Updated: Sep 24, 2020
When I first found out that I was pregnant, I was eager to find any information I could about what to expect throughout my pregnancy - and particularly in the first trimester. So now that I've made it through those first 12 weeks (actually, I'm at 16 weeks as I write this), I want to share my experiences, symptoms, doctor visits, and more so that you can have an idea of what the first trimester might be like for you. Everyone is different, so if you're pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant soon, you may not experience everything exactly as I did. However, the more women you can ask (or read) about their first trimester experiences, the better prepared you can be for what may come your way.
(For my thoughts on this pregnancy so far in light of COVID-19, also visit Preparing for Baby in the Midst of a Pandemic)
The first symptom I had, about a week before I even knew that I was actually pregnant, was car sickness. I know, for many women the first sign is morning sickness, but my nausea first started in the car. My husband and I were on our way to a date night at one of our favorite restaurants, which happened to be a 30-minute hilly, curvy car ride away from home. By the time we got to the restaurant, I felt so sick to my stomach that I could barely eat. I continued to dread car rides for many weeks after this.
Before too long, I started to feel nauseous even when I wasn't in the car. As soon as I woke up each morning, the nausea began. Breakfast had been my favorite meal before I became pregnant, but during those first 12 weeks of pregnancy, I didn't feel like eating anything in the morning. The only thing I could stomach for breakfast was watermelon and greek yogurt. This combination helped me to feel somewhat less nauseous so that I could get my day started.
By mid-morning, I often felt a resurgence of the nausea, so I always had snacks on hand: crackers, trail mix, and fruit. Eating a small snack at this point in the day usually made the nausea manageable until lunchtime.Despite all the nausea, thankfully, I never actually vomited.
I always had the best intentions for lunch, packing a healthy meal for myself to eat at work. However, I oftentimes ended up running out to get my latest craving at lunchtime. For a while, I always wanted BMT sandwiches from Subway. Then, it was Filet O Fish from McDonalds. The cravings usually lasted a couple of weeks, and then moved on to something else. To this day, I cannot even think about those foods that I used to crave during the first trimester, as they remind me of that nauseous feeling I lived with during those weeks.
In the afternoons, I tended to feel less nauseous than I had earlier in the day. I ate small snacks every two to three hours, which kept me feeling okay enough to make it through the rest of the day.
During the first trimester of pregnancy, my tastes changed quite a bit. I used to love coffee, but during those first 12 weeks, I couldn't even stand the smell of it. Instead of drinking coffee each morning, I swapped it out for Powerade, which somewhat helped with the nausea and also helped me to stay hydrated. (Eventually, my taste for coffee came back, and now at 16 weeks I am back to drinking my regular 1 cup per day.) I also had less of a taste for vegetables, which I used to eat a lot of. My diet certainly wasn't as healthy in those early stages of pregnancy as I would have hoped, but I did my best and took prenatal vitamins daily to make sure that my baby would still get all the essential nutrients.
Another big first trimester symptom for me was exhaustion. It's a lot of work for your body to begin forming a new little human! By the time I got home from work each day, I needed to rest for the entire evening. I didn't even have enough energy to keep up with the workouts I had been doing previously. The housework I had usually done went out the window. Evenings and weekends became prime time for naps and hours on the couch. Later into the first trimester, I felt well enough to go for a walk some days, or do some dishes, but usually one simple task like that would wipe me out. I had to learn to give my body the rest it needed. Now that I'm past that first trimester, I have a lot more energy most days. There are some days here and there that I feel utterly exhausted again, but they're much fewer and farther in between.
This next first trimester pregnancy symptom is by far the strangest, and I'm not entirely sure why it even happened. About a week or two before I found out that I was pregnant, I noticed a change in one of my feet. I'd had a wart on one foot (I know, gross), for at least 8 years, and no matter what I tried, I could never get rid of it. I had tried EVERYTHING. Then, suddenly, it disappeared practically overnight. Soon after, I found out that I was pregnant. In my mind, I think these events are somehow connected. I know that pregnancy can cause skin changes, so maybe that's what explains the wart's disappearance? Anyway, it's gone and hasn't returned at all. I'm hoping it stays away even after I have the baby!
