What To Expect In Your First Trimester


Published: December 16, 2014

Expert Advice

We’re used to thinking of pregnancy as lasting nine months, but it’s actually a little longer – 40 weeks, with a normal range of 37-42 weeks. We think of that time in trimesters, each with different changes in the mother’s body and emotions, different signs and symptoms, different potential complications, different tasks for screening the mother and baby, with different responses to concerns.

Prenatal care is an important part of pregnancy. The earlier in pregnancy your medical care starts, the greater the likelihood that any health or pregnancy problems, for baby and/or mother, will be identified and successfully managed. Early prenatal care increases the likelihood that you will carry your baby for the full duration of pregnancy and celebrate baby’s good health.

The first 12 weeks of pregnancy we call the first trimester. Your body is undergoing an invisible transformation. Knowing what changes to expect gives you confidence and minimizes fears.

Morning sickness can begin as early as three weeks after conception, and occurs at any time of day or night. Your estrogen and progesterone hormone levels are rising rapidly, causing slower emptying of the stomach, which may contribute to the nausea. A pregnant woman has a keener sense of smell, so some odors, such as foods cooking, or cigarette smoke, may trigger nausea.

To relieve nausea, eat smaller meals throughout the day. Low-fat, easy to digest foods are good choices. Avoid odors or foods that you know makes nausea worse. It’s important to drink plenty of fluids; try drinking ginger ale. For some women, alternative therapies, such as acupuncture or hypnosis relieve symptoms. Before using an alternative therapy, discuss it with your health care provider.

Breasts may feel tender and swollen, in response to the same hormonal changes that cause nausea. Your breasts may feel fuller and heavier. A more supportive bra may help.

More frequent urination may occur, due to the growing uterus putting pressure on the bladder. You may leak urine when you cough, sneeze, or laugh. Panty liners may be helpful. To prevent urinary tract infections, urinate as soon as you feel the urge. If you’re waking often during the night to urinate, try drinking less caffeine, or decreasing fluid in the evening.  

Fatique is one of the most common symptoms during the first trimester. The soaring level of the hormone progesterone can put you to sleep. Rest as much as you can. Make sure you’re consuming enough iron and protein. Increase your physical activity. A brisk walk every day can help.

Food cravings and aversions are the result of the same hormonal changes which cause most early pregnancy symptoms.

Dizziness can result from the normal dilation of the blood vessels in pregnancy. Blood pressure drops, possibly leading to lightheadedness. Avoid standing for long periods of time. Rise slowly after lying down or sitting. If you’re standing when you become lightheaded, lie down on your left side. If the dizziness is severe, along with abdominal pain or vaginal bleeding, get medical help immediately.

Heartburn and constipation may be the result of the normal slowing down of the digestive system that occurs with pregnancy. The slowing gives nutrients more time to be absorbed, but it can lead to constipation. Pregnancy hormones relax the muscular band at the entrance of the esophagus into the stomach. Acid from the stomach can back up into the esophagus, causing heartburn.

To prevent or minimize heartburn, eat smaller meals more frequently. Avoid fried foods, carbonated drinks, citrus fruit and juices. To relieve constipation, eat plenty of fiber and drink lots of fluids. Increasing physical activity may help.

Pregnancy can feel emotionally overwhelming. You can feel exhilarated and exhausted at the same time, joy can be mixed with weeping, and worry may be mixed with serenity. You’ll probably wonder what kind of parent you’ll be, at times feeling confidant and at other times feeling wholly inadequate. You may be concerned about the financial demands of raising a child.

You may wonder how having a child will change your relationship with your partner. Be honest about your needs and feelings. Acknowledge stressful parts of your relationship. Encourage your partner to express doubts and worries. It’s part of preparing a home for your baby.

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About Faith A. Coleman, MD

Dr. Coleman is a graduate of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, and holds a BA in journalism from UNM. She completed her family practice residency at Wm. Beaumont Hospital, Troy and Royal Oak, MI, consistently ranked among the United States Top 100 Hospitals by US News and World Report. Her experience includes faculty appointments to a family practice residency and three medical schools, as well as Director of Women's and Children's Health Promotion Programs with the NE Texas Public Health District.

Dr. Coleman is the Expert on Gifted Children for the New York Times, parenting writer for Demand Media Studios, as well as health and medical writer for several online information services. She writes professional management material for health care providers and about the personal experience of being a physician. Faith treasures most the role of mother. Her passions include the well-being and education of children and families. She doesn't tweet, but welcomes email: facoleman8889@yahoo.com.

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