The first trimester is a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences. It will surely bring ups, downs, twists, and turns, whether it’s pure excitement and joy, increased hormones, morning sickness, or anxiety about getting through the first 12 weeks. But worry not, mamas-to-be! The first-trimester symptoms are conquerable, and you can look forward to smooth sailing in the second trimester. As an expecting mom who lives a healthy life, here’s what to expect in the first trimester and my first trimester tips as a crunchy mama.
The Waiting Game
This applies to women who are actively trying to conceive. Whether we are peeing on ovulation sticks, keeping close track to pinpoint our most fertile days or both, there’s a two-week period after conception where we must wait. You can take pregnancy tests (depending on the test) on the day of your missed period or the day after for the best results. Being patient is difficult, especially if you’ve been trying to conceive for previous months or are going through IVF. So what are we to do? Just wait, right? Not exactly.
We’re too excited and anxious to see if this will be “the month.” So we Google early pregnancy signs and notice little out-of-the-ordinary nuances in our bodies. Sore breasts, for example. But then we ask, “Are my boobs sore because I’m getting my period soon or sore because I’m pregnant?” We play this little guessing game with ourselves while we wait for the day we can take a test. (For me, my tell-tale early pregnancy sign is an enhanced sense of smell.)
Pregnancy Test Surprise
Even if you’ve been actively trying to get pregnant, when you look down at that glorious pregnancy test showing a positive result, you still feel surprised and a little shocked. “It worked! We did it!”
Recently, I had to show my husband the test right away. It was right before walking my 6-year-old son to school. With tears in my eyes, I said, “Babe, guess what? It’s positive!” It took us three months of really trying to conceive baby #2. (Our first baby was a surprise. A beautiful surprise.)
Processing Different Emotions
Especially if your pregnancy wasn’t planned, and even if it was, there’s a time when we process various emotions after finding out the big news. With my first pregnancy, I thought, “Wow, I’m going to be a mom. It’s actually happening.” To things like, “Oh, crap, I’ve been drinking a lot of champagne on this trip” (which, of course, at my first prenatal appointment, I found out that the baby will be totally fine as long as indulgences stop as soon as you find out).
Emotions of joy and excitement mix with feelings of worry and wonder. Will my baby be healthy? Can I do this? Where will we move to? (My husband and I lived in a studio apartment in a high-rise building. Great for a young couple in their 20s, but no room for a baby. We had to buy a house before my baby’s due date, which was quite the adventure.)
What will it be like to be pregnant? How can I keep my baby and myself healthy? What comes next? Even when I learned about my second pregnancy (totally planned), I still had to process the positive result. You try to get pregnant, and then once it happens, it’s a bit surreal for a moment. Is this happening? Too late to turn back now. Even if these emotions are fleeting, it’s okay to feel all of them. I decided early in my first pregnancy not to think about all the “what ifs” and not to worry. I believe that what we worry about, we bring about. Instead, I created a mantra and said it daily: “I’m so happy and grateful for my healthy and smooth pregnancy and delivery to a healthy and happy baby.”
Hush, Hush Time
You know you are in your first trimester when everything about the pregnancy is “hush-hush” around other people. The risk of miscarriage decreases drastically after the first trimester, so many parents-to-be decide to share the exciting news in the second trimester.
For us, we decided to do just that. We waited to share with friends and extended family until after the first trimester, but there were a select few we just had to tell: our 6-year-old son, who knew we were trying to make a baby, my mom, and my sister. My husband chose to tell his parents after 12 weeks. It’s not easy to wait, but it gives you time to think of fun baby gender reveal ideas. (Note: be prepared for some close friends to guess you are pregnant if they notice your usual glass of wine or spiked seltzer is not in your hand at gatherings. That’s what happened to me!)
Your First Prenatal Appointment
If it’s your first pregnancy, everything is a learning process for prenatal care. With my first, I remember calling a friend with five kids and asking, “What do I do now that I am pregnant?” She gave me great advice: Research and decide which hospital you want to deliver at and then choose an OBGYN who delivers at that hospital. Most people choose a doctor and then must deliver at whatever hospital they are affiliated with. It’s helpful to ask other moms which hospital they recommend and why. There are many local mom groups to tap into or ask your friends. Once you choose an OBGYN, call them and make your first prenatal appointment (usually, this is scheduled between 8-12 weeks). And to get the most out of your first prenatal visit, prepare a list of questions.
