First trimester trials

Constant nausea, indescribable tiredness, aching boobs, awkward white lies...the first trimester is not always easy. In fact, it can be pretty horrendous. Here’s our 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. Annoyingly, there is no cure. But there are a few things you can try to ease the grogginess (or at least get you through the day):

  • Gentle exercise can give you more energy.
  • Power nap whenever possible, (even in the car during your lunch break!).
  • It might sound obvious, but try to make sure you go to bed a bit earlier – don’t burn the candle at both ends.
  • Eat well (such as iron-rich foods to prevent pregnancy anaemia, and slow-release energy foods).
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Treat yourself to dinner out so you don’t have to cook or do dishes.
  • Ask for help with things like housework.
  • If you’re already a mum, get extra help with little ones.
  • Take it easy - rest as much as you can (easier said than done!)

“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

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

If you can’t keep anything down, find yourself wretching 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 be mindful of triggers. Try eating a snack to boost your blood sugar level before these times. 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 to reduce nausea.
  • Brew yourself a mug of ginger tea.
  • Eat smaller meals, or snacks, throughout the day (instead of big platefuls).
  • Rest as much as possible - 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) - once they know you’re pregnant, they’re obliged to make changes to protect your health. They can offer support. 
  • As impossible as it sounds, have a go at distraction - it’s sometimes worse when you’re dwelling on it.

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. 

Constantly need a wee?

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 the norm is to keep quiet until after the dating scan.

“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

Some couples love the intimacy of 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. Then there’s the issue of keeping  quiet : hiding the sickness and tiredness, having to make constant excuses for not drinking alcohol or eating certain things - it can be pretty miserable. Do what’s right for you. 

“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

Highs and lows

Progesterone and oestrogen surging through your body in the first trimester can leave you weepy over cute furry animals, teary-eyed at nappy ads and in pieces after an episode of One Born Every Minute. 

But some expectant mums (as many as 10-15 in 100) are affected by depression and anxiety. You might find the first 12 weeks particularly difficult if you’ve had a miscarriage, and are terrified of it happening again.

“I paid for a private early scan - it was the only way I could manage my anxiety after having a missed miscarriage.” Rebecca, mum of two

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 nicely nestled in its uterine lining and growing faster than ever. Don’t hesitate to talk to your midwife if you need extra support.  

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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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