The last major symptom I experienced in the first trimester of pregnancy, and am still experiencing now, is an adjustment in my temperament. Before becoming pregnant, I tended to be very anxious and emotional. However, as my pregnancy began I noticed that I was much calmer. I was not as worried about life in general as I had been previously. I know that this is the opposite of what many women experience, as many women report having mood swings and being more emotional while pregnant. I'm grateful that, for me, pregnancy has had the opposite effect!
I had three doctor visits during my first trimester. Well, none of them were with an actual "doctor." My first two visits were with a Nurse Practitioner, as this is the practice our hospital routinely follows. After these two visits, I had the choice between a traditional doctor or a team of midwives. Since I want a more natural birthing experience, I chose the midwives. My third visit was with one of them.
At my first prenatal visit, I was around 6 weeks gestation. The Nurse Practitioner calculated this by asking when the first day of my last period has been. I guessed because I wasn't exactly sure, and to this day my weeks gestation depends on this guesstimated date I told her! (That whole system seems weird to me, but that's really how it works!) She told me that my estimated due date was October 16th, 2020. She had me take a pregnancy test to verify that I was really pregnant, and thankfully I was. Then, she handed me a binder of lots of valuable pregnancy information, from what I should be eating to what kinds of meds i could take for various pregnancy-related symptoms. She allowed me to ask whatever questions I had, which at the time, weren't too many. Then, I scheduled my next appointment for a month later.
At my second prenatal visit, I was about 10 weeks gestation. The same Nurse Practitioner I had seen before walked me through this appointment, which was quite a bit longer than the first visit had been. She went through a very in-depth checklist of health history questions that pertained to myself, my family, my husband's health, and his family. I even found out that I had been seen at this hospital as a small child myself, and they had medical history on me that I wasn't even aware of!
After this health history questionnaire, the Nurse Practitioner gave me a pap exam, measured the size of my uterus, and performed several other examinations to ensure that I was healthy. She tried to listen to the baby's heartbeat for the first time with a fetal doppler, but was unable to find it. There were no signs of a problem, but the baby's position was making it difficult to find. Because of this, she told me to schedule my next appointment for 2 weeks out rather than 4 weeks out, so that I wouldn't have to wait for too much longer, yet the baby would have some time to grow and be easier to find with a doppler. Then, the Nurse Practitioner answered my questions, and sent me on to get my blood drawn. The blood would be used to test my iron levels, blood sugar levels, and more. (All levels were good!)
I was very excited for my third prenatal visit, at about 12 weeks gestation, as I would get to meet one of the midwives that would be walking me through pregnancy, labor, and delivery. One of the main reasons I chose to work with midwives rather than a doctor is that a midwife will stay with me while I'm in labor, from the time I enter the hospital until I give birth, so that she can guide me through natural relaxation strategies and hopefully avoid the need for unnecessary medications or unnatural interventions. With a doctor, labor nurses assist you until the baby is crowning and it's time to push. I would much prefer to have the support of an experienced midwife throughout the entire process.
There are four midwives who work at my hospital, and I may have any of them assist me when it comes time to give birth, depending on which one is on call. I will get the chance to meet each of the four throughout my prenatal appointments.
I was very impressed with the first midwife I met at my third prenatal appointment, as she found the baby's heartbeat with the doppler IMMEDIATELY. She also took my weight, blood pressure, and answered all the questions I had. I felt very at ease sensing her great knowledge of pregnancy, childbirth, and even lactation. After all, that's what she does! All four midwives specialize in such things, with a natural approach.
Weight Gain and the Bump
I used to think that being pregnant meant eating whatever you want, whenever you want, just easily packing on the pounds. However, I was shocked to find that it was difficult for me to gain any weight during the first trimester. I gained nothing during those first 12 weeks. At first, this concerned me. However, I was reassured at my prenatal appointments that this is normal. Some women do gain 5 to 10 pounds during the first trimester, some gain nothing at all, and some even lose weight. Because of the nausea, gaining weight can be very difficult in the first trimester. I'm sure that I will gain plenty in the second and third trimesters, now that my appetite has returned.
I did not form much of a bump during the first trimester. At best, I looked somewhat bloated, like I had a bit of a food baby. My regular clothes still fit me throughout the first trimester. It was strange for me to feel pregnant without "looking" pregnant. But there will be plenty of time for that!
I hope you enjoyed reading about my first trimester journey. On to the second trimester!