How to survive the first trimester: nausea, cramping and rediculous fatigue

Our bodies are smart, they often give us a one or two week grace period to enjoy finding out we are pregnant before hitting us with a bucket load of really challenging symptoms that can take you by surprise and make the first 3-4 months of your pregnancy a bit of an epic journey! The first trimester, for most women is the most challenging. First of all, many women, although excited, happy and in awe of their body, feel like utter garbage! If you were one of those women who felt great (like many of my friends) I curse you, ha ha. For the rest of you, never fear, you’re not alone. Here’s how I survived the first trimester. For a much more comprehensive guide to your first trimester including diet, supplements, movement and more, check out the program Baby Making and Beyond.

This was one of the last days I had before the fatigue hit me like a ton of bricks :) I would have been just over 4 weeks.

This was one of the last days I had before the fatigue hit me like a ton of bricks :) I would have been just over 4 weeks.

Fatigue

Like for real. I’m talking gut wrenching fatigue. For many women, this is the first tip off that they could be pregnant. Fatigue is often caused by a sharp increase in progesterone (which makes us feel sleepy) and a number of other hormonal changes that are occurring. Emotional ups and downs of finding out your pregnant can also contribute but mostly, it’s simply hormonal.

What can you do?

  1. Honour it: If you’re wiped out. Be wiped out. Sleep when you can, nap when you can. If you need to take a sick day from work, take one, heck take two. Give yourself permission to feel tired. It’s normal, don’t blame your thyroid or age, it’s healthy and it’s ok.

  2. Get outside: For me, I found out I was pregnant while on a surf trip. I tried to push past the fatigue a few times and force myself to go out for a surf but honestly, I couldn’t rally. So, instead I choose to walk outside and do some gentle yoga most days of the week. This helped a lot!

Nausea

Nausea affects 70-80% of women who are pregnant. The good news is that being nauseated is associated strongly with a healthy pregnancy and you’re less likely to experience a pregnancy loss. The bad news is that it seriously sucks. The majority of women start to feel nauseated around 6 weeks and it starts to ease around week `12-14. This is exactly what happened to me.

What you can do?

  1. Supplements: Vitamin B6 combined with ginger capsules can help some women (not me).

  2. Sea bands: like sea sick bands you wear around your wrist that work with acupressure points do help some women (not me).

  3. Eat frequently: This seems to help most women. Small frequent meals are your best bet here. Meals that are carb rich seem to be best tolerated For more food suggestions check out Baby Making and Beyond. This was defiantly my experience. My macro ratios went from a pre-pregnancy ratio of C:F:P of 40:30:30 to about 60:20:20. It’s totally normal to feel this way.

  4. Sour and salty: These two flavours seem to go down pretty well. Be liberal with sea salt and add lemon to as much as you can. (This didn’t help me but it did help many of my clients)

  5. Medications: For me, I honestly never thought I’d resort to medication. I tried ALL of the above and nothing worked. I became pretty non functional….so I said '“Fuck it” and took the drugs. After about a week, it certainly helped. In Canada where I live, Diclectin is commonly prescribed. This drug is essentially just a slow release low dose combination of B6 and the over the counter anti-histamine based sleep aid Unisom.

Cramping

This scared the *#(@&) out of me. As a midwife, we aren’t really taught too much about what happens in really really EARLY pregnancy. Most women aren’t seeking out prenatal care until after 6-8weeks so when I had really bad cramping from weeks 6-8 I was freaked. That being said, this is also totally NORMAL! Your uterus is just adjusting to it’s new growth curve, your baby is implanting deeply in the wall of your juicy uterus and rising hormones all can trigger a flare of period like cramps. As long as you have no bleeding associated with this it’s totally cool. Just breathe, take a hot bath and chill.

Everything else

What else can I tell you about the first trimester….hummm…. for me, as this was a totally unplanned pregnancy I was in total shock, as was my partner. On the one hand you’re over the moon, on the other you’re GRIPPED….Learning you’re pregnant, especially if unplanned can really send you head first into a giant snake pit of emotion. Add in some rapidly elevating hormones and you have yourself a recipe for a bit of emotional chaos and lots of ups and downs….that being said, again, this is totally okay and again totally normal.

What I found helpful was:

Being tired and being okay with it…. outside soaking up the vitamin D = winning

Being tired and being okay with it…. outside soaking up the vitamin D = winning

  1. Journalling: sitting down most mornings to really just let my thoughts and feelings flow onto paper.

  2. Talk to friends: Once I got home going for some long walks with my girlfriends was really wonderful.

  3. Talk to your partner: they are likely feeling the same way. For us, we made a commitment to each other to always be honest, open and never hide our feelings, even if they may not be what the other wants to hear. Practice compassion and kindness. In the end, I’ve never felt closer and more supported by my partner, and I am sure he would say the same.