If you’ve stumbled upon this post, congratulations! I suspect you have a good reason for being here. But now that you’ve gotten that positive pregnancy test, what happens?
For some people, the first trimester is smooth sailing. If this is your first baby, you’re possibly not showing yet, and it may seem like life is just going on like normal.
But for the rest of us, the first trimester can be a miserable experience. This post is primarily written for those people.
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I’ll be honest, I feel gross pretty much the entire time I’m pregnant. Sometimes I feel less gross than other times, but I never really feel good.
With that said, after doing the pregnancy thing a lot of times, I’m finally figuring out how to take care of myself and minimize the terrible. And since the first trimester is always the worst for me, I’m going to focus on how you can go about surviving the first trimester.
Cut yourself some slack
This is the most important thing. You are growing another human inside your body. Sure, it’s only the size of a lentil, but the hormone shifts and things that are going on inside your body wreaks havoc on all your systems.
If you’re less patient than usual, just remember that it’s not you, it’s the hormones. Give yourself some grace and know it’s going to get better. You are going to get better (I promise).
And if you already have an older child (or two or three), it’s okay if you’re not super mom right now. If food grosses you out too much for you to cook, they’ll survive on PB&J, canned beans, eggs and frozen vegetables, or whatever else you can stomach being around long enough to prepare.
If you’re a mother who tends to limit screen time, it’s not going to ruin your kids for life if you let them watch a little more TV than usual while you rest. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, and I’m certainly not going to judge you for it!
Find the morning sickness remedy that works best for you
First of all, I hate the phrase “morning sickness.” It is a lie.
Morning sickness tends to start around week 5 of pregnancy, hits its peak around 8-10 weeks, and often is mostly gone by the end of the first trimester (although some people aren’t so lucky).
With my first pregnancy, I was sick all freaking day long, but I felt worst at night. I was throwing up every other day, and it was usually in the evening as soon as my husband walked in the door (Sorry hubs).
I latched onto any nausea remedy I could. I tried candy canes made with real peppermint oil, I tried ginger snaps and ginger candy, I tried Sea-bands…
UPDATE: I knew about Hypnobabies’ fantastic birthing course, but what I didn’t realize is that they also have a hypnosis track called Eliminate Nausea Now! I downloaded this self-hypnosis track about a month ago and it has taught me how to relax when I start feeling sick, relieving my symptoms. Click on this link and go to the pregnancy tracks section (and don’t forget to check out their birth course while you’re there).
They all worked to some degree, but what finally helped me most was a medication/vitamin combination.
(Reminder: I am not a medical doctor. I’m just telling you what worked for me. Please discuss with your own healthcare provider before you try any medications or supplements.)
Vitamin B6 took away most of my nausea. It was a godsend. (and while you can totally just take a vitamin, I love these anti-nausea pops that already have B6 in them, because the tart flavor can help you feel a little better too).
And the medication my doctor recommended? Believe it or not, it’s Unisom, the sleep aid. In fact, studies have shown that the combo of Vitamin B6 and Unisom can reduce nausea and vomiting by 70%!
IMPORTANT NOTE: Make sure you get the Sleeptabs from Unisom if you try this. The active ingredient has to be doxylamine. Other forms of Unisom, like the liqui-gels, contain a different drug which is not what you want to be taking.
I didn’t hear about this medication combination until the tail-end of my first trimester for my first child, so I suffered through without a lot of help. But with my second pregnancy, you better believe I got both of those remedies just as soon as I started feeling sick. It made a huge difference.
But the downside of the Unisom? Umm… it’s a sleep-aid, and you’re already extra sleepy due to pregnancy. Don’t expect to be at the top of your game if you take this medication. But, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
Sleep and rest when you can
One of my first pregnancy symptoms is feeling exhausted, like I’ve been run over by a truck. If that’s you too, honor your body’s needs! If you can, take a nap. And if you can’t nap during the day, there’s nothing wrong with just going to bed by 7:30 or 8:00 at night.
I know rest makes a difference in how well you feel. With my first pregnancy, I was always sickest on Thursdays and Fridays, when my body was worn down by my work week. After I recuperated over the weekend, I was ready to go again on Monday.
If you have older kids already, getting rest becomes even harder! I’ve always been still breastfeeding my youngest while pregnant (yes, you can totally get pregnant while breastfeeding; I’ve proven it multiple times!), but I’ve used it to my advantage!
RELATED: TANDEM NURSING: BREASTFEEDING WHILE PREGNANT OR BREASTFEEDING TWO KIDS AT ONCE
One of the few ways to get a toddler to be still is to breastfeed her. So I would pretty much just lie there and let her nurse as soon as I got home. She got to nurse, I got to rest. Win-win!
Just eat what you’re able to – but don’t let yourself get very hungry
Once, when I was silly and naive and in graduate school, some college students asked me what I would eat if I were pregnant (I had just finished giving a lecture about pesticides in food). I told them I would eat all organic produce and be super healthy. I was very proud of myself.
And then a year later, I was actually pregnant.
