My Top Tips to Surviving the First Trimester

Early Pregnancy can be an exciting, emotional and exhausting time! There is so much to look forward to but there are also many mental and physical hurdles you will face in the first trimester, from the excitement of finding out that you are pregnant, to the worry that the pregnancy may end at any point, to the morning, day and night sickness and the extreme tiredness which makes you feel like every day is a struggle to get through. Those pregnancy hormones sure do have a lot to answer for!

 

Pregnancy is full of highs and lows and many of us need some support to help us wind through the emotional chaos of pregnancy which is why I am sharing my top tips in this honest blog to both help you through this period from both a Mother’s and a Pre and Post-Natal Health and Fitness Specialist’s perspective.

 

I am 16 weeks pregnant now (with twin boys – what a shock that was to see at our 12 week scan!!!) and I have recently entered the 2nd Trimester of my current pregnancy. To say that I was relieved to get to this point is a HUGE understatement! I was mentally counting off the days from week 5, longing for the day that I would feel marginally more human again and that I would know that my baby (babies!) and I were into safer territory. It has been a struggle to get to this stage for us as a family and our desire to have a second child has seen us through a lot of heartache over the last two years so I felt very privileged to be pregnant however, the all day sickness, extreme exhaustion and other common first trimester symptoms I felt throughout my first trimester was difficult to navigate and I hate to admit I was wishing the days away until these symptoms would start to fade.

 

Every woman responds differently to the hormonal changes that accompany pregnancy. Food cravings. Waves of nausea. We’ve all heard about the various cravings and symptoms that many mums-to-be experience. I’ve listed here some of the most common symptoms during the first trimester of pregnancy and I experienced all of these (apart from Acne!) but the others were out in force for a full 16 weeks and they haven’t fully cleared but are much more manageable. Mostly you can expect these symptoms to pass somewhere between 12-14 weeks and for a lucky few of you they will pass sooner or you may even continue to feel great in your first trimester.

 

  • Morning Sickness
  • Food Cravings and Aversions
  • Heightened Sense of smell.
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent Urination
  • Acne
  • Headaches
  • Breathlessness
  • Swollen Breasts
  • Emotional Ups and Downs

 

Pregnancy is sort of like climbing a mountain or running a marathon (without having trained) while carrying a backpack that weighs a little more every day. In other words, it’s hard work! During the first trimester of pregnancy, a huge amount of energy goes into building your baby’s placenta – the life-support system for your baby – which is why you might be feeling completely exhausted. What’s more, your hormones (particularly progesterone!) and your body’s metabolism has increased significantly while your blood sugar and blood pressure tend to be lower which all contribute to a worsening of these symptoms.

 

With double the amount of hormones floating around with a twin pregnancy, it is taking me longer to get my stamina back but I have discovered a few top tips throughout my journey that helped me through and I would love to share these with you in the help that they will also help you navigate your first trimester safely and effectively. You are not alone! If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it.

 

(1.) EATING LEAN, CLEAN AND GREEN

Ok so let’s face we would all love to be eating lean, clean and green throughout the first trimester of our pregnancy, however for many this is just not possible due to the constant nausea. Many women will not fancy these kinds of foods unfortunately and so the best advice I can give you here is be kind to yourself. If you can’t eat something don’t force it and definitely don’t beat yourself up for it afterwards or feel continuously guilty that your baby is not getting what it needs.

Get organised and try to have healthy alternatives to hand such as salted nuts in place of crisps, dried fruits instead of sugary sweets and drinks, rye bread instead of toast, oatcakes instead of biscuits, fruit and vegetable smoothies instead of sugary drinks and when you are able to try and reach for these healthy alternatives instead. I also found clever ways to add vegetables to my meals in this pregnancy and luckily this worked well for me some days. I would mash, blend and chop them and wilt or blend spinach into my smoothies and meals, so I could hardly taste them (a bit like you would with a toddler!). There were some days that I couldn’t face any vegetables but I made sure I took my pre-natal supplement and I was ok with giving my body what it needed, knowing that when the feeling passed I would be able to fuel my body with the healthy food that it needed.

