First trimester trials

Nausea, extreme tiredness, sore breasts, cramps... the first trimester is not always easy. Here’s some advice to get you through the first 12 weeks.

Tiredness

Pregnancy tiredness can be all-consuming, like you’re walking through a thick fog for days on end. There is no cure unfortunately. But there are a few things you can try to ease the tiredness (or at least get you through the day):

  • Gentle exercise or just staying active can actually give you more energy.
  • Try to go to bed earlier.
  • Eat well (such as iron-rich foods to prevent pregnancy anaemia, and slow-release energy foods).
  • Ask for help with things like housework.
  • If you’re already a mum, get extra help with little ones.

'I could have slept all day and then still be tired when I woke up. It’s an exhaustion that you’ve never felt before, it’s completely different to any other kind of tiredness I’ve ever experienced.'Louise, mum of two

Needing to urinate more often

You may notice that you need to wee more often than you usually did. This often starts in early pregnancy thanks to hormones and continues as your growing womb presses on your bladder.

You might also find yourself being thirstier than you usually are. Your body needs extra fluids during pregnancy to support baby's blood circulation, amniotic fluid and your own higher blood volume. Find out more about how much water to drink in pregnancy here.

Morning sickness

If you can’t keep anything down, find yourself retching at smells that were innocent pre-pregnancy, or if you’re permanently queasy - all you want is to make it go away. We can’t promise that, but these things are worth a try:

  • Pinpoint the times you’re worst affected (eg morning, early evening) and think about what could be triggering it.Try eating a snack to boost your blood sugar level before these times for example. Keep food by your bed to nibble on before you get up in the morning.
  • Try travel sickness wristbands - research shows acupuncture (putting pressure on certain parts of the body) makes the brain release chemicals that reduce nausea.
  • Have a food or drink with ginger in it.
  • Eat smaller meals, or snacks, throughout the day (instead of big platefuls).
  • Rest - tiredness can make sickness worse.
  • Keep hydrated, but sip drinks to help keep the fluids down - try sparkling water or sucking ice cubes.
  • Talk to someone at work (or your boss). They can offer support. 

If you can’t keep anything down, let your midwife or GP know asap - you might have a severe form of nausea and vomiting called hyperemesis gravidarum, which needs specialist treatment. 

'The smell of anything fatty, like bacon and eggs cooking, made me throw up.' Vicky, mum of four

Read more about morning sickness

Keeping pregnancy a secret

A huge life-changing thing is happening to you - and yet many women keep quiet about it until after the 12-week scan. This is because the risk of miscarriage goes right down after that point.

However, think about who you would like to talk to if you do have a miscarriage.

'I told my parents at six weeks, mainly because if anything had gone wrong at that point I would have wanted their support without having to explain that I was pregnant in the first place. We told everyone else after the 12-week scan.' Abby, mum of one

If you’re struggling with anxiety or morning sickness it can make the first trimester more difficult, particularly if you’re working somewhere that is not flexible about breaks or if the toilet is not close to you.

If you need support at work it may make sense to tell your manager.

Hiding the sickness and tiredness, having to make constant excuses for not drinking alcohol or eating certain things - it can make the first trimester awkward and more difficult than it needs to be. 

'We told close family in our first pregnancy and they struggled to keep it under wraps. We lost the baby and, at the time, it was hard having to share the bad news. The next time I told just one close friend - she was my rock.'  Rebecca, mum of two

Your mood in the first trimester

Progesterone and oestrogen surging through your body in the first trimester can leave you weepy over small things that would not have made you cry in the past. This is normal and hormones are responsible.

However, its not uncommon for pregnant women to be affected by depression and anxiety. It can happen to women who have never had a previous issue with mental wellbeing. If you find you are feeling unusually low or not like yourself, you might like to ask for help.

You might find the first 12 weeks particularly difficult if you’ve had a previous miscarriage, and are terrified of it happening again.

  • Talk to your midwife about what support is available to you, such as counselling sessions.
  • Find out if there are any pregnancy yoga or meditation classes to help you relax.
  • Take a look for more advice on emotional health in pregnancy

Stomach cramps

It's not unusual to suffer from period-type cramps in the first trimester as the embryo settles into the womb and the womb and placenta start to grow. This is not harmful. However if the cramps do not go away, it should be checked by a doctor or midwife immediately.

There are some other symptoms to look out for during pregnancy as they may be a sign that the baby is not well.

Read more about these here:

Hang in there

Hang on in there. You’re nearly through it. Take comfort from the fact that the tiredness, sickness and unpredictable moods are all caused by hormones helping to keep your baby safe in its uterine lining and growing faster than ever. Don’t hesitate to talk to your midwife if you need extra support.  

See more first trimester worries

Read more about the first trimester

Sources

  1. NHS Choices, 'Tiredness in pregnancy': http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/tiredness-sleep-pr... (Page last reviewed: 05/01/2018 Next review due: 05/01/2021)
  2. Royal College of Psychiatrists. Mental health in pregnancy. London: RCP, 2012 http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsdisorders/mentalhealthinpregnancy.aspx
  3. Macdonald S, Magill-Cuerden J (2012) Mayes’ midwifery, 14th edition. London: Balliere Tindall
  4. NICE (2008) Antenatal care: routine care for the healthy pregnant woman, clinical guideline 62. London NICE, 2008. http://publications.nice.org.uk/antenatal-care-cg62/guidance
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Last reviewed on June 28th, 2018. Next review date June 28th, 2021.

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