You watch expectantly as a second line appears on the drugstore pregnancy test and your mind starts spinning! You’re pregnant! A wide variety of thoughts and emotions run through your brain and I think it’s safe to say no two women respond exactly the same at this moment. But one thing is for sure, you’re now officially in your first trimester of pregnancy! What now? What’s heading your way over the next several weeks?
You’ve probably heard of the popular book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”, a pregnancy companion classic that is filled with week by week pregnancy information. But sometimes we just want a birds eye view of what to expect, especially in these early weeks when you may not be ready for the deep dive just yet. We’ve rounded up some of the biggest things to expect in your first trimester, whether you’re a first time mom or you’ve been through it before and just want a refresh. So what should you expect from your first trimester? We’ve got you covered with the must know info as well as some real- life insight from some real-life mamas and their experiences.
Your first trimester lasts from week 1 until about week 12 or 13- depending on who you ask. How much time you spend aware of being in your first trimester on the other hand depends on how quickly you find out you’re pregnant. One of the biggest surprises to me was that by the time you get that positive test you’re probably farther along than you think, at least according to your healthcare provider. Most providers date your pregnancy based on the first day of your last menstrual cycle so even the earliest of pregnancy testers will still be considered 3-4 weeks when they get the news. You’ll go to your first prenatal appointment during this trimester, hopefully getting your first glimpse of the baby on an ultrasound and maybe even hearing a heartbeat! And your provider will get you set up on the best path to a healthy pregnancy discussing topics such as diet, exercise and prenatal vitamins.
“I’m currently pregnant with my third baby. When I was in the first trimester this pregnancy, I had a hard time with morning sickness. I would experience so much guilt and stress myself out over trying to keep up with the cleaning, dishes, and laundry like I normally would. Advice I would give other moms is to give yourself grace and tell them to prioritize their health/rest. The dishes can wait!” - Britnee S.
One of the biggest parts of the first trimester is deciding when and how to share the news with those around you, most importantly your partner, your family and your friends.
Telling your partner is usually first up on an expectant mom’s to do list after they’ve confirmed it for themselves. Some run in the next room, pregnancy test in hand to immediately share the news. Some plan a more elaborate way to let their partner in on the news. If you’re looking for some inspiration, Pinterest and Etsy are both full of creative ideas for telling that special someone they’re about to be a parent!
What about telling the rest of your family and friends? There are big opinions on the best time to officially announce your pregnancy. Some people recommend waiting until after that first trimester, while others encourage you to share the news as soon as you know. The right answer to this question is…tell people when you feel comfortable! If you want to shout it from the rooftops from the very beginning, go for it! If you want to keep it to yourselves a bit longer that’s fine too. Or maybe you’ll fall somewhere in the middle, telling a select group right away and telling the masses later on. Whichever you decide, it’s likely that coming up with this plan will happen in the first trimester.
This is certainly one of the most common wonderings of newly expecting moms. What are the symptoms of pregnancy at this stage? Is this xyz feeling normal? How long will these last? Pregnancy symptoms at any trimester are funny in that there is a long list of things you might experience but the kicker is no two pregnancies are exactly alike so no one can tell you for sure what symptoms you’re going to run into. And some people don’t even experience any symptoms right away or for at least a few weeks.
Some of the most common symptoms people share from this trimester are…
- Morning Sickness- nausea or vomiting that despite what the name suggests doesn’t actually just happen in the morning. If you’re struggling with morning sickness try ginger candy or gum, eating something before the nausea hits, using motion sickness bands and of course ask your provider for other suggestions if it persists.
- Fatigue- your body is going through major changes right now including growing a whole new organ (wow!) and that is exhausting. So don’t be surprised to find yourself falling asleep on the couch before dinner or wanting to doze off at your desk at work (although we don’t recommend this one).
- PMS Symptoms- the feelings and bodily changes you notice before your period arrives? Well just when you thought you were done with PMS (for 9 months at least) those pesky symptoms often show up in the early days of the first trimester.
- Mood Swings- while your body adjusts to the huge changes in your hormones, your mood may feel like a seesaw going from way up to way down at a moment’s notice.
