The first trimester can be the toughest. Often this is the time when most women experience sickness, extreme exhaustion, a larger appetite, bloating, heartburn, you may begin struggling to fit into your clothes, you might be dealing with a rollercoaster of emotions about carrying a baby and becoming a mum. Lets not forget all the work going on inside, growing your baby from the initial few cells, into a fully fledged embryo looking like a mini human!
And a lot of women do all that whilst trying to hide the pregnancy from the rest of the world because it seems socially unacceptable to tell everyone until you've had your 12 week scan.
So here are my top tips:
Rest as often as you can. Your body is doing a tremendous amount of work that isn't visible to anyone else, but it is a very tiring job and it's important to rest lots. Each of my pregnancies I've always been surprised by the exhaustion of the first trimester!
Start taking a folic acid supplement. It is recommended to take 400mcg daily. You can buy this on it's own or as part of a pregnancy multivitamin.
Arrange your booking in appointment with your midwife. This is usually done via your GP surgery and the appointment is usually around week 8-10 of pregnancy. The midwife will go through their booking in form and get a history from you by asking questions. You may be given a date for your first ultrasound scan - if not ask what the process is for that in your area.
If you are experiencing morning sickness, try and eat little and often - an empty stomach can make the sickness worse. Ginger can help, so eating ginger biscuits or drinking ginger ale or ginger tea can alleviate the nausea. Keep some biscuits on your bedside table for when you wake up hungry in the middle of the night or early morning. Some women find sea sickness bands can help so it might be worth a try. Avoid being around strong smells which can often set off the sickness. If you are struggling to stay hydrated then you could try sucking on ice cubes, and sipping small amounts of drinks. Acupuncture has been known to help many women, if you would like a local recommendation for Cardiff contact me.
If you are being sick so often that you aren't able to keep food or drink down then please go and see your GP. And you might find it helpful to visit the pregnancy sickness support website.
It's never too early to begin strengthening your pelvic floor, so start incorporating your pelvic floor exercises into your daily routine.
By week 13/14, most women will start to feel less tired, and less sick (hopefully). You may notice quite a big change in your energy levels and feel more like your old self, but with a growing bump! If you are still feeling sick at this stage and finding it difficult to cope please speak to your midwife or GP for support and help to manage it.
If you are employed, you may be thinking about when to tell your employer if you haven't done it yet. You don't legally have to tell them until week 25 of your pregnancy and it doesn't have to be in writing unless this is stated in your employers terms and conditions. For more info about your responsibilities and entitlement see https://www.gov.uk/working-when-pregnant-your-rights.
As your clothes start to feel more tight, you can continue wearing your normal trousers using a bump band or a belly extender, though your body shape may change in other ways which might mean it's time to invest in some maternity clothes. You don't need to spend a lot to stay looking fashionable. Why not pick up some second hand outfits, local facebook groups or gumtree are a good place for this. Something you might be better investing in is a good bra. It is inadvisable to wear wiring so pick up some non-wired bras which will see you through your pregnancy and will probably be useful post birth as well.
It's a good time to do some gentle exercise such as pregnancy yoga which will help you strengthen your body ready for birth, and help your postnatal recovery. Yoga also has the big advantage of teaching you specific techniques that will help you through your birth, such as positions to use, breathing techniques and also help you manage common pregnancy complaints such as back ache, sciatica, pelvic pain and many others. On top of that you will also practice relaxation which will help keep your blood pressure at a healthy level, ensure your baby gets maximum levels of oxygen and nutrients because you will have better circulation, and will help you manage stress levels.
Another great form of exercise during pregnancy is swimming because the water will take your weight and take pressure off your joints. Just be careful to avoid wide breaststroke legs if you have any pelvic pain.
The second trimester is often referred to as the 'blooming stage' of pregnancy because for most women you are feeling much better in yourself, and due to all the hormones being produced, your skin and hair may be looking better than ever. But not all women will feel like this, and if you aren't enjoying every moment of being pregnant, that's ok. Don't bottle it all up, confide in those close to you and try and find things to do that will cheer you up, also spend time bonding and communicating with your baby to build your connection.
