Many women describe the first trimester of pregnancy as the hardest. Early pregnancy symptoms including morning sickness and food aversions, extreme fatigue, insomnia, mood swings, breast tenderness, constipation, bloating, Restless Legs Syndrome, heartburn, shortness of breath and frequent urination mean the first 13 weeks of your baby’s life can feel pretty miserable. You may also have decided not to tell friends, family and work colleagues your happy news at this point, and you may feel that you’re suffering in silence. Now I’m nearing the end of the first trimester (yay!) of my second pregnancy, I wanted to outline some of the most common first trimester pregnancy symptoms, and share some suggestions for getting through these difficult first three months
What to Expect in the First Trimester
As many as 90% of women experience morning sickness during pregnancy. The joke is in the name, as nausea and vomiting can often last all day. Personally, I’ve felt much more nauseous this pregnancy than with my first baby. Eating frequent, small meals can help, especially bland, carbohydrate-rich foods such as dry toast, white rice, baked potatoes and pasta. Try keeping some plain crackers by the bed in case of nausea during the night, or to nibble on before getting up in the morning. It is important to stay hydrated, especially if you’re actually being sick, but try taking small sips regularly rather than huge glasses of water.
Some women swear by ginger; I’ve found a simple infusion of ginger and lemon slices steeped in hot water for a few minutes helpful. Peppermint can also help – I drink peppermint tea and keep a tissue with a few drops of peppermint essential oil close at hand to inhale when nausea strikes.
Acupressure can also ease morning sickness, and recently I keep hearing that Sea-Bands, the acupressure bands for sea sickness may help. I wish I’d tried these a few weeks ago!
I had an inkling we were expecting again when I fell asleep putting my toddler to bed three nights in a row! I’m certain that first trimester exhaustion feels more tiring than having a newborn, but ask me again in 6 months… The important thing is to rest as much as you can; nap during the day if possible (if you’re currently work can you take a quick nap in your office or car at lunchtime?) and go to bed early. I’m lucky to be a stay-at-home mama, but Henry is a very active toddler. He has been having a little more screen time than usual (not ideal, but it helped me to get through the afternoons), and we’ve been cuddling up on the sofa with blankets, drinks and snacks. I’ve suffered from insomnia too (not helped by bloating/sore breasts/frequent urination/restless legs), so I stay away from caffeinated drinks, try to get as much fresh air and exercise as I can during the day, and eat potassium rich foods close to bed time (usually a banana with a glass of warm milk). I’ve also worked hard to establish a relaxing evening routine, and try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Three times a week I follow Tara Lee’s Pregnancy Yoga DVD (pre-natal yoga is a safe exercise during pregnancy), and most evenings I have a warm bath with Neal’s Yard Remedies Mother’s Bath Oil (I’ve been obsessed with their natural and organic products for years, and love knowing that this relaxing bath oil is safe for me and my baby) before bed. A cup of camomile tea and a few drops of lavender oil on pillow helps, too.
Keep your bedroom dark and cool (and only use your bedroom for sleeping or sex – ban laptops, tablets, iPhones and other devices) and invest in a good pregnancy pillow – the full body ones are enormous but brilliant.
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is characterised by an itching, prickling, burning or throbbing sensation in the legs, usually when resting, which can make it hard for sufferers to sleep. It affects women more than men, with many experiencing RLS during pregnancy. It is something I’ve experienced all my life, and it was markedly worse in the third trimester of my last pregnancy, and this time started during the first trimester! I find it is worse during hot weather, and now we’re nearing Autumn I’m hoping it will improve. Establishing a good sleep pattern, exercising regularly and warm baths can also help, and just recently Lori Bregman recommended Magnesium Oil spray. Spraying each leg before bed has made a real difference, and I keep the bottle by my bed in case I wake up during the night.
Although I’ve hated not feeling my best, suffering from these symptoms meant that I’ve felt pregnant, which is nice during the 1st trimester of pregnancy when you’re waiting for your first scan, to have a noticeable bump, and to feel your baby kick for the first time. And I’ve tried to comfort in the fact that feeling like this is normal during a healthy pregnancy. And now, the end is in sight – the second trimester is often an expectant mama’s favourite, so I’m hoping to have bags of energy, more stable moods, and to enjoy this pregnancy.
What symptoms have you suffered from during your first trimester? I’d love to hear any tips that got you through your first 13 weeks of pregnancy.