According to many, the first trimester is the very worst part of pregnancy (until you are a week past your due date). There are so many challenges, new feelings and physical struggles, it can feel overwhelming. This post will talk you through the worst first trimester symptoms AND strategies to make the next few months more bearable so you can stop feeling miserable in the first trimester.
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Feeling Miserable in the First Trimester
Between nausea, fatigue, bloatedness, diziness, headaches, stress, heightened emotions and, oh yeah, keeping the giant secret of your pregnancy, the first trimester can be downright miserable.
Just about the time that you have gotten over the thrill of discovering you are pregnant, first trimester symptoms hit, and they hit hard!
I will tell you honestly, there is no real magic bullet to make these symptoms disappear, but there ARE strategies to make the first trimester more bearable.
This post will outline options to relieve some of the physical misery from a number of common pregnancy symptoms and ALSO will give you some fun ideas on how to pass the time while you’re on the couch, feeling completely awful and need some distractions!
Without further ado, here are my best tips for surviving feeling miserable in the first trimester!
Physical Reasons You Are Feeling Miserable in the First Trimester
First Trimester Exhaustion
One of the biggest reasons you feel miserable in the first trimester is the exhaustion and fatigue you will begin to experience. You might wonder why you are feeling so tired when your baby is only the size of a poppy seed.
Well, fatigue in early pregnancy occurs for a very important reason. Not only is your body completely changing in order to grow a teeny human, it’s also growing a whole extra organ, the placenta. No wonder you’re pooped before 9 am!
Not only are you suffering the worst exhaustion of your life, but you are forced to reduce your caffeine habit to one cup a day. Being a mom is tough!
Honestly, there’s no magic pill for getting your energy back, and certainly no way to have science grow your placenta for you. You will need to ride it out and nap as much as humanly possible (so many naps).
Although you can’t make your fatigue go away, there are several strategies you can employ to make surviving easier. This period only lasts a few weeks and you simply need to make it through.
Ask for help with chores, or ignoring the mess. Sneak in an extra nap or put your feet up after work. Cut out extra commitments.
Amp up screen time for your older kids to give yourself a break (have you tried Amazon Freetime yet? It is THE best way to let your kids play games and watch shows SAFELY and read books, all with superb parental controls. Screentime without the guilt! Get it NOW!).
I’ve written a whole post detailing the best ways to survive fatigue in early pregnancy here.
Aside from exhaustion, morning sickness is probably the second sympton making you feel miserable during the first trimester. Morning sickness is not exclusive to the morning, but can hit at any time during the day or night, or even last all day long.
Morning sickness is thought to be caused by the rising hormones in your body. Although it’s pretty crappy, you should actually be thankful for morning sickness. Those moms who experience morning sickness actually have lower rates of miscarriage than those who do not (although not having morning sickness does NOT mean you are going to miscarry). So while you’re trying not to throw up, you can be grateful that your little peanut is thriving.
There is medication for morning sickness your doctor can prescribe. However, many moms want to avoid taking ANY medication during pregnancy. Other moms find that the medication doesn’t work for them or makes them too drowsy.
Whatever the reason, there are plenty of natural remedies and advice for reducing morning sickness. From teas you can drink to accupressure wristbands, the trick is to find a strategy that work for you. This post outlines strategies and products that will help you find relief.
One thing to note: if your morning sickness is extreme (read: can’t hold down any food or liquid), you need to see your care provider, as your baby could be at risk. Once you’re in the hands of medical professionals, your baby will be just fine. But it’s definitely not something to suffer through on your own.
Another big complaint about the first trimester is sore breasts. Mother Nature is working hard to prepare your body for breastfeeding and your breasts are taking the brunt of it.
Breast changes are one of the very first signs of pregnancy and you may notice changes even before you miss your period. For me, it was always the first way I could tell I was pregnant.
To deal with tender breasts, use heat or cold (whichever works for you) as needed. You can use a heating pad or cold pack you already have, or try these “booby tubes” from Earth Mama Angel Baby. You can use them all through pregnancy AND while you’re breastfeeding as well (they’re one of my recommended products when you’re dealing with breastfeeding pain)
You’ll also want to start investing in some new bras. You may need to search for a larger bra if your breasts are swollen (you might invest in a nursing bra, but don’t forget your breasts will get even larger by the end of your pregnancy and the first weeks after birth).
You’ll also want to invest in a few sleep bras. These were a lifesaver for me. Even wearing a t-shirt without a bra was too painful in the first trimester.
Bloating and Gas
Another yucky symptom of early pregnancy is the bloating and gas you’ll probably experience. You may be surprised at the size of your belly after only a few weeks of pregnancy. Unfortunately, that belly is not your baby (although soon enough you’ll have a cute little baby bump), but a much less cute bloated tummy.