Another great tip is to take all medications and supplements to your appointment – even if they are natural – so your doctor can approve them during pregnancy. As a crunchy mama, I was drinking this natural slimming tea during the first trimester that helped me go to the bathroom more easily. Good thing I brought it into my first appointment. This tea had an ingredient that could cause contractions and pre-term labor. So I had to stop drinking it. The silver lining was that I replaced this with chia seeds in water each night before bed, and I never had to go back on that slimming tea.
So, remember when I said there’s a wide range of experiences and emotions during the first trimester? Well, here’s a not-so-good experience. Sorry for TMI, but poop talk is a cakewalk after having kids. Anyway, I went from being regular (going to the bathroom once a day) to going every four days during my first trimester. Ugh! So why does this happen? The culprit is hormones – specifically progesterone.
Your body makes more of the hormone progesterone when pregnant, especially in the first trimester. Rising levels of this hormone can slow down gut motility, which is how fast food and stool move through your intestinal tract. This slowdown can lead to constipation or trouble passing a bowel movement. It may also mean you don’t have as many bowel movements as normal.
It’s a horrible experience, especially if you are already prone to constipation before pregnancy. It’s essential to be proactive to help your body through it. My doctor told me to use stool softeners during my first pregnancy, which I did. They helped some and are deemed safe by the medical community, but after having my first baby, we transitioned into a more holistic lifestyle. So with my second pregnancy, I figured out natural solutions for constipation that work for crunchy mamas during their first trimester of pregnancy. Keep in mind that my body still has fewer bowel movements because my intestines are still slower, thanks to the hormones, so you may experience the same too. Here’s what I do with a high emphasis on the chia seeds (I cannot go a day without these).
Morning Green Juice
Blending green juice 30 minutes before you eat food first thing in the morning helps get your digestive tract moving. Not only because of the fiber, but sorbitol (a sugar in fruits) is in many green juice ingredients and water. All of which help get our digestive tract going. Bonus – the ginger in the recipe helps with nausea. Here’s my favorite, simple recipe – my son loves it too!
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup spinach
- 1 apple (green apples are even better for gut health)
- ½ cucumber
- 1 lemon (peeled)
- 1 inch/1 small chunk of ginger
Eat Greek Yogurt Daily
Avoid Greek yogurts that are full of added sugar. As a crunchy mama, these are some options that I recommend during the first trimester and beyond! I love the Two Good yogurts because they only have 2 grams of sugar and taste SO GOOD. Fage plain Greek yogurt is another brand I love. I like adding a sprinkle of healthy cereal for a nice crunch. I found this delicious cereal by Rx Cereal: Vanilla Almond. It has brown rice, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and a touch of honey, with 11 grams of protein per serving. So I sprinkle some cereal on my yogurt, add two teaspoons of chia seeds, and cut up some fresh fruit like strawberries – then mix it all. It’s a great snack or breakfast.
Another way to get Greek yogurt each day is by drinking a smoothie. I love making chia berry shakes, especially during morning sickness – it helps with nausea. Super easy to make and helps keep everything regular:
- ½ frozen banana
- ½ cup frozen berries
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- ¾ cup almond milk (or more if too thick once blended)
- a touch of agave or honey for healthy sweetness
- ice (if your fruit isn’t frozen)
Drink Chia Seeds Daily
Before bed, I will add three heaping teaspoons to a half cup of water and mix with a spoon. Before they get mushy, I drink them down (it takes multiple gulps). Drink chia seeds every night if you do only one thing from this list!
Peak Performance Super Greens
Another thing that I do as a crunchy mama every day during my first trimester is drinking a scoop of Super Greens by Peak Performance. Finally, there’s a super greens powder that tastes good! My doctor cleared it for pregnancy, and it includes a fiber-and-digestive blend. It’s equivalent to eating 6-7 servings of green superfoods each day as well, so this is another reason I drink it.
