Women have a lot to cope with during the first trimester of pregnancy.
A lot is going on inside your body as it grows and nourishes the tiny life inside of you.
It’s pretty amazing when you think about it, how a teeny tiny thing can grow from almost nothing to a little baby with a heartbeat in just 12 weeks.
Because our bodies are doing a lot of hard work, we suffer the consequences.
It is a tough time, but there are things you can do to cope. Here is a survival guide to getting through those difficult first 12 weeks.
Don’t forget to check out the next posts in the series:
1. Morning sickness
They really need to rename this. For the record, it absolutely is not confined to the morning.
It strikes at any time of day and night. It can be constant – as it was in my case with both pregnancies.
The name covers nausea as well as vomiting. Some women suffer from the more severe form of morning sickness, known as hyperemesis gravidarum. For these women medical help and lots of rest is the only answer.
When you do feel sick, it’s very difficult to eat and it’s physically draining.
Try to remember to drink a lot of water, eat simple foods like soup and dry toast or crackers and get some early nights. It will pass.
Many people swear by ginger nuts or biscuits, though these never helped me. You can also try travel sickness bands that you wear on the wrist.
My nausea lasted through to 20 weeks with both pregnancies but for most women it passes fairly quickly.
This doesn’t necessarily mean something bad. Early bleeding can be a sign of implantation where the baby is getting nice and cosy in the lining of the womb.
I had bleeding with both pregnancies. It was heavy and quite worrying. I had an early scan at six weeks which reassured us the baby was fine. No explanation has ever been found for my bleeding.
If you do have pain or bleeding or both, tell your midwife and do try not to assume the worst straight away.
3. Bad taste
This can make eating really tricky and it can drive you to distraction. It’s a grim taste, quite bitter, and just constant.
The only thing that helped for me was rinsing out my mouth with salt water.
Dissolve some salt in boiling water, let it cool and then rinse around your mouth for 30 seconds. Spit it out, don’t swallow.
Your body is going through a lot as it nurtures the little life inside of you. Rest as much as possible.
Keeping up with gentle exercise can do wonder as well, however. Try to walk for at least 30 minutes every day. Fresh air can really help with some of the other unpleasant symptoms too.
Sugar was my weakness during pregnancy. I never craved anything weird, but lots of women report wanting to eat things they never liked before falling pregnant.
Surrender to the cravings, you’ve got a lot going on after all!
But do try to remember that during pregnancy you don’t actually need any extra calories until the final trimester, when you need an extra 200 calories a day. That’s equivalent to a slice of toast and butter.
6. Loss of appetite
I struggled to eat during both of my early pregnancies.
I ate because I felt I should for the baby’s sake, but I really didn’t want to!
Try to find something your body can tolerate, you need to keep up your strength.
7. Mood swings
Your hormones are having a field day as the pregnancy develops.
This means the slightest thing can set off tears or tantrums.
Hopefully you have a partner who understands. Try to remind them that you need a lot of extra moral support right now. Cuddles and cake help a lot too.
My first sign of pregnancy was a rush of dizziness even though I was sitting down.
I knew something was going on.
Try not to rush around, always carry a bottle of water with you and, if you need to, wear a Baby on Board badge on the tube to make sure you can get a seat.
Overdoing it during things like housework or exercise can really make this worse. Try to be aware of what the triggers for this are and remember to take care of yourself.
9. Feeling hot
Even in the coldest of nights I would be laying in bed in just my underwear with the fan on and an ice drink next to me.
Do what you can to keep cool, lighter clothes and lots of fluids will help. Unfortunately this gets worse as pregnancy continues.
10. Awkward questions
What to do on a night out when you are pregnant. This is a tricky one, because someone is bound to notice and ask “Why aren’t you having a drink tonight?”
Try to have a story prepared in advance. Driving is a good one. Also creating a story about an early morning the next day may take the focus off of you.
Some people may guess your news. If they’re sensible, they won’t point it out to the entire table.
These are particularly awful when combined with the other grim pregnancy symptoms.
Aspirin and ibuprofen should be avoided during pregnancy so they aren’t an option as painkillers.
However paracetamol is considered safe according to NHS recommendations. Do consult your midwife if you’re worried.
If you are really struggling to make it through your commute or days at work, it may be best to have a chat with your manager.
Most should be understanding, they are human beings after all, and can discuss possible changes you can make. This could include working from home or flexible hours.
If you need to take a day off, don’t feel guilty. You need to take care of yourself.
13. Who to tell
Apart from your other half, who should you let in on your secret!? Most people like to keep it quiet until they have had their first scan at 12 weeks, which gives you the reassurances that all is well with your baby.
You may want to restrict the news to close family only, such as your parents and siblings, until then.
However there’s no law telling you not to tell other people. If you want to tell friends your happy news, then go for it.
14. Being desperate for a baby bump
During my first pregnancy I couldn’t wait to start showing. It took until well beyond the first trimester.
In the meantime you can browse all those lovely maternity clothes and plan how you will dress that beautiful bump.
15. Weight gain
Some women are all bump and some put on some weight during pregnancy.
Women gain between 22lb and 28lb during the entire pregnancy. Don’t obsess over the scales, however. Every woman is different. Your midwife wippcan reassure you if you’re worried.
16. The constant need to wee
Because of hormones this can strike before the baby has grown big enough to play your bladder like a bongo drum.
You need to drink loads of fluids though so don’t stop doing that. Unfortunately you will just need to get used to hopping in and out of bed in the middle of the night.
You need to take folic acid as soon as you find out you are pregnant. Ideally you will start as soon as you start trying to conceive.
Taking 400 micro grams of folic acid can help to prevent birth defects such as spina bifida.
Brands such as Pregnacare make a supplement for pregnant women with other vitamins such as iron and vitamin D that will help nourish your body at this time too.
Avoid supplements with vitamin A.
18. What you should be avoiding
You will need to cut out alcohol and caffeine. Now is a good time to quit smoking too.
I did have the odd glass of wine when I was pregnant with both my children. The advice is now veering towards abstaining altogether.
If you’re worried, it’s best just to avoid the booze. Nine months isn’t that long after all.
19. Early medical appointments
You will see a midwife pretty early on before having your 12-week scan.
They will do checks such as your blood pressure and checking your urine for protein and other substances to see if you’re at risk of infection or developing pre-eclampsia.
Your medical history will also be taken and the midwife will offer you lots of advice about how to take care of yourself.
20. Waiting for the scan
It is hard to wait to see your little baby the first time. The weeks go by incredibly slowly in the first trimester.
Try to take your mind off of the wait by getting out of the house whenever you can. Spend time with your other half, because soon you will have a baby to keep you busy!
Don’t forget to check out these posts about pregnancy: