Congratulations on your Pregnancy!
Most women (including myself!) would say that Trimester 1 is the hardest and its downhill from then on! Personally, I am just moving into the second trimester of my second pregnancy and even though both of my first trimesters have been similar in a lot of ways they have also been very different.
In this blog, I discuss some of the common symptoms that women experience during pregnancy and provide some suggestions to help alleviate or handle the symptoms.
Not all women will experience all the symptoms of pregnancy that I explore and certainly, the intensity, timing and frequency of symptoms will vary between women and even between successive pregnancies; after all, we are as unique in our bodies and minds as the little humans we bring into this word.
I am not providing medical advice. If you are at concerned about any of the symptoms I discuss below or anything else that you experience in your unique journey, please consult a medical professional.
Before you even see those definite blue lines confirming that you are expecting, you may get a few tell-tale signs in the form of these early pregnancy symptoms. Many of these early symptoms will mimic the ones you have right before you get your period, so it may be hard to tell the difference at first.
Symptom:You might not feel just sleepy, you may be exhausted!
Hormonal changes, especially an increase in the progesterone hormone will make you sleepier, a huge amount of energy is going into building a life support system for your baby. You will likely start to have more energy once into Trimester 2 when your hormone levels begin to stabilize, but the tiredness may return later in pregnancy.
My personal experience: I was most tired between weeks 8-11 of my first pregnancy and between weeks 6, 7, and 8 of my current pregnancy. Both Pregnancies meant sleeping whenever and wherever I could (even in my car between client sessions!).
Suggestions: Listen to your body’s call to rest. Be prepared for the fact that your energy levels may yo-yo throughout your pregnancy. This is completely normal. If you are an active, energetic person, the tiredness can be hard to accept as there is not much you can do about it other than rest. Be sure to rest when the chance arises and accept help if it is offered, at home and in work, housework can wait, looking after yourself comes first. Listen to your body, this phase will pass.
Swelling and bloating
Symptom:As with a period, the hormones associated with early pregnancy can make you feel bloated. Your body is now producing 50% more blood and body fluids to meet the needs of your growing baby. So even though there is no outward sign of pregnancy your clothes may feel a little tight.
My personal experience: As a trainer, I am expected to carry a fit physique all year round. Fairly early on in Trimester 1, I noticed my face going puffy and my clothes were getting tighter. I was worried that my clients would get discouraged seeing me put on weight. I was glad to finally make our public announcement and the next day I wore a T-shirt to work quoting “YES I’M Pregnant!”.
Suggestions: Drink lots of water. Water is the most critical nutrient for you and your baby. Start your day with water and continue to drink regularly. Eating hydrating foods such as watermelon and cucumber and plenty of green vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli or spinach will also help decrease water retention in your body. Asparagus is great because it’s also high in folic acid!
Symptom: Some women feel their hunger surges very early in pregnancy although most women feel an insatiable hunger through the second trimester, about the time that morning sickness ends.
Your increased appetite during pregnancy is due to your growing baby demanding more food and referring the message to you loud and clear.
When it comes to nourishing your increased appetite during pregnancy, listen to your body while staying practical about your portions. Recall that though you are eating for two, you are eating for two in the sense that you are eating nutritious foods for what Mum needs and what baby needs.
My Personal Experience: The first Trimester has been the time when I’ve over indulged on yummy foods. My highly athletic lifestyle and fitness routine take a break during pregnancy, leading to flexible eating choices and a much more laid back approach with my training regime. Both pregnancies I’ve been back to my healthy eating and training habits by the second trimester after having a break and feeling MORE than ready to give up the chicken noodles and get back to living a much healthier lifestyle. I was completely turned off by green vegetables and meat in the first trimester, the only way I could eat veggies and chicken was if it was out of a bowl of tomato soup! My hubby would often laugh at my food choices.
Suggestions: Do your best to eat a nutritious pregnancy diet, which isn’t easy if you have a lot of food aversions, aim to eat a plentiful supply of vegetables along with your meals. It may be a good idea to split your meals into smaller meals and eat them more frequently to avoid that heavy stomach feeling and to keep nausea at bay. Alternatively,carry snacks with you in your bag.
Be mindful of your pregnancy weight gain but also let yourself indulge every now and then to keep the cravings at bay.
A frequent need to urinate
Symptom: Hormonal changes in pregnancy mean that the blood flow to your kidneys increases, along with your increased thirst means your bladder fills more quickly, which in turn makes you urinate more often. This frequent need to wee can increases as pregnancy progresses, as the baby’s weight puts more pressure on your bladder.
My personal experience: I would always plan to use the bathroom before I see clients, before any car journey and before I met friends as it can get quite inconvenient running back and forth to the toilet!
Suggestions: Plan as best you can to be close to a restroom. Empty your bladder before leaving the house. It is also a good idea to know where the toilets are when you are out and about or if you are in a restaurant in the mall.
Symptom: It can be common for women in early pregnancy to feel nauseated when confronted with certain smells, for example, the smell of spicy food or bananas. Food aversion is personal and unpredictable. It can often be things that you really enjoyed prior to pregnancy. Although experts do not know for certain why this occurs, it may be due to the increasing amount of estrogen in your system.
My personal experience: The smell and taste of a cup of coffee no longer appealed to me, it made my stomach turn! Thankfully… I knew keeping my caffeine levels down was going to be a big challenge during pregnancy so it really helped skip my habit.
Suggestions: If you don’t fancy it, avoid it. However, if your food aversions are important macronutrients, make sure you are getting these from other foods, for example, if you cannot face the thought of eating meat then get your protein intake from fish or eggs. You can also work around your food aversions, for example, by putting your green veggies into a smoothie with some fruits, avocado or nuts to hide the smell/taste.
