Here’s what I learned about not only surviving the first trimester but making it as special (and easy) as possible.
The first trimester is often a time filled with a range of emotions, heightened anxiety, shifting hormones, and it can be downright tricky.
I want to preface this post by acknowledging that every pregnancy journey is different – woman to woman and pregnancy to pregnancy. We each will have unique struggles, fears, and moments of joy and sadness.
For those going through infertility, pregnancy loss, or a path to conception different than you imagined, know that I see you and I hold space for you in my heart. You are not alone, and you are not broken.
While “surviving” isn’t the most delicate word, that’s exactly how I felt at times throughout the first three months of pregnancy. In my experience, my first trimester was filled with high anxiety, raging hormones, a fear of miscarriage, moments of overwhelming gratitude, and learning to trust my changing body.
Tip #1: Throw out the rule book now
No, seriously. Light it on fire.
All of the visions and ideas that you hold about pregnancy and how it will look for you could be drastically different than what happens. Throw out the rulebook now and focus on surviving the first trimester with your sanity.
For me, I always envisioned that I would be this superfood-eating, green vegetable-loving pregnant woman as soon as I saw those double lines. It’s true. I was convinced that my passion for healthy eating would be stronger than the hormones surging and coursing through my blood.
Man, was I wrong. So, so ignorantly wrong.
My morning sickness (which is a misleading name as nausea and food aversions can strike at any time throughout the day) started around week five and lasted until week ten or so. I consider myself pretty lucky because I never threw up, except that one time I took my prenatal vitamins on an empty stomach like a total rookie.
Tip #2: Listen to (and honor) your body
I mean it!
Pushing yourself to do too much or continue to your regular schedule probably isn’t going to feel too great in the first trimester, nor is it good for you. For me, I was beyond exhausted, even after a full ten hours of sleep at night. Daily two to three hour naps became a regular part of my day, and I virtually dropped off of the earth for a bit.
I had to learn to not only listen to my body, but also to drown out the noise and opinions, and honor what my body needed.
In addition to resting as much as your body needs, listen to what it wants to eat.
Personally, my body wanted only simple carbohydrates for quick energy (did I mention how tired I was?). I ate what I could when I could, and the world kept spinning.
Here’s the thing: even if all you’re eating is bread, your growing baby is going to take what it needs to grow from your reserves. Continue taking your prenatal vitamins, eat what you can manage, and know that this phase won’t last forever.
Oh, and make sure you’re drinking ample amounts of water (100 oz. per day) – cheers to surviving the first trimester like the hydrated goddess you are!
Tip #3: Share your news when you’re ready
Remember, when I said that every pregnancy journey is different? The same rule applies to when you choose to tell people about your pregnancy.
First and foremost, I cannot reiterate enough how this is your news to share, and you call the shots on when it is shared and with whom. Make sure to communicate that point to those you choose to let in on your secret, so they don’t spread the news for you.
Due to first trimester precautions and a (genuine) fear of miscarriage, many women opt to stick to the traditional 12-week rule before sharing their news. For women who have experienced previous losses, they might choose to wait even longer.
The only “rule” that should dictate when you share your news is what brings you comfort.
We chose to tell my family very early on. I called my mom before I had even missed my period, my dad knew at five weeks, and my brother and sister-in-law and five and a half weeks. My reasoning for telling them so early was that I knew I would need their support no matter if my pregnancy continued or not.
Tip #4: Stay the f*uck off of google
I’m sharing this one because I wish someone would’ve taken my phone away from me during the first trimester. I was googling everything, and I had the search history to prove it.
Does a high HCG indicate twins?
What does an ectopic pregnancy feel like?
Why is my discharge (insert changing description here)?
Why am I not throwing up with morning sickness?
Signs you’re having a boy/girl
When to start your registry
When to tell other people you’re pregnant
What not to do in your first trimester
Miscarriage rates for pregnancy on X day
Normal heart rate for six weeks pregnant
…that’s just a small sampling of what I googled obsessively during my first three months.
In retrospect, the googling sometimes brought a temporary sense of calm during a very unnerving and scary time. At other times, the search invoked feelings of heightened anxiety and fear. I have now come to realize that no amount of worry will change what’s going to happen.
Put down your phone and watch a movie instead. If you’re anxious, give your doctor, midwife, or nurse’s line a call – and no, you’re not a bother. It’s essential to reach out for advice when you want it, rather than leave your research up to Google – this will help you survive your first trimester.
Tip #5: Cramping is usually normal
For a significant amount of time, I would feel dull, achy cramps that resembled period cramps, and it was extremely unnerving. After googling, calling my midwife, and talking to everyone I could, I resolved to believe that cramping can be a normal experience during early pregnancy.
Unless your cramping is severe or accompanied by spotting, you’re probably in the clear. It’s important to note that I am not a doctor but am merely sharing what I experienced. Always, always call your care provider if you’re unsure.
