Are you pregnant, or hoping to be pregnant in the near future? Is this your first baby and you don’t know what to expect? Are you confused about all the information, apps and books available to you telling you what to expect?
There is so much information out there about pregnancy, and it often focusses on the development of your baby and less about what you may experience. Your body undergoes tremendous changes and becomes your baby’s house rather than your own (well that’s certainly how I felt) for quite a long time, so here’s some insight into what you might experience during the first trimester of pregnancy.
The first 4 weeks of pregnancy is essentially when you are trying for a baby for that final month! Calculating your due date starts from the first day of your last period. Therefore, for those first couple of weeks prior to ovulation, you are not yet pregnant.
Once you ovulate, and one lucky sperm fertilises that egg, the egg then travels down your fallopian tube for implantation, and if all goes well sticks around for 40 weeks (or close too) before your beautiful baby is born.
Whilst every women experiences pregnancy in their own unique way, there are some common themes for women during the first trimester.
What are the common signs of very early pregnancy?
Of course the obvious sign of pregnancy is a missed period. However, for some women waiting until after your missed period to find out you’re pregnant can seem like an eternity!
Some women have reported feeling different from the moment of conception. Of course conception can only occur after you have ovulated and therefore this is likely to be in the middle of your cycle. A sensation of fullness in the lower belly, sore breasts and fatigue may be common signs of very early pregnancy. Others report headaches, irritability or changes in bowel habit. However, all these signs can also present themselves in the lead up to your period so unfortunately they are not a definitive symptom of pregnancy.
My best suggestion is to practise patience. Patience will also come in handy when you have a newborn so you may as well start practising now!
Why do you get morning sickness?
Unfortunately for many women “morning” sickness (which can occur through the day and night) is a common first trimester experience. It is thought to be the result of surges in the essential hormones needed for the pregnancy to continue.
Luckily, for most, morning sickness will lessen as you get over the 12 week mark and most women feel back to normal (or a new normal) by 20 weeks. Of course there are always exceptions and there are a few women who continue to have morning sickness for the duration of their pregnancy.
On the other hand, some women don’t get morning sickness at all, and may just report fatigue as their main pregnancy symptom. Not suffering morning sickness is not an indicator of an unviable pregnancy so don’t worry, just enjoy feeling good!
If you do have morning sickness and find it difficult to eat anything, try to eat plain foods regularly in small amounts. Keeping some snacks by your bed to eat in the middle of the night or just on waking can often make you feel better upon rising. You could also try ginger or peppermint tea to soothe your stomach. And if those things fail, speak to your naturopath about what they can do to assist you through the first trimester.
Why are you tired all the time?
Your little embryo is growing at a rapid rate during the first trimester. This sudden change in your body naturally can make you feel more tired than usual as your energy and nutrients all get used up supporting your growing baby. In addition, your body also experiences hormonal changes which can have an effect on your energy levels.
It is always good to listen to your body and rest when you are feeling tired, however, sometimes you may feel more energised by being active, followed by a period of rest. Even if you go outside for some fresh air and a brisk walk, you may find this helps to boost your energy.
Reducing your social commitments, reducing long hours at work and getting some extra sleep are all ways you can support your energy levels during this tiring time.
Feeling hungry all the time is normal
Eating well during the first trimester of pregnancy not only supports the development of your baby, it also helps you cope with all the changes that are taking place. The old saying ‘eating for two’ unfortunately doesn’t apply, so hold off on ordering two dinners and especially two desserts!
Because your little lentil (you will notice lots of information comparing your baby’s size to different foods, so I may as well get you started) is growing so rapidly, you do need to continue your nutritious preconception diet into pregnancy. Make sure you are eating regularly and including protein with your meals and snacks where possible to help satiate your hunger as well as maintain your blood glucose levels. This will in turn support your energy levels and the development of your baby.
If you can’t stomach anything except for dry crackers due to morning sickness, don’t despair, your nutritional stores will be utilised by your baby. Therefore, it is so important to eat well prior to pregnancy so you have enough in reserve to support you as well as baby.
Why have your breasts become so big and sore?
For some women, an increase in bust size is a welcome change, for others, it is just uncomfortable, and means your clothes no longer look as good as they used to.
Because of the increase in the hormones oestrogen and progesterone during early pregnancy, your breasts may become larger and can become quite painful. Some women have reported having breasts so full and sore they feel like rocks. Sounds great huh?!
So whilst your partner may be enjoying this new change in you, you can ease your discomfort by wearing comfortable bras (without underwire) or foregoing the bra all together. Some women have reported benefit from placing cold cabbage leaves on their breasts (often good during breast feeding too).
I’m sure this symptom of pregnancy is just getting you prepared for breast feeding where your breasts transform yet again. Breasts are truly amazing.
Why are you crying all the time?
All of a sudden you might get choked up watching a TV advertisement for nappies, or even an advertisement for buying a new car (sometimes pregnancy just doesn’t make sense)! Rest assured you are not alone with these swift changes in mood. They are often a result of shifting hormones, feeling unwell and feeling extremely tired. The tears do ease up though as you get nearer to the second trimester.
I suggest finding some soppy movies and let the tears flow. It does get better.
How can a naturopath help me through the first trimester?
As a naturopath, I can help guide your dietary and lifestyle choices for supporting your health, and the health of your baby for the first trimester and beyond, including addressing nausea and fatigue. If you are already eating well, I may just ensure you are getting a variety of nutrients and enough macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate and fats) and get you on the right nutritional supplements.
If you haven’t prepared for pregnancy, it is never too late to start eating well and adopting a healthy lifestyle. I can provide specific dietary and lifestyle suggestions tailored to your needs.