There was almost nothing I could eat. In fact, just looking at our pantry of cans of food made me start gagging. Looking at the closed fridge made me nauseated just because I knew food was in there.
And going to the grocery store? Yeah, that wasn’t happening.
I lost ten pounds during my first trimester because of just how sick I was.
But when I finally did start eating, it definitely wasn’t the organic diet I had told those students it would be.
I ate tortilla chips. And Easy Mac. And ramen noodles (yes, the kind that comes in a block with that seasoning packet full of sodium and MSG and who-knows-what).
These were the only foods my body would accept.
While the Unisom/B6 combo helped me during my second and third pregnancy, I think the other thing that was helpful was finally figuring out that you can’t let yourself get really hungry when you’re pregnant.
Once I got hungry and stayed there for a little while (there is no peckish, only ravenous when I’m pregnant), my nausea would get out of control and I couldn’t stand to be around food. So I’d get more hungry, get even more sick, and the downward spiral would continue.
But by the third pregnancy, I had it figured out (or maybe I just got better at being pregnant, lol). As soon as I felt hungry, I’d have whatever I could find that didn’t sound gross.
Basically, treat yourself like you would a toddler. Always have a snack on hand.
UPDATE: The fourth time around, I found out a NEW helpful tip! Protein is what will actually make you feel better for more than like five minutes. So some stuff you could keep around (if you can stomach it): Cheese sticks, cream cheese (to put on a bagel), maybe rotisserie chicken…
Even though carbs may feel easier to deal with, if you actually want to be able to function, find a way to add protein in.
Beyond the nausea and exhaustion, I generally just feel uncomfortable while I’m pregnant. Clothes don’t fit right, my abdomen always just feels bleh, and it’s just generally unpleasant.
But there are a few things you can get to help.
My favorite game-changer for pregnancy? A pregnancy pillow!
If you’re a stomach sleeper or a back sleeper, you’re going to find out pretty quickly that your usual sleeping position simply doesn’t work anymore. You basically have to sleep on your side (in fact, medical advice suggests you should try to sleep on your left side for the best blood flow to your baby).
But eventually, sleeping on your side like that causes your hips to ache, keeping you from staying asleep. That’s why you need the pregnancy pillow. It provides support for your back, your legs, even your belly (trust me, you’ll want that in a few months!)
Go ahead and get that pregnancy pillow now. Your body will thank you.
You can grab a pregnancy pillow for $50 off with my code exclusively for Evidence-based Mommy readers! Just use the code EBMPILLOW50 at checkout.
In addition, you’ll probably want to stick to leggings and/or loose dresses for now. Leggings can be your best friend. Those and pajama pants.
If this is your first pregnancy, you can probably get away with your “normal” clothes for a few months. But if it’s your third (or maybe second!), you’ll start showing almost as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. You’ll need to switch out clothes quickly!
You will likely want maternity jeans when the time is right, but you can actually find ways to wear your normal jeans for a least a few months!
I’ve been trying the old “hair tie looping your jeans button” trick, and it’s okay… but not that great. Instead, I suggest trying the Hot Hips (silly name, great idea!) that allows you to extend your pants up to six more inches at the waist! I have an exclusive code with Hot Hips too! Use the code EBMWEARYOURJEANS at checkout to get $60 off (that’s worth more than the price of one waistband, so you can get two in different colors for a really good deal!
Be careful which exercises you do
I know, some of you see me talking about exercise and want to punch me in the face, if only it didn’t take so much effort. If you’re in the first trimester and are so miserable you can barely move, that’s okay. Just take care of yourself.
But if you are able to get around, it’s really in your best interest to keep up with at least some light exercise. Walking is fantastic. If you’re a jogger and want to keep that up, go for it. (NOTE: Obviously, if you have some sort of complication that precludes exercise, follow your healthcare provider’s advice.)
Exercises that are really going to benefit you when birth finally comes around include moving bridge pose and squats. Both of these strengthen the exact muscles you need for labor and pushing! And of course, the classic kegels are helpful
To keep your back and hips from getting out of whack, do some clamshells to build up your inner thigh muscles, while also doing some seated hip stretches (this site tells how, but I suspect you will not be able to lean as far forward as this woman does, at least if you’re doing it right.
(By the way, it’s never too early to start thinking about birth. If you’re at all considering a drug-free labor and birth, grab my FREE Perfect Natural Birth toolkit, containing a birth plan template, tips I’ve never seen anywhere else, birthing mantras, and more!)
What you want to avoid, though, is any sort of deep twists through your midsection or any kind of exercise that’s focused on your abs.
Your baby is still working on getting implanted firmly, and deep twists could cause serious problems. Likewise, crunches or anything that contracts the ab muscles that way can also cause problems.
Conclusions on the first trimester
Congratulations again on your new little one! Whether you’re ecstatic about your new baby or a little nervous, I promise it’s all going to be worth it in the end. I hope these tips have helped you.
Are there any major symptoms I’ve missed? If so, let me know in the comments and I’ll get back to you!