In the meantime, drink a lot of water (dehydration can cause cramps), put your feet up (literally), and get some rest.
Tip #6: Figure out how to best manage your symptoms
Surviving your first trimester can become a lot more manageable by learning how to handle your morning sickness and other symptoms.
Morning sickness is nausea and vomiting that typically mark the first trimester. Additionally, you may experience food aversions, ranging from mild to severe.
I was on an eight-day European river cruise when my symptoms started to ramp up, and thankfully I had some essential support tools on hand to help me manage my nausea and food aversions. I continued to use the below tools until my symptoms started to fade.
Also, be mindful of taking pain killers such as ibuprofen. There have been several studies on the correlation between NSAID and miscarriages as pointed out by HonestMum.
Check them out below:
- Acupressure Sea-Bands wristbands (I wore these 24/7 for two months and they helped to take the nauseous edge off)
- Organic ginger tea
- Ginger and lemon lozenges
- Plain crackers (nibble on these before you get out of bed)
- Lots of snacks that you can stomach (crackers, protein bars, baked chickpeas, pretzels)
- Vitamin B6 (talk to your doctor about the appropriate daily dose)
- Peppermint essential oil (I used this to only smell directly from the bottle, I do not recommend applying it directly to the skin, especially in the first trimester)
Tip #7: Buy a few pregnancy books
…but don’t go overboard.
It’s all too easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of information thrown at you by your family, close friends, strangers on the internet – don’t add to that stress by reading too many books.
Admittedly, I’ve only read about 50 cumulative pages of the below books, but plan to keep chugging through them after I finish my brain-candy thriller books.
Below are the pregnancy books I own:
- Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, and Early Motherhood
- Bringing Up Bebe: Discovering the Wisdom of French Parenting
- Expecting Better: Why Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong
- Essential Oils for Pregnancy, Birth, and Babies
- The Birth Partner: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Partners
Tip #8: Set your boundaries and stick to them
Learning how to start setting healthy boundaries will become an extremely important support tool to surviving your first trimester unscathed and with your sanity (semi) intact.
Like I mentioned above, it can be extremely overwhelming to receive a barrage of unsolicited advice, opinions, and general information from those you choose to share your pregnancy with early on. You’ll be hit with never-ending stories of their birth experience, what they hated when they were pregnant, and when they chose to tell others their news (so why aren’t you doing the same?!).
I even had a man tell me exactly how long my labor would last and how it would happen.
All of the above can quickly become exhausting if you’re not prepared.
Here are a few helpful boundary-setting sentences you can rehearse:
- “It sounds like to me that you had an (insert adjective here) pregnancy/birth experience. I’m really focusing on keeping my mindset postive and open to whatever happens.”
- “Right now my only focus is taking care of myself and this baby – I’ll cross those other bridges when I feel necessary.”
- “That’s not going to work for me.”
- “I’m not comfortable with that idea and this is no longer open for discussion.”
- “We are reiterating how important it is to us that you please keep this news to yourself, as it is our news to spread.”
I hope the above suggestions help you to better navigate and survive your first trimester without losing your cool.
Tip #9: Work on clearly communicating your needs
I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times that my husband was perplexed by my first-trimester behavior. From the exhaustion to the lack of appetite to the sudden hormonal rages, it was a learning experience for both of us.
Surviving the first trimester requires you to speak up and communicate your needs – including your emotional needs – to your partner or those supporting you in this journey. I quickly learned that no one could adequately help me if I’m not super clear about what I require to get through each moment.
Some requests (like tangerines from a specific grocery store) might seem absurd, but gently remind your partner that you’re doing the best you can and these favors bring you great comfort.
Tip #10: Don’t forget to soak up every moment
Although it might feel like you’re merely scraping by and surviving the first trimester, I encourage you to take moments to yourself every day. Basking in the miracle growing inside of you and the process of creating life will bring immense and humbling feelings of gratitude.
Above all, as scary as it can sound, nothing is a sure thing with pregnancy. As much as I wanted to complain about exhaustion, cramps, and nausea, I worked very hard (and still am!) to re-frame my mindset to one of gratitude and honor.
Final thoughts + first trimester tips
Above all, remember it’s critical to do what’s best for you and your baby.
You might have to have honest, vulnerable, scary conversations with yourself and others, and that’s okay.
You might be facing a more emotional and heart-breaking journey than you ever could have imagined. Or your pregnancy could turn out to be a textbook journey and easier to navigate than you imagined.
Remain positive, hopeful, and trust that your body knows what it’s doing. Don’t ever hesitate to reach out to your doctor or midwife for support – that’s why they’re there.
Also, it’s important to remember that the first trimester doesn’t last forever. One day you will wake up and feel more like your pre-pregnancy self (which can also be an alarming experience!). Take your pregnancy journey one moment at a time and know that you’re surviving the first trimester the best you can.
You’ve got this, mama!