The first trimester
There are so many myths around pregnancy and everyone seems to have an opinion or a story to tell you. If it’s your first, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with all the information out there. In this little blog, I’m going to aim to tell it like it is, and expose the good, the bad and the gross!!!
I remember when I found out I was pregnant with my first, a mix of shock and disbelief were probably the first emotions I felt. We weren’t planning on babies yet, I was only a year through my degree and didn’t feel my business was established enough for me to take a long break. After the initial shock came the fun first trimester symptoms. Instead of feeling great I felt sick all the time. I was rarely actually sick, but nausea was always there. If I was hungry or if I had eaten, it didn’t matter. Even water would make me feel sick. My diet for the first 3 months consisted of digestive biscuits, ginger biscuits, toast and ginger beer. I couldn’t drink tea, eat meat or vegetables, in the end I actually lost weight instead of putting it on. Certain smells made me heave, I would have waves of dizziness and feeling faint. All in all I felt rubbish. Going to work and teaching, putting on a happy face was exhausting, all I wanted to do was eat a nice chocolate biscuit with a cup of tea and sleep.
Fast forwards nearly 3 years later to number two and the only time I felt sick was when I didn’t eat. I still didn’t want tea but I could eat vegetables and meat at least! By about 12/14 weeks in both pregnancies, the sickness had passed. Lucky me! Unfortunately there are ladies out there who are sick all the time, actually vomiting so bad it can land them in hospital, I count myself lucky here. The sickness (hyperemesis gravidarum (HG)) can last a long time and make the whole experience not very nice. On the other end of the scale (my sister) had nothing. No sickness, no nausea, no tiredness, nothing. How unfair.
It’s all normal
The first trimester is different for every woman and each pregnancy. The main thing to remember is that most of what we feel is normal, but if you’re ever worried have a chat with the GP or midwife. Feeling excited and overwhelmed with happiness is only one emotion you might experience; fear, sadness, anger and shock are also very understandable. Within those first few months, our bodies and hormones go through a huge change, which can really throw us off. These symptoms can come on in the first few weeks and last up till 18 weeks and sometimes beyond.
Exercise and food
If we look at exercise during this time, in theory it’s fine, crack on. You can do whatever you like and carry on as you were before, without the focus on improving fitness, but rather maintaining it. All well and good unless you feel like throwing up. I did manage to keep exercising, but at a much lower level and intensity, I found that late afternoons were my best time around 3/4pm. If you can do nothing else, a little stroll outside is absolutely fine. Yoga and Pilates are great as they are lower in intensity so you won’t use as much energy. But if you feel OK and are doing regular spin classes, then carry on. There is no real need to change anything other than based on how you feel. Just remember to keep hydrated and cool.
Our core temperature rises during pregnancy so we feel hotter, and the extra fluids in our body plus the energy expenditure going into the foetus, mean we need to make sure we take on enough fluid and fuel.
At this time food that is high in folic acid is ideal- these include:
- Dark green leafy vegetables (turnip greens, spinach, romaine lettuce, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli)
- Sunflower seeds
- Whole grains
- Liver (don’t eat too much as offal contain high levels of vitamin A)
The truth about food
When you feel gross, or just want to eat, it’s incredibly difficult to eat the perfect food. Yes in an ideal world having a balanced diet with lots of good quality protein, slow release carbs, healthy fats and plenty of veggies would be your ultimate goal. Minimise caffeine, avoid alcohol and stay away from the take-aways and the sugar and drink plenty of water.
The truth is just eat and drink something! Yes it is recommended that you limit caffeine and avoid alcohol for the health of the baby. 100% this is very good advice, but 1 coffee or tea will be fine, but not 5. If like me you just need to eat something that stays down, then go for it. So my diet with number 1 was gingernut biscuits, ginger beer, digestive biscuits and toast. Maybe some plain rice or pasta. Towards 16 weeks I managed to up it to banana milkshakes and Ginsters pasties. Yep full of vitamins and minerals there. But better than nothing and it didn’t make me heave.
Eat what you can and make good choices if you can, but if you can’t, just eat the bloody biscuits!
Embrace the snooze
The first 12 weeks can be very hard on your body and fatigue and tiredness is very common. Try not to fight it too much, rest and slow down when you need to. It’s not a problem! Or if daytime naps aren’t for you, try pacing your day (yes I know most jobs aren’t like that!), take short breaks and go to bed earlier. Your body will tell you what it needs, so listen to it!
Listen to your body and don’t be afraid to ask
The first 12 weeks are a worrying time for most, and it’s exhausting on top. Chances are you won’t tell too many people and you have loads on in work and socially. Your body will start to feel odd and you may experience all sorts of symptoms other than sickness. These may include the dreaded sore boobs (this is definitely the time to avoid tight hugs!), constipation (insert prune juice here), mood swings, achy muscles, light-headedness, increased tiredness and bloating. If you are ever worried, talk to your GP. You don’t normally get to see the midwife until your 12 week check up.
This is the time to start tuning in to your body, taking note of what it wants, and allowing yourself not to be a super human! Cry, eat biscuits and don’t exercise. Or do spin class, crack on with work and embrace the veggies. Or do what you feel you need (within reason!) and don’t feel bad about it!
This is the hardest part, be kind to yourself!