Bloating occurs because of the hormones that slow digestion down. Your body wants to make sure you are absorbing all the nutrients you possibly can from the food you’re eating. This provides your peanut with the best nutrition possible. Which is great, except you are stuck dealing with some major bloat.
Bloating might also mean your pants start feeling too snug. Check out this post on how to build a maternity wardrobe on a buget for some hacks that will make you feel more comfortable with your changing size!
Eating healthily (as much as possible with the nausea you’re experiencing), drinking lots of water and getting exercise when you can can help relieve some of the bloating.
Watching what you’re eating and staying clear of gas-producing foods like beans, cabbage, spicy foods, soda and sweets can also help with bloating and gas.
Along with bloating, constipation is another unpleasant side effect in the first trimester. Again, hormones that slow digestion to give your baby nutrients also slow your system down. Constipation is often the unpleasant result.
You can treat constipation with good common sense.
- Eat as healthily as possible.
- Increase fiber.
- Reduce refined, processed foods.
- Drink lots of water.
- Try a probiotic (check with your doctor first).
- Get some exercise if you’re feeling up to it.
- Smaller meals can also help with digestion.
There are some safe medications for treating constipation, but it’s important to consult with your care provider before taking any over the counter or prescription medicine.
Along with constipation and bloatedness, heartburn rounds out the trio of digestive miseries of the first trimester. Food is staying in your tummy longer these days. The muscles at the bottom of the esophagus relax, meaning it’s easier for food to come back up.
To reduce heartburn:
- Pay attention to trigger foods and avoid them.
- Eat smaller meals.
- Eat slowly.
- Don’t eat and drink at the same time.
- Stay upright after eating.
- Wear loose fitting clothing.
- Try chewing sugarless gum after eating.
- If heartburn bothers you at night, try using an extra pillow or two (or five) to prop you up.
As if the previous early pregnancy symptoms aren’t bad enough, you may experience dizziness as well. Your circulatory system is changing and as a result, you may experience dizziness.
Dizziness during the first trimester has numerous causes, including:
- your changing circulatory system
- low blood pressure
- getting up too quickly
- lack of fresh air
Do mention any dizziness to your care provider and get checked out in case of any potential problems.
Headaches are another yucky symptom of the first trimester, caused by, you guessed it! Hormone changes.
You probably won’t want to pop a pill everytime you get a headache (consult your doctor for recommendations).
Instead you can use some home remedies to treat your headaches. Using heat or cold can relieve headaches for many people. Cracking a window or going for a walk (if you have the energy) are also options. Even exercising can help relieve a headache, although I personally did NOT have the energy to do any kind of exercising in the first trimester.
You’ll feel the need to urinate more frequently as your first trimester progresses, as your uterus (and your teeny weeny baby) are quickly growing! This is a great sign that means things are going well in your pregnancy, but not so fun while you’re running to the bathroom every twenty minutes!
By the time your second trimester hits, you should find some relief from frequent urination as your uterus moves up and you ‘pop’. However frequent urination will be back with a vengence in the third trimester.
I hate to tell you, but with relaxed pelvis floor muscles, it’s not going to improve much after birth. To some degree you’ll have to get used it it!
In the meantime, there’s not a whole lot you can do about this symptom. Certainly don’t cut down on your water intake. Your baby needs to be hydrated (as do you).
You can try avoiding guzzling water right before bedtime and double voiding (once you’ve finished peeing, try one more time to get a little extra out).
Other than that, put some interesting magazines in the bathroom, because you’ll be making many, many trips there in the next few weeks!
Sleep Disturbances: Insomnia and Vivid Dreams
Sleep disturbances like insomnia and vivid dreams are quite common during pregnancy. Once again, hormones are a factor. The stress of pregnancy and becoming a mom combine with hormonal changes to disrupt your sleep.
If you’re experiencing insomnia, be sure to practice good sleep hygeine (no screens in the bedroom, calming scents, exercise during the day, etc). If you’re having serious trouble functioning, see your doctor before using any kind of sleeping pill.
You’re probably planning on using a white noise maching when your baby comes (if you’re not, read this post on newborn sleep mistakes and you’ll see why you should).
If you’re having trouble sleeping, I would recommend purchasing one early and using it for yourself during pregnancy. There are plenty of options, but I like this one because you can control it from your phone (take it from a mom who has had to creep into her sleeping baby’s room to adust the white noise machine too many times).
Blackout blinds also make a huge difference for me personally and is something you’ll want to invest in for your baby anyway. These ones are inexpensive and made from paper, but work so well! I highly recommend them!
Vivid dreams are super common in pregnancy and nothing to worry about. It’s all part of the roller coaster of pregnancy. Strange or even disturbing dreams are just your subconscience’s way of working out all the emotions that come with pregnancy. So dream easy, or even keep a dream journal. Your little one will get a kick out of it when they’re older!
Round Ligament Pain
Another reason you might be feeling miserable in the first trimester is round ligament pain. You’ll soon notice sharp, cramp-like pains in your lower abdomen when you make any quick movements.
