The first trimester of a pregnancy, for many women, is like no other time in their lives (except maybe having the flu). I have been meaning to write a list of “changes I experienced during the first trimester” since December, but…I didn’t get around to it. Fatigue sometimes makes the list, as many of you know.
That paired with my natural propensity to overplan and underestimate the amount of time things take meant that the pregnancy first trimester post kept getting pushed off by other other fun things, five days a week.
Now I’m nearing the end of my second trimester (20 weeks or so) and will finally tell you what I remember of the first! I will say that if you are pregnant right now or had a horrible physical experience of pregnancy, you might not want to read this – I’ve had a very easy time of it.
For about two weeks after Christmas (maybe 4-8 weeks into the pregnancy or so) I felt kind of awful, and iffy about food. But after that, nearly everything disappeared, and for quite some time now I can practically forget I’m pregnant except for the fact that my pants are getting tighter.
Changes in My First Trimester
- Dry mouth/extreme thirst: this was the first and most intense symptom I noticed. I had zero saliva when I woke up in the mornings! Blech. A pregnant woman’s blood volume increases by 50% (one of the reasons iron is so important in pregnancy), so my theory is that my body needed extra water to bulk up, and apparently I wasn’t getting enough. I have a hard time drinking a lot in the winter when I’m always cold.I pushed hard to drink more during the day, would drink 1/2-1 full glass of water right before bed, and had a glass (or my Berkey bottle) of water on my nightstand for the second I woke up, and that especially helped to alleviate the yucky feeling.
- Fatigue: I’m one who’s always tired, because I’m a night owl and no matter how sleepy I am during the day, I get energized and ready to work at night. I could fall asleep at any second of the day, though, for those few weeks after Christmas. I remember during my second pregnancy, laying on the couch miserably calling directions to my husband in the kitchen so we could eat dinner. That was a much harder pregnancy (a girl)!My first pregnancy, my boy, was fairly easy as well. Some light-headedness, a few food issues, etc., but the fatigue wasn’t bad at all. I was still teaching full time, so thank goodness for that! That means I’m either carrying a boy this time or my dietary changes (many, as you’ll see tomorrow) since then truly make a difference.
- Gag reflex while brushing teeth: This is practically how I know I’m pregnant. Any further than the incisors and I’m starting to feel the gag reflex threatening. Weird, weird, weird. Come to think of it, that one usually stuck around at least through month 5, and I became so used to it that I almost didn’t notice when it disappeared, but I already have been free of it for a while. Maybe there is something to the real food diet thing!
- Food aversions: After dry heaving in the sink because of the sight of a raw egg, but whole, in the shell, I was a little nervous about all the weird foods in my kitchen now. Surprisingly, I got off pretty easy this time. Certain things (raw cheese, oh my) taste exceptionally good in pregnancy, and certain things turn me off, especially smells (cooking meat, but nothing serious). My biggie with all three pregnancies was chewing raw greens, first trimester only.I have trouble getting through an average salad, and don’t even ask me to tackle a pile of raw spinach. There was just something about all that chewing that made me feel yucky. I always thought that was kind of strange, considering I needed extra folic acid, and spinach is a good source. I still can’t get my homemade dressings to taste right to me, but my husband assures me that they’re as good as they’ve always been!
- Trouble sleeping: Totally no fair. You’re fatigued all day, and then a touch of insomnia, just enough to make you slightly crazy, hits at night. The ol’ brain just wouldn’t shut off.
- Vivid dreams: I suddenly meet people from high school in my dreams, and every one is so incredibly vivid and detailed, down to the millisecond of action, I can’t believe it. Sometimes I’d fall back asleep for a short amount of time in the mornings, say 20 minutes, and have what felt like at least an hour’s worth of dreams, of which I could remember every bit. Sometimes I could wake up and keep the dream going in my imagination, awake. Very, very bizarre. Most of the dreams aren’t even about children or babies, just random events, sometimes frightening, sometimes just off the wall, sometimes realistic enough that I integrate them into my real memories and can’t believe they didn’t happen!
- Waking up to urinate: Another no fair, especially because it was always so hard to fall back asleep! The second trimester is truly lovely, because you don’t have all the adjusting of the first trimester, including this one, and baby isn’t quite big enough yet to be squishing your bladder – I’ll be waking up to use the bathroom again in a few months for sure!
- Warts: Please tell me I’m not the only person to whom this happens! Both of my last two pregnancies have been marked by a sudden occurrence of warts – apparently because one’s immune system is compromised in pregnancy, so a virus like a Plantar wart can come right in. Is the immune system compromised just because the body is focusing so much effort on preparing a healthy womb and a new life?I also got a cold the second I conceived, I think, which I had been successfully fighting off for two months as the entire household struggled with one after the other. That cold lasted six doggone weeks (perhaps part of the fatigue I felt after Christmas!), and it’s been the only illness I’ve gotten this season, again, while my entire family battles a million different bugs. What gives?
