Most providers advise starting care between 8-12 weeks of pregnancy.

Whether you are birthing in a hospital and wanting an epidural as soon as the party starts or wanting a hospital birth completely sans medications, have your heart set on a birth center birth, or at home with a midwife, prenatal care is very important. It all looks fairly similar and the standard of care will include blood work and an early dating ultrasound unless your health care provider states otherwise. 

Appointments in the beginning are generally set for every four weeks. After your 28th week it'll increase to every two weeks, and after your 36th week, it'll increase to weekly visits until your delivery. Of course, if issues arise during the pregnancy, extra visits may be necessary.

And so you're pregnant and have your first appointment set...and....you look about the same. Everyone is asking about due dates and looking forward to the end, even now, but life goes on about the same. Or does it??

What is going on with you right now?

Nausea/Vomiting

Not everyone will become nauseous during their first trimester, but morning sickness is a fairly common complaint. Really, it should be called all day sickness, because it can strike at any time. 

What can you do about it? Well, eating smaller, more frequent meals can help. My general rule of thumb is: if it smells questionable to you, even if it smells great to everyone else, stay away from it. Drink plenty of water and fluids with electrolytes, especially if you're vomiting. Eating blander foods may help: toast, peanut butter, salted or unsalted eggs, crackers, oatmeal, etc. 

Prenatal vitamins may contribute to the nausea. Check out reviews for ones that don't mess with women's tummies and ask your health care provider for recommendations. 

Sometimes morning sickness is bothersome enough that medication might be advisable.  Your health care provider may suggest over-the-counter supplements or prescribe something like Zofran to help combat the nausea and vomiting. 

The good news is that this typically passes by the 13th week of pregnancy. 

Note: Sometimes, but not as commonly, women will suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum. If you are throwing up everything and not able to keep fluids down, you need to see a doctor as soon as possible. 

Constipation

This one is super fun, especially in combination with feeling bloated. Changes in hormones can cause changes in regularity. As with morning sickness, your body will adjust and you will go back to your normal schedule. 

What can you do about it? Taking a probiotic can help. Remember to take a probiotic with a prebiotic in it. If you do not, then the probiotic will not help, regardless of how many billions of strains it has. Most of the time, the ones who have both are in the refrigerated section of your health food store. 

Foods with natural probiotics are: yogurt, greek yogurt, kefir, kombucha, dark chocolate (heck yeah!), pickles , honey, bananas, artichokes, and more. 

Eating food high in fiber can also help with regularity: lentils, almonds, broccoli, cabbage, kidney beans, wheat bran, oat bran, just to name a few. 

And, of course, like most things: water helps. Hydrate!

Bloating

You're pregnant, but you feel more fat than anything. That's pretty normal. Constipation can contribute to bloating.

Making sure to drink plenty of water and have an adequate intake of salt will help. It'll pass.  As always, if you feel something is off, contact your health care provider.  

Fatigue

Any pregnant mother can attest, the early weeks are brutal when it comes to fatigue. It's hard work making a baby! You may not look pregnant, but this first trimester is when the most work happens! You're busy creating a complex organism from two little gametes (sex cells). You're creating a heart, a spinal cord, lungs, a nervous system, eyes, skin...a whole being! Of course you're going to be tired! 

What can you do? SLEEP! I hear all you moms with littles laughing. I know how hard it can be to sneak naps in, but whenever you are able to: sleep. Tap in your partner whenever you can. Let housework slide a little. Be kind and gentle with yourself. It's just a season that'll pass by about the 13th week.  However, it can also reappear in the last trimester.

Besides sleeping you can also check your iron. This will be in your first prenatal blood panel. If you are anemic, this will also contribute to your sleepiness. You may be told to take an iron supplement. Ask your doctor or midwife for recommendations. Foods may also help keep your iron at a good level, such as dark leafy greens and legumes. Again, speak with your health care provider regarding their recommendations for your diet and/or iron supplements they may want you to take. 

Exercising During First Trimester

Exercise will help with energy. You can continue with the exercise routine you've already been following for the most part. High intensity workouts or heavy lifting may have to be cut back. Most importantly, follow what your body is telling you. 

If you are new to exercising, don't worry, you can start. Plus, the benefits of exercising during pregnancy are plentiful! It cuts down on fatigue, limits excessive weight gain, leads to a healthy pregnancy, helps with labor, gives you strong abs and back which will cut down on back and pelvic pain, and boosts your mood.

Unless a medical reason is given, most women can exercise during pregnancy. 

Great exercises, especially for beginners, are walking, swimming, and yoga. Running is fine and can be continued for as long as it's comfortable. Weight lifting can be continued by most, but just remember that relaxin, a hormone that relaxes tendons, will begin flowing through your body.  Lowering the weight and paying attention to good form is important.  Additionally, center of gravity will be shifting as your uterus expands which may mean avoiding certain movements. Also, some movements (such as planks) may have to be modified or avoided, because of your growing abdomen. 

As always, consult your health care provider.

Cramps

Some women experience cramps in early pregnancy. These aren't necessarily a symptom, but they're common enough and not generally a worry. Some women fear this means they may miscarry, but cramps on their own can be normal. 

The uterus is a muscle and every time it is messed with, so to speak, it'll contract. Sometimes these contractions will cause cramping. Reasons you may be cramping: you just had sex, you have a full bladder, or your uterus is growing. 

Note: If you are experiencing cramping and bright red bleeding or spotting, call your health care provider or go into the ER. 

This blog post should not serve as a substitute for medical advice and is purely for informational purposes. Every pregnancy is different. Trust your instincts and always check in with your health care provider with any questions or concerns you may have, even if they are listed as "normal."

So congratulations and hopefully the first trimester treats your kindly! 

Remember, this will pass and the second trimester will be here before you know it. Comment below with anything you felt helped you get through the first few months.