Eat foods with lots of fiber. We have been eating watermelon after dinner for many weeks – one of my pregnancy cravings this time. It’s full of water and fiber. Cantaloupe, beans, whole grain bread, pasta, pears, broccoli, peas, brown rice, lentils, and more all have great fiber.
Fruits and Veggies
My uncle always calls it “eating roughage.” Any raw fruits and veggies help with great digestion. Limit processed foods which is a good idea anyway, while pregnant.
Watch Your Cheese Intake
Do you know how hard cheese is to scrub off dishes? Well, imagine what cheese does to your insides. It binds things together and clogs our system. There are many vegan cheese replacements, or you can skip the cheese altogether. I reserve my cheese-eating for two occasions: when we eat pizza (I order light cheese) and during the holidays with family (I cannot resist my mom’s homemade cheeseball!). Oh, and cream cheese on the occasional bagel, but the tofu cream cheese is tasty.
Drink More Water
Aim for 80 – 100 ounces of water a day while pregnant, even when you’re not pregnant. This surely will help keep things moving.
Watch Your Iron Intake
The first prenatal vitamins I took had too much iron for my body to handle. So I switched to Olly Pre-Natal Gummies. These worked much better for me and didn’t make me nauseous. Of course, consult with your doctor about any concerns. So here’s what’s next on the list of first-trimester pregnancy symptoms:
Other Bodily Changes
During the first trimester, your body is going through a tremendous change. Some changes you may notice:3
- Swollen boobs that feel heavy and tender
- Noticeable veins on the breasts and the areolas are more prominent/darker
- Urinating more often (because your body is producing more blood, it causes your kidneys to produce more fluid and fill your bladder)
- Mood swings from increased hormones
- Morning sickness – which deserves its own section by itself after what I just went through
- Clothes may start to feel tighter
- Food cravings or aversions
This is the first experience I think of when I hear “the first trimester.” Early in your pregnancy, you can feel excellent with almost no change, but suddenly, one day, it hits you. The nauseous feeling can start to creep up and progressively worsen. Then can linger for weeks on end. Why does this happen? According to Stanford Children’s Hospital, “Increased levels of hormones to sustain the pregnancy may cause ‘morning sickness.’ This is feelings of nausea and sometimes vomiting. However, morning sickness does not necessarily happen just in the morning and rarely interferes with proper nutrition for the mother and her fetus.“1
It doesn’t happen to all women, though. I’ve had friends that experienced no morning sickness at all. They say that morning sickness means that your body is producing the proper hormones for your pregnancy, so while you feel sick, remind yourself that morning sickness is a sign of a healthy pregnancy. Here are some things you can do that can help.2
Immediately eat when you get up.
Have a cracker at your bedside. Some expecting moms eat a cracker before even getting out of bed. As a rule, I don’t eat white bread, but it was the only thing that made me feel better. So in the morning, I would toast half a bakery roll with vegan cheese and a slice of organic turkey. Once toasted, add vegan mayo.
Take your prenatal vitamins – the B vitamins.
I just waited until after I was done getting sick. Usually, afternoon time was safe.
Resting and lying down.
This is a given. You’re growing a baby inside of you. Listen to your body and rest when you feel like you need it.
Going for a walk and getting fresh air.
Not only is this good for your physical health, but it also aids in your mental health.
Not only does it hydrate you, but it has vitamins to help you feel better.
Boy or Girl?
Guessing the gender is a fun part of the first trimester. Of course, this is all fun, and there’s no definite way to tell if you’re having a boy or girl, but old wives’ tales and Chinese gender calendars are pretty neat.
The good news is that finding out if your little bundle is a boy or girl happens much sooner now. A simple blood test determines it in the first trimester. I asked my doctor how it worked. The medical community discovered that when a woman is pregnant, their blood will have DNA from the placenta where the baby is developing. So when the blood is tested from the mom, and there is a presence of the Y chromosome, this means the baby is a boy (because there’s no way for a woman to have a Y chromosome in her blood; Boys are XY and girls are XX). If there is no Y chromosome found, then it’s a girl.
So there you have it – a list of what to expect in the first trimester, its pregnancy symptoms, and my first trimester tips as a crunchy mama. Is there anything you would add to the list?