- Feeling iffy: It seems so long in the past now, but there were a few days where I just didn’t want to get up and dance Wii with my son, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to eat, and I’d rather be back in bed than anything. It was like a ghost of nausea, not true nausea itself. So mild, I know, compared to what many moms-to-be experience! I find that if I eat well, right away in the morning, something with protein, and make sure I don’t get too hungry, I can fight much of that off. First trimester of my second pregnancy was around Thanksgiving, and I ate a half a turkey sandwich with cheese every night at 10 p.m. as long as we had leftover turkey in the house! (I think for some reason we had some in early November, too – a life saver!) This go ’round I ate a lot of raw milk, raw cheese, and yogurt, since meat is a bit more scarce now because of its high cost for good quality.
- I’m sure there are more…countless times I made a thorough mental list to share with you all while lying on the couch, taking a shower, or chopping vegetables. I just never got around to even drafting a bulleted list while I was in the midst; what a shame!
Some Tips for You: Naturally Dealing with Morning Sickness
Although I haven’t had morning sickness badly (when I felt poorly, it was all day sickness anyway!), I can offer a few suggestions for the awful nausea, feeling “off” and fatigue that can hit:
- Drink lots and lots of water (or healthy fermented beverage). Put some lemon in it for nausea and to encourage yourself to drink more.
- Eat lots of protein. A piece of cheese or a handful of nuts goes a lot longer toward (a) staying around in your system so you’re not hungry again and (b) generally nourishing your baby and fighting off the sickies.
- Try ginger. Ginger is a natural anti-nauseal, and you can get it even in gum, as well as tea.
- Eat something the second you wake up. Keep nuts or a cracker or something you can munch on your nightstand along with a glass of water. Eat it before you’re even out of bed, and you’ve got some ammunition against the day.
- Eat a piece of cheese outside in the cold. A strange one my friend’s midwife shared with her, but there’s something about this intervention that works!
- Salt your food. We need salt to retain water, and it helps us stay thirsty. Just be sure to use an unrefined sea salt.
What else, ladies?
My Thoughts on Prenatals
A lot of readers have asked me about what prenatal supplements, if any, I’m taking, and why. I’m happy to share, but please, please remember that (1) I’m still new at this, (2) I’m no expert and (3) I make a lot of stuff up as I go along! With that in mind, here’s what I am taking this pregnancy:
- One bottle of prescription prenatals, whatever the doctor wrote the scrip for. You can only get the recommended 1200 mcg of folic acid in a prescription vitamin, and that particular vitamin is of most importance during the first trimester to combat spinal bifida. (OTC prenatal vitamins only have 800 mcg folic acid.)
- Garden of Life prenatals, which are raw and whole foods based. They include the 800 mcg folic acid, as well as iron from real foods, not rocks, a probiotic, and ginger to combat the morning sickness. They are expensive – $30 for a month’s worth at drugstore.com (the best price I’ve found) – but watch for sales and stock up!First trimester, I just took the Garden of Life vits and the prescription every other day. Just making it up as I went along!
- Fermented cod liver oil – we started taking this in the fall, and even though I can’t explicate any benefits for me personally, I’m still trusting that it’s good for me and baby.
- Krill oil – I received this sample and am happy to have more omega-3s. Some days I just don’t get around to taking FCLO – laziness, I suppose, and the fact that we’re always running out of spoons. Sometimes I just like to have a pill to swallow.
- Garden of Life DHA softgels – another omega-3 option that I can swallow without a spoon. DHA is so good for babies! These are also pricey, so I don’t think I’ll take them the whole pregnancy. ???
- Primal Defense Probiotics – I haven’t taken these the whole time, and I’m happy to have some probiotics in the prenatal vitamin. However, so that I can try to fight off the Strep B issue and give baby the best first chance, hopefully without antibiotics, and also to help myself fight off all the sick bugs flying around our house, I’ve started taking one or two a day, inconsistently. My husband takes them regularly as one line of defense against Crohn’s Disease.
- Dr. Ron’s desiccated liver capsules – extra iron and B vitamins make me happy!
Why Bother with Supplements?
Personally, I know I’m not going to get everything in that I should, especially first trimester when chewing spinach just seems painful. So I like to hedge my bets and take some vitamins in supplement form. Many people say our soil is so denatured compared to centuries ago, such that while our bodies are certainly designed to get sufficient nutrition from only food, our food isn’t as nutrient-packed as it was designed to be.
What do you think? Are supplements important in pregnancy?
If you missed the last Monday Mission, click here.
Disclosure: The Berkey bottle was part of my sponsorship package for the Blissdom conference, and I’m still grateful and still using it! I am an affiliate for drugstore.com and Dr. Ron’s, and Green Pasture is a sponsor of Kitchen Stewardship. However, these are really what I’m taking, so take all that with a grain of salt. See my full disclosure statement here.