It's not all glowing skin and glossy hair though. You might want to start moisturising your bump to try and minimise stretch marks. You may notice a 'linea nigra' creeping up from your pelvic bone up to your belly button, it's a line of darker skin that can form during pregnancy and will fade away after. It's believed to
Sex. Now this is something we don't always want to talk about, especially pregnancy sex but for some women it can become a big deal. If you feel like having sex then go for it, you may need to get creative with positions as your bump grows but that can add to the fun. However, if you are really not feeling it then just be honest with your partner. Keep communication open as that is the most important thing. There are other ways for you both to get pleasure without penetrative sex ;) Some partners can go off sex in pregnancy and that doesn't mean that he/she doesn't find you attractive, just that perhaps they are struggling with the concept of having sex knowing your baby is there! Again, just keep the lines of communication open and try to find ways you can be intimate.
Your second trimester is the time to plan your antenatal education. Find out what is on offer in your local area from your midwife, and of course, book your hypnobirthing course! Understand the importance of good posture and strong pelvic floor for your baby's position.
Start planning the things you want to buy for the baby, and don't buy into all the hype that you have to spend a fortune. Your baby won't care what sort of pram it has, or what nursery furniture is in their room.
All your baby really needs is:
- Somewhere to sleep - no need for a fancy moses basket as most babies I have know haven't liked them anyway!
- A milk source - if you will be breastfeeding then this costs nothing
- Some clothes - some basic babygros and vest is all that's needed in the early days, you will likely be given a ton of clothes as well
- A car seat if you drive.
- A mode of transport, this could be a baby carrier which you can pick up for as little as £20, or a pram/pushchair (as long as it lies flat from birth).
By this stage, you may find your body has changed quite a lot, and you may be struggling to do things you used to do easily, like putting socks and shoes on, or painting your toe nails! You may be experiencing back ache, pelvic pain, indigestion and struggling to get into a comfortable position to sleep.
Your body is doing a huge amount of work growing your baby and your joints are under a lot of strain so it's really important that you make time to rest, particularly as you reach the end of your pregnancy.
Continue with your gentle exercise and learn some ways to relieve any pregnancy niggles that you may have and make sure you have plenty of comfortable pillows and cushions to support you when sitting or lying down. Remember the importance of good posture and a strong pelvic floor and be mindful everyday of helping your baby get into a good position for birth. A birth ball is great for this.
If you are still working, arrange when your maternity leave will start, ensuring you use any annual leave available to you. It is common these days to work right up to the last minute (I was guilty of this) but listen to your body and take time off sooner if you feel you need to. If you are handing your role over to someone else then spend some time creating job notes/process plans for your tasks to make your handover stress free.
You will hopefully be attending your antenatal classes during your third trimester. If you're planning to breastfeed then make sure you find out about all your local support groups. There are national groups and helplines as well as forums and facebook groups which can be a lifeline in the middle of the night when you are struggling. Here is a link to breastfeeding support groups in the Cardiff area. Please let me know if you find information about any others.
Get your hospital bag ready and always keep your maternity notes close to hand. If you are planning a home birth then it's still advisable to have a bag ready in case of a transfer. (I will be doing my top tips for a home birth soon!).
As you near the end of your pregnancy, it is vital that you understand all your options for birth, especially if you go 'overdue'. Check out my blog post here to shed some light on the matter!
Plan your fourth trimester. You may be wondering what I'm on about....this is the 3 months after you have the baby and it's a really important time to bond with your baby, ensure a good start to breastfeeding (if that is what you choose) and allow yourself to begin to heal post birth. So it's good to have a think now about how to get the support you need to do all of that. Will your partner be having some time off? Do you have friends and family who will want to visit? Is there anyone who can help you out around the house for a while to let you spend time with baby or resting, instead of trying to stay on top of the house work?
Consider what you might do if you have a caesarean birth for any reason as may mean a longer recovery time, and a period of not being able to drive.
If you don't have anyone local then definitely consider hiring a post natal doula. They are like Mary Poppins, they will do pretty much anything you need them to do for you, including looking after your baby whilst you shower or rest, cleaning, shopping, cooking a home cooked meal, washing.
The last few weeks before the baby comes is also a great time to stock your freezer so you don't have to worry about shopping or cooking too much in the early days.
Have a read of my Breastfeeding Top Tips for some more great advice.