My First Trimester Part 1
I am currently 16 weeks pregnant and found out at around 4 weeks. The first trimester was long and slow and at times a real struggle. As a Nutritional Therapist my diet leading up to pregnancy was good, full of all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients required for a healthy conception. Once I found out I was pregnant, my diet and symptoms started to change quite quickly as my hormones began to surge. This article will share some of my tips on how to navigate this difficult/exciting time and how to optimise your diet and nutrition where possible. This is also a personal account and therefore all symptoms may vary and differ between individuals.
What is happening in the First Trimester?
Once conception has occurred (the sperm has fertilised the egg) the blastocyte begins its journey to implant in your uterus and begin the development and growth of the embryo. In order for implantation to occur a surge of hormones including progesterone, oestrogen and HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) begin to soar to support the developing embryo. HCG is the hormone that pregnancy tests identify to determine whether you are pregnant. HCG is also the hormone that is responsible for your symptoms starting to develop. For the first few weeks I didn’t experience many symptoms. Pregnancy symptoms most commonly start around 6 weeks pregnant and often peak between 8-12 weeks. In a successful pregnancy HCG levels should start to double every 48hours. Progesterone is also a key hormone in the first trimester. Progesterone levels start to rise throughout ovulation and will help prepare the uterus for implantation of a fertilised egg. Progesterone is also responsible for some of your pregnancy symptoms such as constipation, slower digestion, headaches, bloating and sensitive sore breasts.
My Experience of the First Trimester
In the first few weeks I didn’t experience many symptoms, the first symptom I felt and continued to experience throughout the first trimester was anxiety. Anxiety is incredibly common throughout pregnancy particularly in the early stages where miscarriage rates are high. Most people keep their pregnancy quiet for this reason and won’t announce their pregnancy until 12 weeks. I found it helpful to tell a few people close to me to help ease some of the worries and anxieties I was feeling, but this is personal and some people like to wait until 12 weeks where the risks are much lower. The next symptom I started to notice around 5 weeks was cramping, similar to the type of cramping you experience when on your period. The cramps would be worse at night and would keep me awake with worry. These cramps if without bleeding, are normal and associated with the stretching and growing of your uterus. If you experience cramps with bleeding you must speak with your GP or midwife. Headaches were the next symptom I experienced at around 5 weeks pregnant. They are also a common symptom and can arise due to changing hormone levels and increased blood volume. I also noticed that I would experience headaches if my blood sugar levels were too low, frequent snacks and eating small and often would help ease them and reduce the frequency. From week 6 I started to experience intense exhaustion where I was constantly tired. Even after a full night’s sleep of minimum 8 hours I would be tired all day, I couldn’t get off the sofa some days and would feel totally exhausted. The exhaustion continued for around 5 weeks and started to improve at 12 weeks. I never suffered from extreme sickness but I was nauseous from week 6. The nausea would start in the mornings and usually triggered by heightened sense of smell. I was unable to cook most of my own food and relied on eating out or pre prepared food for most of my first trimester. The thought of my own food and cooking made me feel so sick, which is tricky when you are a nutritionist and normally cook from scratch. Some days my nutrition was not great, however the days I felt better I would always try and optimise my diet to ensure the baby was receiving sufficient nutrients required for healthy growth and development. In the first trimester it is about doing what you can when you can and listening to your body. Frequent urination is also a common symptom I experienced which can continue into your second and third trimester.
The final main symptom I experienced was a loss of personality and lack of motivation. This is quite hard to explain but with all the worry, anxiety and physical changes to my body I felt at times quite blank and empty. It was almost like my body and life was on pause, it was working so hard to create a healthy baby and healthy pregnancy that I was supposed to stop and wait until I had the green light to do more. This was hard at times as I longed for energy and motivation, however it was also a real blessing to take the time to rest, pause and allow my body to do what it needed to do. I could no longer dictate the terms, run for an hour in the morning, cook all day, work and socialise but instead I was given this time to take things slow. I hope that this helps and encourages others to do the same where possible if they are experiencing similar symptoms and anxiety. I am normally someone that exercises 6-7 days per week, in the first trimester I felt for me personally I would stop, rest and start with some moderate movement when I felt ready. I tried gentle walks with friends and dog walks when I had the energy but some days, I did nothing and that is ok too. Exercise should be apart of a healthy pregnancy; however, the first trimester is a difficult time and exercise does not have to be a priority.
First Trimester Summary
The first trimester is an exciting but challenging time and can often leave you feeling tired, nauseous and incredibly anxious. Eating nutritious food and maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle can also be a challenge and requires pregnant women to quickly adapt to both the physical and mental changes occurring. Good nutrition and lifestyle habits that are put in place pre-conception play an important role in maintaining a healthy pregnancy particularly in the early stages and first trimester. To find out more about what I ate in the first trimester and how to optimise your diet and nutrition then head to Part 2 of this article. Each person’s symptoms are unique to them and symptoms vary between individuals. I hope that my account of the first trimester will give you an overview of what to expect and some of the common symptoms that can be experienced. If you are experiencing severe symptoms in the early stages, remember that they will hopefully start to ease around 12-weeks and you will start to feel better. The second trimester is the time to start re-building good nutrition, healthy habits and gentle exercise to nourish and support your growing baby. Part 2 with what I ate in my first trimester is coming soon.