This pain is called round ligament pain and while it is truly a pain, it’s not harmful. Your abdominal muscles are stretching and moving thanks to that blueberry-sized baby who needs a bit more living room.
There’s no real ‘cure’ for round ligament pain. You’ll get used to it and learn to move gingerly in the weeks to come, but every now and again it’ll hit you.
Just breathe through the few seconds of pain, Maybe this is practice for labour?
In addition to a myraid of physical symptoms, you’re probably plagued with a ton of stress. You’re probably worried about miscarriage, genetic testing, harming your baby with seemingly innocuous snacks (no deli meats? soft cheese?), not to mention the HUGE change coming to your life in 9 months!
When it comes to being stressed, I believe the best remedy is to be prepared. DO some research and attend a prenatal class to soothe your nerves. Don’t be afraid to ask your care provider any and every question you have. The more knowledge you have, the more in control you’ll feel.
Finally, on top of all the physical symptoms, misery and stress, you will need to keep the biggest secret of your life, telling no one but your spouse/partner, and perhaps a few close family members and friends. Does that seem fair to you?
In truth, you don’t need to keep your pregnancy a secret from EVERYONE. The traditional reason why women don’t share the news of their pregnancy is the fear of miscarrying. Having to announce heartbreaking news just weeks after announcing their pregnancy is something many women want to avoid.
Deciding who to tell will vary for each mom and you should absolutely do what feels comfortable to you. Unless you are very comfortable grieving in public, you probably won’t want to make a major Facebook pregnancy announcement before 12 weeks (or share your secret with someone who can’t keep a secret themselves).
However, if you did have a miscarriage, you’ll probably want to have a network of support around you and you may end up telling people anyway.
During my miscarriage, I ended up telling about five other friends and family members who who I had not told about my pregnancy. Really, there was no point in keeping a secret from these people in the first place.
You could also consider telling a close confidant at work, so you have someone to help you get through the day.
You could even tell your supervisor if you have a good relationship with him/her. I also ended up telling my supervisor about my pregnancy and it was so much easier than trying to lie about why I was missing so much work.
Again, it’s totally up to you who you share your pregnancy news with. Just know that you don’t have to stick to the hard and fast rule about telling absolutely no one.
What You CAN Do When You’re Feeling Miserable in the First Trimester
Ok, so you’re experiencing a bunch of miserable symptoms. You’re too tired to go out and have fun. You can’t drown your sorrows in a glass of wine. So what can you do to stop feeling miserable?
Enjoy this special time. Yes, this is the first of many, many MANY times you’ll be told to cherish the sucky parts of motherhood. This may sound like a tough pill to swallow while you’re miserable. But the first trimester is a very brief period in your life and it is as magical as it is miserable.
There’s nothing like having the most exciting secret inside of you that nobody else knows. It’s truly a delicious secret that definitely won’t last. So relish in it, as awful as you may feel.
Start talking to your baby, rubbing your tummy, singing songs and daydream about meeting your little sweetie in 9 short months. Induge in fantasies. Buy a pair of baby booties and stare at them. It really is the most special time, so try to cherish it through the upchucking and heartburn.
You’re miserable and rightly so. Allow yourself some time to wallow. Complain to your partner or any confidant with whom you’ve shared your big news.
There’s no other time in your life where you’ll have such a right to complain, so make use of it (because is it really suffering if you’re doing it in silence?).
Now is a great time to start planning for baby’s arrival. If you’re the type of person who likes to accomplish things, feeling miserable may also drive you crazy because you’re simply unable to accomplish what you normally do.
Instead, start making plans for all things baby (all while laying on the couch of course!). Here are some things you’ll need to plan:
- baby names
- nursery decor
- baby registry (I highly recommend Amazon’s registry!)
- your budget for baby
- a pregnancy/gender reveal party
- your baby’s acceptance to Harvard and slow climb to becoming president (joking)
You can also educate yourself on all things baby. There are great online versions of prenatal and breastfeeding courses, some of which are substantially cheaper than what you would pay for a face-to-face version!
Lay on your back and watch informative videos instead of dragging your butt to prenatal class every weekend (words can’t express how much I wish I had known about this option during my first pregnancy)
Now more than every is time to do a little extra self care. If you want your nails done, do it. A new haircut, you got it. A super soft blanket to throw around your shoulders while you’re hovering over the toilet. It’s yours!
One fun idea is a Bump Box. Bump boxes come especially designed for whichever trimester you’re in and contain goodies to pamper you and soothe your symptoms.
Do something special for yourself. You’re growing a human for goodness sakes!
P.S. This will be the last time you will have the time or cash for any of these things, so do it now before you can’t!
Good luck mamas! Know that these symptoms won’t last forever. You won’t always be feeling miserable in your first trimester. Soon you’ll be in your second trimester and you’ll be feeling so much better. Hang in there!
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