Pregnancy is an exciting and joyful time, but the first trimester can be full of questions about unfamiliar symptoms and what to eat. While every pregnancy is unique, here’s what typically happens during the first trimester, along with tips to help you feel your best.
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Early Pregnancy Symptoms
A lot is going on in your body right now. After all, you’re growing a tiny human! Pregnancy hormones trigger common symptoms and changes in your body, starting in the first few weeks after conception. Some moms-to-be have minimal symptoms until well into their first trimester, but it’s not unusual to experience them much earlier.
- In addition to a missed period, an early pregnancy symptom is swollen, tender breasts. They’ll grow and change throughout your pregnancy, in preparation for breastfeeding your baby. Wearing a comfortable, supportive bra can help with any discomfort.
- You’ll feel tired, or even exhausted. Try to get to bed earlier, grab a nap if you can, and embrace extra help when it’s offered. Also, take your prenatal vitamin. It has the extra iron needed to prevent anemia — which can increase fatigue. Prenatal vitamins also provide additional nutrients, like folic acid, choline, and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which support your baby’s health.
- Frequent bathroom breaks will become part of your routine. It’s because blood volume increases significantly during this time, so your kidneys have more fluid to filter. Don’t restrict fluids, but do cut back on caffeine. Large amounts of caffeine may increase the risk of miscarriage or a baby with low birth weight. You should stick to one 12-ounce cup of coffee per day throughout your pregnancy. Also, limit what you drink after dinner if you’re waking up to urinate in the middle of the night.
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About Morning Sickness
Morning sickness affects up to 80% of women during the first trimester. Despite its name, morning sickness — which is nausea, with or without vomiting — can occur at any time of the day.
For most women, morning sickness is relatively mild and passes by the end of the first trimester. Severe nausea and vomiting, also known as hyperemesis gravidarum, affect up to 2% of all pregnant women.
To combat nausea, eat small, frequent meals and avoid skipping meals, which can make you feel worse. Feed your cravings if you get them, but be aware that bland, carb-rich foods like toast, crackers, potatoes, or rice are more tolerable than spicy, fatty foods. Many women find that strong smells and certain foods trigger nausea, so avoid any that bother you.
Ginger also can help. In fact, a January 2020 review in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests it’s one of the most effective treatments for morning sickness. Try sipping ginger tea or ginger ale, or suck on ginger candies when nausea hits.
First Trimester Nutrition
According to the National Institutes of Health, most women gain just two to four pounds during the first trimester. Early on, you may not have much of an appetite; if you do, be sure to nourish yourself and your baby. Foods to eat during pregnancy include eggs, fish, chicken, meat, tofu or beans for protein, milk, yogurt, leafy greens for calcium, and plenty of fruits and vegetables for a wide range of vitamins and minerals.
Even though you are eating for two, your calorie needs don’t increase until the second trimester. Even then, you’ll only need an additional 300 calories per day — the equivalent of a glass of low-fat milk and half of a peanut butter sandwich.
Pregnancy hormones cause your digestive tract to work slowly. That, plus any iron supplement you may be taking, may lead to constipation. To keep things moving, aim for at least 25 grams of fiber each day. Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables, choose a breakfast cereal that has at least five grams of fiber per serving, and snack on prunes and nuts.
If needed, you can use a fiber supplement. Drinking plenty of water helps to minimize constipation and move extra fiber through your digestive tract.
Your first trimester is the beginning of many exciting but sometimes concerning changes. Just know, the second trimester usually brings welcome relief from many early symptoms. Don’t ever hesitate to ask questions or pose concerns to your health care team — they’re there to support you. The more prepared you are for what happens during the first trimester and beyond, the easier and more enjoyable it will be.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Moderate Caffeine Consumption During Pregnancy. https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2010/08/moderate-caffeine-consumption-during-pregnancy
Gastroenterology Clinics of North America. Nausea and Vomiting During Pregnancy. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0889855311000276?via%3Dihub
Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. A systematic review of the efficacy of alternative medicine in the treatment of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01443615.2019.1587392?journalCode=ijog20
National Institutes of Health Medline Plus. Managing Your Weight Gain During Pregnancy. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000603.htm
Medical Clinics of North America. Nutrition Recommendations in Pregnancy and Lactation. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0025712516372959?via%3Dihub
For more than a century, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has provided high-quality medical care to women at all stages of life. UPMC Magee is long renowned for its services to women and babies, but also offers a wide range of care to men as well. Nearly 10,000 babies are born each year at Magee, and the hospital’s NICU is one of the largest in the country. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, and the Magee-Womens Research Institute is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology.