The first trimester can definitely be a physical and emotional roller coaster. You’re elated! You’re exhausted! You’re pumped up! You’re sick as a dog! Take heart. Many women have survived this before you, and many women continue to do it over and over again, so it must be worth it all in the end.
Here are some possible changes to expect during the first trimester, and some tips to get you through.
Like flat out passed out by 7:30 pm. That little embryo may be smaller than a pea, but he packs a powerful punch. Your body is going into overdrive releasing bucketloads of pregnancy hormones, creating a life-sustaining placenta, and developing a tiny organ system for baby. Your blood volume is increasing and your metabolism is speeding up a bit, while your blood pressure might drop to a lower rate. All of these combined can lead to one tired mama. The good news is that this doesn’t last the entire pregnancy. By the time the second trimester sets in, you should get a surge of energy and feel more like your normal self.
How to cope with Exhaustion—Listen to your body
Tiredness is a signal from your body to force you to slow down. It’s letting you know that there is a big important change happening, and you need to take it easy. Try not to live too rigidly to the normal rules and routines you had for yourself. That 6 mile jog or 12 hour workday can take a little hiatus. This work of growing a life inside you is even more important.
Just say “no” and ask for help
It can be hard to find yourself unable to perform at the same level as before, but knowing your limits is key. It’s alright to say no to requests or obligations you just don’t feel up to. There will be time for all of that in the future. Ask for help from friends or family if you just can’t seem to muster up the energy for a day of laundry or errands. Chances are they are happy to help, and it allows them to show their love for you and that bambino!
Rest and Sleep More
If you are feeling utterly exhausted, find ways to catch some extra z’s. Increased nighttime sleep can be the key to getting a bit more energy. There is no shame in going to bed at 7:30 pm. You might be surprised at your new-found ability to put in 12-14 hours a night! Daytime rest can be a lifesaver as well. Find ways to sneak in a few winks during your workday, like a lunch-time cat nap in your car. Even women who have never been nappers find themselves relying on naps when pregnant — plus it’s good practice for the “sleep when baby sleeps” recommendation postpartum.
Snack on Some Power Foods
Eating nutrient dense snacks, especially those containing protein can help keep your energy up. Try a handful of nuts, apple slices with peanut butter, or some beef jerky. Whole foods are usually a better choice than shakes or drinks, so keep little baggies easily accessible in your fridge and purse. You may find it easier to eat lots of small snacks rather than a large meal.
Morning sickness could set in…or evening sickness…or all day sickness
Your pregnancy hormone levels are rising at an astronomical rate, and it can throw your stomach for a loop. No one knows exactly what causes nausea, but that new concoction of hormone surges might have something to do with it. Every woman and every pregnancy are different. Some women are queasy off and on for a few hours, while others can’t seem to leave the side of the toilet bowl. A lucky 24% of women dodge the sickness bullet, so cross your fingers. But if you find your stomach’s churning, here’s a few ways to cope.
- Eat smaller meals and snacks more frequently, rather than 3 big meals. Again, whole foods are best, so reach for the whole grain crackers, fresh fruits and veggies, yogurt, and nuts.
If mornings are worse for you, keeping crackers by your bed to eat first thing in the morning before even getting up can stave off the queasiness for a bit.
- Eat mild foods that are more tolerable for your body. Spicy, fatty, or heavy foods may not sit as well, and take longer to digest.
- Stay hydrated. Lots of water is vital during the entire pregnancy, but sip it often throughout the day rather than chugging huge amounts at a time. Keep a water bottle nearby at work, in your car, and at your nightstand.
- Experiment with prenatal vitamins. Sometimes prenatals can affect queasiness. Try taking your pill right before bed rather than first thing in the morning, and see if it helps.
- Get moving. It sounds counter-intuitive, but sometimes a walk outside can do wonders. Breathing fresh, crisp air, enjoying the sunshine and the sights and sounds outside can not only lift your spirits, but lift your nausea as well.
Oh the joys continue! Those hormones can wreak havoc on your GI tract. Progesterone affects the muscular contractions of the intestines, slowing things down. This can make it harder for food to pass through, and cause gassiness and bloating.
Constipation and Hemorrhoids
Eating high fiber foods and staying hydrated will help some. Constipation is common and straining can lead to hemorrhoids. Be patient and allow yourself some extra time in the bathroom, and maybe more frequent visits to encourage things to keep moving. Many moms report that the Squatty Potty has worked wonders. If you have extreme discomfort, ask your doctor or midwife for some suggestions. There are many safe products (natural and medicinal) that can offer relief.
It sounds fun right? Increased blood flow and changes in the tissue will cause your breasts to grow a size or two (or 5!) during the course of pregnancy. Unfortunately, it usually isn’t all fun and games when you (and your partner!) quickly realize the girls are off-limits as they will likely be sore, painful and extra sensitive. They might feel swollen, tingly, tender, or itchy as the skin stretches. Some suggestions:
- Buy a few new comfortable bras with some extra room to grow (both in cup size and circumference), that don’t have seams near the nipple. Get breathable cotton with good support, and even consider buying and wearing a nursing bra now to save money later on.
- Keep in mind that your size will continue to change throughout pregnancy and even more so once baby arrives and you are breastfeeding so don’t stock up on bras until things have leveled out. I suggest buying one or two new bras each trimester and then waiting six weeks after baby arrives to get a nice stash of high quality nursing bras.
- Invest in a good sports bra. Not only will this provide comfort and extra support while exercising, but can be used while you are sleeping to relieve some soreness. Speaking of sleeping, this is my favorite sleep bra that doubles as a nursing bra later on.
Emotional highs and lows
One moment you might find yourself on cloud nine at the thought of your baby coming soon, the next you are crying at a commercial…that’s not even sad. The next, seeing your husband’s socks on the floor irritated you beyond belief. Those pesky hormones are busy at work again. Besides, this IS an emotional time for you. Your former self will be no more, or at least very different, as you get ready to take on the responsibility of a new little darling. There’s a broad range of emotions as you process that. It can be a time of mourning the loss of yourself or you worry about your relationship with your partner changing. Couple this with the anticipation and joy of meeting your baby and the fear and uncertainty of meeting your new baby, and that’s quite a load to process. Try to go easy on yourself.
- Allow yourself to truly process what you’re feeling. Try to resist the urge to push away or bury uncomfortable emotions. Instead, be curious about why they are there, and what they are teaching you. Being present and honest with how you feel will help you to understand what you’re going through.
- Meditate. Many women who have never considered meditation find it helpful during pregnancy. We love guided meditations specifically targeted by trimester through Expectful.
- Get some space if you need it. Sometimes there really isn’t a deep explanation for what’s behind the tears or rage. And it’s okay.
- Use a journal. Buy a special pregnancy journal or daily soul sessions book and when you are feeling especially strong emotions (be they happy or sad), write out what you are experiencing. Try to be completely honest—you don’t have to show this to anyone. It’s just for you. Writing is usually cathartic, and you’ll feel lighter afterward.
- Ask for understanding. Explain to your partner what is going on and ask for his patience. Chances are, he’s having similar feelings of his own.
- Reach out to other pregnant women, or talk to your friends who have been there. A big support system is going to be an invaluable tool in the upcoming months. A good doctor or midwife will be asking you about your emotional state (and your partner’s) along the way. Be open and they will likely have some great guidance.
- Seek a therapist. I’m a firm believer that all of us can benefit from therapy, especially during these monumental life changes.
Your relationship may be strained
These sudden physical and emotional changes can cause some distance in your relationship with your significant other. Survival mode does that to a person. Try to be mindful of this potential bump in the road. Be open and communicate often about how you are feeling. Try to plan some time together to do some low-key activities that you can physically tolerate. Make that time to connect. Your relationship will be tested and strained in the months ahead, so the work you put in now will pay off in the long run. Here’s some tips.
- Get creative. If you have terrible evening sickness, plan a brunch or lunch date together. If you are completely zapped of energy, do something low-key like listen to a book on tape and snuggle. If you are even too sick to leave the couch, watch a movie or ask each other some intimate questions. Here’s a good set!
- It may seem like this is the new normal, but you will likely feel better! You will have more energy, and you will feel like your old self soon. Be patient—the second trimester is often the one women enjoy most!
There can be some challenges in the first trimester, for sure. However, it’s evidence of amazing things happening inside your body. Above all else, try to stay positive. Use some good pregnancy affirmations, and be patient and gentle with yourself.