I made sure to avoid spicy, fried and fatty foods as these increased the nausea and within reason I gave my body small portions of what it was craving and all of these things certainly helped my nausea. For some women ginger tea or plain biscuits can help too.

By remembering all these things you will know that you are doing the best you can bearing in mind how you are feeling. I have also included some other nutrition tips later in this blog.

 

(2.) SLEEP MORE AND GET REGULAR REST

Fatigue is by far the most common complaint during the first trimester – and aside from the fact that your body is working super hard to create another little life (or more!) – you can also blame a steep increase in the hormone progesterone, which is known to have a sedating effect. This extreme sleepiness usually tapers off by 12-16 weeks however.

The most important thing that I have found to help my fatigue in the first trimester is to get more sleep and to slow down. Take naps, go to bed early (I was often in bed at 9pm which is unheard of for me!), and let the housecleaning slide for now. There were some mornings all I could do after I dropped my 5-year old daughter at school was lie in bed curled up in a ball and rest and wait for the worst to pass. So this is what I did. Listen to your body.

 

(3.) MOVE DAILY

You should also continue to exercise if you feel you are able to — though you will certainly need to cut back on the intensity of your workouts. I completely understand that the couch has never looked more inviting — but the right amount of the right kind of exercise can actually be more rejuvenating than a sofa break. So take a hike or even a short brisk walk — not only will you feel more perky (and happier, thanks to those mood-elevating hormones, endorphins), but you’ll sleep better at night. More sleep tonight, more energy tomorrow! Just don’t overdo it — you want to finish up your workout feeling energised, not more lethargic.

During my pregnancies there were some days I did nothing, other days I would go for a gentle walk for some fresh air and others I would do some gentle mat based pilates exercises and resistance band exercises. This felt manageable for me but any more would have been too much. Don’t push yourself to do anything that feels too much and again listen to your body and what it needs.

 

(4.) REDUCE STRESS

Stress hormones make the nausea and sickness worse, so one of my top pieces of advice to manage this is to rest when you can, take regular breaks (I sometimes took naps in my car!), meditate regularly, and try and get as much sleep as possible. Tune in to your body and give it what it needs in that moment, and as much as you possibly can. It’s not always easy with a young family around but go easy on yourself and make these things a priority and with the support of your partner and family. Your body will thank you for it.

 

(5.) BALANCE SUGAR LEVELS

Try eating  frequent, small meals to help keep your sugar levels balanced. I found a sudden dip in my sugar levels would make the nausea and tiredness worse. It is also important to also be mindful of the amount of protein you are eating as eating high protein snacks with some healthy carbs is the best way to balance your sugar levesls. Meat, eggs and fish are a few obvious choices but you might be off some of these foods so you could try some vegetarian sources of protein such as nuts (salted nuts were great for me to help me overcome my cravings for salty crisps!), nut butters, seeds, beans and pulses, dairy (low fat greek yoghurt and cottage cheese are a great choice), soya and quinoa.

Like so many other pregnancy symptoms, fatigue and nausea both respond well to the five to six small meals a day solution. Keeping your blood sugar on an even keel will help keep your energy steady, too — so resist meal skipping, and opt for frequent mini-meals and snacks (the sustaining kind, comprised of protein and complex carbs). Caffeine or sugar (or both) may seem like the perfect quick fix for an energy slump, but don’t be fooled into reaching for that chocolate bar or sugary drink — the jolt they’ll give you will be followed by a free-falling crash, making you feel more tired than ever.

To keep your energy up, you need to try and eat right and take in a steady supply of good quality food. Focus on long-lasting energy boosters, such as protein and complex carbohydrates. Also make sure you’re getting enough calories (which may be easier said than done if morning sickness has you down).

 

(6.) REACH FOR THE HEALTHY CARBS

I know that this is one of the most common pregnancy cravings and I am not going to preach that you should never allow yourself any bread, pasta, potatoes or rice in the first trimester. However my best advice when you get these cravings would be to have some healthier alternatives to hand and if you don’t fancy any of these healthy alternatives allow yourself (guilt free!) small portions of the foods that you are craving. During the first trimester in my pregnancies I would eat rye bread with butter and marmite rather than plain toast, quinoa flake porridge with honey, sweet potato, quinoa, gluten free and brown rice pasta, gluten free pizza (from pizza express when I was there with my daugher!) and gluten free wraps which I enjoyed for lunch. This way I didn’t feel deprived. There were also times of course when I didn’t always stick to this but if you are organised and have some of these foods to hand it can help you to make those healthier choices when the cravings kick in.

