Trimester by Trimester!
Pregnancy can be SUCH an exciting time for most new mums-to-be. It’s also a time when there are SO.MANY.QUESTIONS. Throw changing hormones, unwanted pregnancy symptoms and the realisation that things are going to change into the mix and you can also see how it can be an overwhelming time.
Nutrition during pregnancy may be something that you just HAVEN’T thought about, as yet. I’ve written before about recommendations for nutrition during pregnancy so take a read of that if you want to know the ins and outs of what we should (and sometimes shouldn’t) be eating during pregnancy. Today’s post is more about the symptoms of pregnancy. It’s something I’ve wanted to cover for a while, and I see regularly a lot of misinformation around “cures” and “remedies” for pregnancy related symptoms – which often aren’t supported by much research.
What’s happening in my body?
During pregnancy a woman is literally growing another human. Let’s just take a moment to appreciate how incredible that is….
This means that your body is bound to change, to grow and to be working much harder than normal every single day.
In the first trimester only around 5% of all pregnancy related growth occurs, but this growth includes changes to a mother’s blood, uterus and placenta, as well as growth of the actual baby.
During these first months, new tissues are being created that will make up the growing foetus, the placenta and the amniotic fluid that surrounds a baby. All of this new tissue creation takes energy. Your boobs and your uterus will also be growing.
On top of this, your respiratory system is having to work extra hard to provide extra oxygen to the growing cells in a mother’s body. The total energy cost of pregnancy is reported to be around 77000 kcals!
All this growth is likely to come alongside plenty of symptoms too…
First trimester typical symptoms:
Obviously everyone does tend to experience pregnancy symptoms in very different ways. Some people glide through pregnancy with nothing more than a pregnancy glow, whilst others tend to crawl through hitting every symptom under the sun…
Additionally, although there are often some symptoms that are more likely to come at certain times during pregnancy, people can get any symptoms at any time too – it’s all, unfortunately, very normal!
Ok this can hit at any time, but, may be more likel in the early and later stages of pregnancy. As I mentioned, the body is needing a lot of energy to create new cells initially, and iron is also being used up to carry extra oxygen around the maternal body.
Making sure you rest, sleep as well as possible and consume enough in the way of energy are three key things you can do to help reduce levels of tiredness during the first trimester, although I know these might be easier said than done.
Other things that can also help with tiredness:
- Having a routine around meals and trying to eat little and often
- Including plenty of iron rich foods in the diet (nuts, nut butters on toast, beans/lentils/pulses, eggs in any format, fish and meat). If you’re worried about your iron levels, please chat to your midwife of visit your GP.
- Snack more regularly
- Keep a list of foods you’re enjoying and try to eat more of them (think about foods from ALL food groups, not just one)
- Work out your best time of day when you have a little more energy and try and get things done then
- Keep hydrated with small sips of water, regularly
- Try some gentle exercise such as pilates and yoga
Sickness & Nausea
Nausea and sickness is common in the first trimester and again, is most likely due to an overwhelming change in hormones – but we don’t really know why this happens. Around half of women experience vomiting, and nausea affects around 85% of pregnant women according to the British Nutrition Foundation.
Some women get this much more seriously with a condition called Hyperemesis Gravisarum which will need treatment at a hospital. Others can also have nausea and vomiting symptoms that carry on throughout the pregnancy trimesters – it’s different for everyone.
Some of the things you can do to help apply to the symptom above too.
- Try to rest as much as possible
- Try to snack on smaller meals more often
- Choose energy-dense plain foods such as dry toast or crackers
- Sip on small amounts of water throughout the day
Some anecdotal research suggests that ginger tea could also be helpful to some individuals who suffer from nausea. So you could try including a little fresh ginger or some ginger tea in your diet. Remember however, that the NHS recommend opting for no more than 4 cups of herbal tea a day and it’s also important not to take herbal supplements. Check my post on herbal teas during pregnancy for more info.
Changes to appetite
Many people find that they become very hungry in the early stages of pregnancy, or that they crave certain foods. Additionally, many people can also find that they go off lots of foods too and, again, we don’t really know why this is. It doesn’t seem to be for any specific nutritional benefit or safety reasons as the aversion or craving varies from person to person. It could be that hormonal changes along with high energy needs simply lead to us pining for certain tastes and refusing others.
Cravings and aversions can be hard to deal with, and there is a little bit of “go with the flow”, as long as it’s safe. However, I would also say it’s a good idea to still try as much as possible to think about balance in your diet.
Try writing a list of foods that you’re enjoying and want to include more of in your diet, instead of only trying to cut out foods. I used a really handy pregnancy checklist when I was pregnant to help me to make sure I was getting a “balance”. It’s not going to happen every day, but being mindful about what you need to try and include can help.
Check out my blog on pregnancy food cravings for more.
A few extra things
- Remember that during the first trimester you need to be taking folic acid (up until 12th week of pregnancy) as well as eating plenty of folate rich foods.
- 10mcg of vitamin D is also recommended daily during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- There are some foods you need to avoid during pregnancy, check out the list in my Nutrition During Pregnancy
Relieving Symptoms with Diet and Exercise?
These ideas below are NOT fail safe methods to have a symptom free pregnancy. That’s not possible for many people. However, there are some tips and tricks that might help you over this first trimester, so I’ve outlined some of them below:
- Eat little and often
- Focus on plain foods
- Keep hydrated – little and often too
- Practice yoga, stretch, do small amounts of exercise where possible
- Make sure you’re getting enough iron (see sources above)
- Try herbal teas (but stick to no more than 4 a day – check out my blog on herbal teas during pregnancy)
- Try having some ginger (although research on whether it works is mixed, anecdotally it seems beneficial, but don’t go buying herbal supplements!)
- Take a pregnancy multivitamin
- Make sure you’re taking your multivitamin with food
The wonderful Adam from At_Dads_Table has created some first trimester recipes which not only contain plenty of the vital nutrients for this time in pregnancy, but also can be great for mums to be who are suffering from these symptoms too.
These recipes include the following:
- Chicken, broccoli and carrot soup with a parmesan toast
- Spanish-style risotto with king prawns, pea and asparagus
- Scrambled eggs with avocado, spinach, feta and sundried tomatoes served with wholegrain toast
- Walnut, spinach and parmesan pesto with roasted chicken, spinach and broccoli
Check them out here and let me know if you try them.