Based on this list it’s easy to see why many people agree that the first trimester is tough for a lot of women. Just rest assured that people also agree that these symptoms don’t last forever and there is light at the end of the first trimester tunnel. Most women will see their nausea subside, their energy level pick up and their moods level out as they get into the second trimester.
“The first trimester was the hardest for me, especially the second pregnancy. I was nauseous all day and had no energy to keep up with my 2 year old. With some frequent snacking and help from nana we managed, but don’t let mom guilt get you down! You have to take care of yourself momma and if that means letting your kid watch a movie so you can nap, then do it! Mom guilt is fierce, but don’t let it stop you doing what you need to for yourself!” - Katie S.
There are a lot of “to-dos” in pregnancy but something else to expect is quite a few don’ts. Google is full of conflicting information that is bound to scare you into literally eating and doing nothing ever when pregnant if you tried to listen to all of it. So that is your first don’t. Don’t let the internet scare you. But DO contact your healthcare provider if you’re ever unsure about something during pregnancy. So many of the “don’ts” you’re going to run into are based on what you can/can’t eat. When I was first pregnant I felt like I googled something at every other meal “can you eat ____when pregnant?” I did it so frequently that my phone started automatically asking the question as soon as I started typing! So to save you some time, I’ve put a few of the most common “don’ts” for pregnancy nutrition here based on the Mayo Clinic guidelines.
- Avoid excess caffeine- good news coffee drinkers, you can still indulge in 200 mg or less per day.
- Avoid alcohol- save that champagne toast for after delivery.
- Avoid fish high in mercury- like swordfish and bluefin tuna.
- Avoid raw or undercooked meat, seafood and eggs.- so yes, sadly this includes sushi.
- Avoid unpasteurized foods. Not sure if something is pasteurized? It can usually be found in the ingredients section of the food label.
- Avoid unwashed produce- let’s be real, all of us should probably be washing our produce pregnant or not.
“I had pretty terrible morning sickness during the first trimester with both pregnancies. Reminding myself that it’s temporary and a sign of a healthy pregnancy, along with lots of lemonade are what helped me get through it.” -Jen W.
Something that I think can be unexpected for mom’s in this trimester is the wide variety of feelings they may experience. While it often is full of joy and excitement, this trimester can also be filled with uncertainty and even the feeling of being a bit isolated. If a woman hasn’t shared their pregnancy news right away she can end up feeling like she’s navigating this stage of pregnancy on her own. Maybe they’re the first one in their circle of friends to enter this season of life so again they feel like they don’t have many people to turn to for questions or support. Other mamas have experienced challenges with fertility, pregnancy loss or challenging previous pregnancies that can take a toll on their mental health. If this is where you find yourself, I want to encourage you with two things. First of all, I want to assure you that you are not alone in your feelings or experiences. And second, I want to share some resources that may help you feel less isolated and more connected.
The Peanut App is a place for mom’s to meet other moms in their area as well as ask questions and interact with mom’s in the same stage of life.
The What to Expect App has a plethora of information about your pregnancy and baby and it also has a community section for questions and sharing. Because sometimes you just need to know that there is another mom struggling to keep up with her toddler while also pregnant or find camaraderie in sharing your best anti-nausea remedies.
Facebook Groups- There are groups for local moms all over, try searching for one in your area! This is a great place to get local advice on providers, hospitals, childcare, prenatal classes and more!
“My first trimester was physically pretty smooth- not a ton of sickness or anything. However due to a previous pregnancy loss, mentally the 1st trimester was SO hard. I had constant anxiety about if baby was okay. My biggest tip for managing those feelings would be to acknowledge them as valid thoughts, find someone to talk to about the feelings and also try to focus on things you CAN control (eating healthy, walking, taking prenatals etc.) while learning to manage anxiety in healthy ways (music, journaling etc.)” - Christine S.
“ The first trimester is a combination of total joy for what’s coming and some mild disbelief that it’s really real as you wait and watch for every little symptom. Treasure it all up, something completely, uniquely brand new has just come into your life.” - Shannon M.