First trimester trials

Nausea, extreme tiredness, aching boobs, awkward white lies...the first trimester is not always easy. Here’s a survival guide 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 a bit earlier if possible.
  • 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

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

Need to urinate often

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

Secrecy

The hugest, most life-changing thing is happening to you - and yet many women keep quiet until after the 12-week scan. This is because the risk of miscarriage goes right down after that point.

Some couples love having this precious secret. But for others - especially if you’re struggling with anxiety, or sickness - it can make the first few weeks drag on and feel very lonely.

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. 

You might want to think about who you would want to tell if you did have a miscarriage. Close family and friends, your manager at work perhaps. And it might make sense to tell those people early on.

“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

“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

Highs and lows

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, some expectant mums (as many as 1 in 10) are affected by depression and anxiety in pregnancy. It can happen to women who have never had a previous issue with mental wellbeing. If you find you are feeling unusually sad, have a look at this page to see whether you should look 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, and download our wellbeing plan (PDF). 

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 [accessed 9 March 2015] 'Tiredness in pregnancy' http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/tiredness-sleep-pr...
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Last reviewed on March 1st, 2015. Next review date March 1st, 2018.

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