 

(7.) BE KIND TO YOURSELF

I’ve spoken about this a lot in this blog but it is so important to treat yourself (and your baby) with kindness throughout your pregnancy. There is nothing wrong with you and everything you are feeling is totally normal so don’t beat yourself up! It is important to listen to your body. If you are tired, rest. Pace yourself, and keep what your body is telling you in mind – and don’t try to be the super (expectant) mum who races around and tries to do everything. The dishes and chores can wait until later and don’t book in too many activities which will put you under more pressure. If you need it don’t be afraid to ask for help, make sure you get to bed early and get as much sleep as possible and eat right (or as well as you can!).

 

(8.) HAVE A LITTLE BIT OF WHAT YOU FANCY

Cravings can sometimes be a sign that your body needs those nutrients so it is important to listen to your body and what it is asking for. Also if you are feeling really nauseous then stick to a little bit of what you fancy – it is so much better than having nothing and running low on energy. Eat what you can and when you can and just try and be mindful of the 80/20 rule during your first trimester and if there is a healthier option that you can stomach then try and go for that. I took the mindset that if there is something I was really craving then I would allow myself to have it but I would just try and make sure I had a small portion. There were some days I had chips and pizza in moderation but then there were many others where I tried as best I can to get some nutritional goodness inside me.

 

(9.) DRINK AS MUCH LIQUID AS YOU CAN

I know for many women it can be difficult to get enough water and liquid inside them between the feelings of nausea in the first trimester. However one of the many causes of fatigue is low blood pressure, and this is made even worse by not drinking enough water. It’s so important to just get as much liquid inside you as you can though! Try spa water and herbal teas if you can, and sparkling water infused with lemon and lime is very refreshing and thirst quenching. Even low sugar squash, or fruit juice mixed with water is a much better alternative than not drinking anything. I must confess that for me there was a couple of days I had a diet coke (something I never do normally!) but it had to be done so I had it guilt free and moved on with my day. Once you are through this patch you can go back to your healthy ways 🙂

 

(10.) TRY TO THINK POSITIVE

You may find yourself spending a lot more time at home than normal and unable to carry on with your life in the way that you usually do which can certainly lead to low and negative feelings in the first trimester. Allow yourself to have some time out while you grow your precious baby inside you and view it as a time for rest, the more you accept the situation and that it will eventually pass the better you feel. Regular meditations can also help with this as can eating well and being kind to yourself, which are some of my other top tips in this blog! It is such a short period of time and by appreciating your body and what it is going through it will help you to cherish this time of rest and what you do feel able to do in the first trimester, rather than focussing on what you are missing out on. I know these were some of the things that helped me stay as positive as I could during this time.

 

I hope these tips help you as much as they have helped me and if you have any questions about anything I have written about here then please email me at laura@truevitality4mums.com. Good luck with your pregnancy!

 

If your fatigue is severe, persistent or lasts throughout your entire pregnancy, please make sure you talk to your midwife or GP – especially if you experience other symptoms like weakness, breathlessness or even fainting spells (which may mean you have iron deficiency anaemia, a common but treatable condition). And if you’re feeling sad or apathetic or having changes in appetite, panic or anxiety, you may be experiencing prenatal depression – another condition your doctor can help you cope with and treat.

 

Lots of love Laura xx

 

 

 

Don’t worry if you didn’t exercise throughout your pregnancy and have a fit pregnancy, you can still lose the baby weight, strengthen your core and pelvic floor and get your body back with the correct nutrition and post-natal exercise. For more information about the True Vitality 4 Mums post-natal 12 Week Transformation Programme, please email laura@truevitality4mums.com xx Personal Trainer in Richmond, Personal Trainer in Ascot and Personal Trainer in Surrey.