Symptom: Food cravings are strong urges for foods that are more specific than mere hunger and very difficult to resist. I would love for my response to this topic to be, ‘eat the ice cream, enjoy your pregnancy, you need the extra calories to grow your baby!’. However, there is a concerning rise in GWG (gestational weight gain) and an increase in Gestational Diabetes, which, among other things, has been linked to binge eating in pregnancy initiated by our food cravings. The more we eat sugary, processed foods the more we will crave it and we then get ourselves into a cycle of eating those unhealthy foods daily.
My personal experience: Tomatoes (whether it was soup, tinned, cherry or off the vine) I couldn’t get enough of them! Thankfully I didn’t have too many cravings for naughty foods. Since my (now toddler) Seren started solids her favorite food has been tomatoes, I’m not surprised after how many I consumed when I was carrying her!!!
Suggestions: Focus on consuming regular healthy meals throughout the day with the flexibility of allowing yourself a treat now and again to keep the cravings at bay.
Symptom: Rising hormone levels can cause sensitive swollen breasts, again like before a period. Your estrogen and progesterone rise following conception and your body is now preparing to breastfeed. More blood flows to the breasts, and the milk ducts start to expand. This should ease after Trimester 1, as your body becomes more used to the hormonal changes.
My personal experience: Sore breasts were my earliest symptom of pregnancy (along with my puzzling elevated heart rate levels), which made me initially suspect that I might be pregnant, this was around the 4-and-a-half-week mark. However, in my second pregnancy I had no breast changes until week 15, I was happy to see them grow fuller, they definitely weren’t their same perky self since having and feeding our Seren.
Suggestions: It may be a good idea to start to wear a supportive/sports bra to bed to minimize movement, and avoid contact with your breasts through the day, this may mean adjusting your seat belt strap, avoiding any contact during sex and maybe wear breast pads for extra padding.
Symptom: These are common in early pregnancy and are due to hormone changes that effect the chemical messengers in your brain. Some mums-to-be may feel a positive effect, others may feel depressed or anxious. If you are finding it hard to cope, make sure to contact your healthcare provider immediately.
My personal experience: Our little girl was conceived three years earlier than we planned! So, my hormone changes, my overwhelming worry and struggle to accepting my new chapter of motherhood led to all sorts of crazy anxious moments. My second pregnancy was also unplanned but I am incredibly more relaxed and at peace this time around.
Suggestions: Taking some rest, a relaxing walk or having a workout can help give you a break to clear your head, calm down and think more positively. Be patient with yourself and remind yourself that its normal to feel this way. Recruit support, most importantly from your partner, family and friends and, if need be, from a qualified healthcare provider. Simply talking to a supportive friend or your partner can help calm those anxious thoughts.
Elevated body temperature
Symptom: Hormones and increased blood flow may mean feeling warmer and more sweaty than usual, along with this you’ll find you have a higher heart rate than normal which may mean getting a little more tired and short of breath performing day to day tasks that would usually feel easy. This is normal. Both hormones and your elevated heart rate will stable out at the end of Trimester 1.
My personal experience: I found being pregnant during Dubai Summer very tough. I remember walking out of restaurants mid meal into the air-conditioned lobby to cool down on various occasions throughout my pregnancy.
My elevated Heart rate was one of the first tell-tale signs of my first pregnancy. I was lying on the bed and my Apple watch told me my heart rate was 104, I remember feeling so confused.
Suggestions: Keep yourself hydrated, wear less to bed, take a rest when you need to, carry a hand-held fan with you, and don’t be afraid to speak up at friends’ houses, the gym or work and ask for a little more air conditioning to help you out! They will completely understand.
Nausea and/or vomiting
Symptom: Commonly known as ‘morning sickness’, this is another symptom of rising hormones level. It usually starts at around 8 weeks into pregnancy, but for some women it can appear as early as 2 weeks. It can also occur any time of day or night. Nausea should begin to ease by the start of Trimester 2.
My personal experience: I was incredibly lucky, and I had no experience of morning sickness during my first pregnancy. Although, ironically, this made me worry initially as I thought something was wrong. Then I learned that 25% of women don’t experience it. I did however experience stomach pangs especially in the morning which were very similar to hunger pangs, giving me the urgent need to eat, I would keep a few healthy snacks in the draw at the side of my bed. My appetite was through the roof in Trimester 1.
My second Pregnancy gave me morning sickness. It was worse on my early mornings. Mondays and Wednesdays I needed to wake at 4:30am to start early clients and those days I felt it the worst. I switched my toothpaste from Colgate to mint fresh toothpaste as on one occasion the taste actually made me vomit while brushing my teeth!
Suggestions: Having an empty stomach can make sickness worse so eat little and often to keep your blood sugar controlled. It may help to avoid rich, spicy, acidic, fatty or fried foods as they will trigger nausea. Always carry a plastic bag along with wet wipes and don’t drink in large gulps, sip, sip, sip! It may also help to start a morning sickness diary, this will help to identify the times of day when its best to eat or drink.
Most women (including myself) would say that Trimester 1 is the toughest and that its downhill from here, although you may be lucky enough to only experience one or two symptoms. I hope that my suggestions help you recognize and handle some of the Trimester 1 symptoms and I would love to know of any tips that you found helped manage your symptoms and hear how your first Trimester is going for you! If you are concerned about any of the symptoms you are experiencing or anything else that worries you please consult a medical professional.
Here’s to Trimester 2, saying goodbye to morning sickness, hello to more energy and welcome to our beautiful baby kicks!!