If you’re here, congratulations! I suspect you have a good reason for looking up how to make it through the first trimester. 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.
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But for the rest of us, the first trimester can be a miserable experience. This post is primarily written for those people.
If you’re feeling like you’re in first trimester hell, I hope it helps to know that I personally think the first trimester is the worst one. And usually, it’s the absolute worst from about 8-10 weeks. So if you can make it through that month or so, you should be okay.
RELATED: Second trimester survival tips (from a mom of four)
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 something to look forward to about pregnancy
Maybe you’ve been waiting for months (or years) to get pregnant, but now that it’s happened you just feel gross. If this is the case, try to remember why you wanted a baby, and remember that is your end goal.
If you’re up for it, go ahead and start thinking about what you need for your baby registry (I have a complete list of things you need for a baby here), and just enjoy thinking about what it will be like with your little one.
At the same time, I totally understand feeling so sick that you just don’t care about the magical life growing inside you. I’ve been there.
In fact, I was terrified during my first pregnancy (well, I would have been if I wasn’t so sick that I just didn’t care). I was an only child who wasn’t around kids a lot growing up, and I just wasn’t sure I could pull the whole “mom thing” off.
(The good news is, I fell so hard in love with that baby when she was finally born that I ended up having three more. So don’t count yourself out.)
If you’re in that position, find a therapist who works for you to talk through your concerns. This could make a really big difference.
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. Here are a few options:
Candy canes for morning sickness
Not just any candy canes will do to alleviate morning sickness! You have to find ones made with real peppermint oil – that’s what makes you feel better. This brand is a good option, and the mini size might work better for you.
Or, if you want something specifically formulated to settle your tummy, try these peppermint tummy drops. They’re organic, vegan, and formulated by a gastroenterologist.
Ginger for pregnancy nausea
There are lots of options for ways to get ginger to soothe your tummy.
Ginger snaps (made with real ginger) are a great option to settle your tummy. You can keep these individually-wrapped ones in your purse for when you need a snack, stat.
You can also go for ginger candies. This pack of 1 pound of double strength Gin-Gin hard candies should hopefully last you a while, and each candy has a lot of ginger in it, so you can be sure they help.
Deep relaxation for morning sickness
When you’re nauseated, you tend to hold a lot of tension (if you’re like me). And if you’re too miserable to sleep well, that only makes it worse.
Gentle, soothing relaxation can help you get some relief. Fortunately, my dear friend and yoga teacher (who is certified in prenatal yoga) has recorded some beautiful audio tracks for pregnancy. I suggest listening to the yoga nidra track whenever you need to rest (plus, it can totally help you fall into a deep, restful sleep at night).
Unisom and B6 for morning sickness
While all the other natural remedies helped me to some degree, I really had to use medication to manage my morning sickness.
(Reminder: I am not a medical doctor. The medication and supplement I’m listing here are very standard morning sickness treatments for pregnant women, but 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%! And, doxylamine has been classified by the FDA as safe for pregnant women.
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.
The good thing is, you don’t have to take an entire pill at once. During my fourth pregnancy, I would take a half a pill if I was really struggling. Other days when I was only a little sick, I would take a quarter of a pill. Your body will let you know what works best for you.
Don’t let yourself get hungry
My first pregnancy, I was sooooo sick. Like, I lost 10 pounds during my first trimester (although I did gain it back right around the beginning of my second trimester).
Part of why I was sick was just luck, I guess. But looking back, I now know that I felt so awful because I let myself get too hungry. And when I would finally eat, I didn’t choose foods that would fuel me properly.
It took until my fourth pregnancy to figure out what I needed. Protein is what will actually make you feel better for more than like five minutes. With my first, I chose such low protein, carby foods like tortilla chips and crackers. These didn’t make my body any better.
So some stuff you could keep around (if you can stomach it):
- Cheese sticks
- Cream cheese (to put on a bagel)
- Rotisserie chicken (cold might be easier to stomach)
- Turkey (if it’s lunch meat, be sure to heat it up first)
Even though carbs may feel easier to eat, if you actually want to be able to function, find a way to add protein in.
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. Even now in my fourth pregnancy, I’ve found the few times I throw up is usually because I waited too long between meals/ snacks. Once I eat I’m better.
Eat as soon as you’re hungry. 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 so out of control that I couldn’t stand to be around food. So I’d get more hungry, get even more sick, and the downward spiral would continue.
Basically, treat yourself like you would a toddler. Always have a snack on hand.
Nutrition during the first trimester
Generally, your body will let you know when and how much you need to eat. Don’t worry about things like calorie counts or how much weight you gain.
What you do want to pay attention to, though, is the types of food that you eat. You need to make sure you’re getting nutrients like folate, iron, and healthy fats.
In fact, what you eat during pregnancy affects your baby’s epigenetics, or which genes are turned “on” or “off.” What you eat now affects your baby’s lifetime risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and more.
If you want more info on nutrition and gene expression, you can learn more with the Perfect Pregnancy Plan.
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!
(Note: At the same time, I found with some pregnancies that breastfeeding contributed to me feeling unwell. In those cases, I either night-weaned my toddler or just weaned entirely. That’s a totally valid choice too.)
How to sleep better during the first trimester
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.
How to dress comfortably for the first trimester
In addition, you’ll probably want to stick to leggings and/or loose dresses for now. When you have to go out, leggings and a tunic or dress can be your best friend. And when you can stay in? Well, you’ll probably live in 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 there are ways to wear your old jeans for a few extra months.
I tried the old “hair tie looping your jeans button” trick, and it’s okay… but not that great.
These pants extenders work much better, and they’re less obvious (although you’ll still want shirts that go down past your waistband).
Safe exercises for the first trimester
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.
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.