February 24, 2016

The first trimester of pregnancy can be an exciting (and terrifying) time, especially for new parents. Significant changes are on the horizon and you may feel overwhelmed by the uncertainty the future holds for you and your baby.

At HealthONE, we want you to be as educated and prepared as possible for pregnancy. We view ourselves as your pregnancy partner, from conception to continuing care for your baby by our experienced pediatricians throughout Denver.

We hope this guide will help you navigate your first twelve weeks like a pro. As always, if you have any questions or concerns about your pregnancy, talk with our obstetricians or maternity nursing staff. We are here to help!

Body changes during the first trimester

  • Morning sickness and the accompanying nausea will be the biggest changes to your body during your first trimester. While pregnancy experts aren’t exactly sure what causes morning sickness, most speculate drastic changes in hormone levels, particularly estrogen, are responsible for your discomfort. Despite the name ‘morning sickness,’ waves of nausea or vomiting can strike at any time of day.
  • In addition to morning sickness, you will notice a heightened sense of smell. You may find that certain aromas trigger a bout of indigestion or dizziness. Avoid these smells (if you can) for the duration of your pregnancy to avoid more time throwing up in the bathroom.
  • Extreme fatigue most likely will set in during your first trimester. You may not be getting enough sleep at night due to morning sickness, stress or frequent urination. Additionally, your body produces large quantities of hormones that make you feel sleepy.
  • Increased levels of hormones during the first trimester also mean you will be more susceptible to mood swings or melancholy. These are normal feelings, so go ahead and have a good cry. Remember to talk to your partner about your feelings. They can help provide the encouragement and support you need to get through your first trimester.
  • Bizarre food cravings might also start in your first trimester. These strange cravings can also be attributed to the drastic hormone changes happening in your body. Talk to your doctor if you experience cravings for non-food items as this may be a sign of pica, an eating disorder you can develop when you are pregnant.
  • Breast tenderness is another discomfort you may feel during your first trimester as you develop the necessary milk ducts for feeding your baby. Like most symptoms of your first trimester, breast soreness is triggered by hormonal changes. You may experience this symptom of pregnancy for the entirety of your pregnancy journey.

Surviving morning sickness

While no one knows exactly why morning sickness occurs, most experts believe extreme hormonal changes are the culprit. More than half of pregnant women suffer from varying degrees of morning sickness, ranging from mild nausea to severe vomiting.

For many expecting mothers, morning sickness serves as the first notable sign of pregnancy. These uncomfortable feelings are a normal part of pregnancy and usually last through the first trimester of pregnancy, though some women’s symptoms continue until labor.

So how do you overcome morning sickness?

  • Increase your liquid intake: Replacing fluids lost from vomiting prevents dehydration and headaches. Drink small amounts regularly in order to help reduce the risk of vomiting. Make sure you get at least eight glasses of water each day, especially if you have difficulty keeping food and water down. If you have constant symptoms, try sports drinks to replace salt and electrolytes.
  • Avoid strong aromas: Many pregnant women have a heightened sense of smell that can lead to intense feelings of nausea and even cause instant vomiting. What triggers these reactions varies from woman to woman, but once you identify the trigger, avoid it as much as possible. Typically, these smells include certain aromas found in foods, spices or perfumes.
  • Sleep: Stress and fatigue from battling morning sickness can only be combatted by a good night’s rest. If you are having difficulty sleeping, try blocking out all sunlight or using a maternity body pillow for back support.

Baby growth and development during the first trimester

Your baby’s development is just starting, and a flurry of activity is going on in your womb. You may not start showing until the closing weeks of your first trimester, but your baby is rapidly developing during this time.

  • During the first month of development, your baby’s brain, spinal cord, digestive tract and heart begin to develop. These organs are the foundation of the human body and prepare your baby for his/her rapid growth over the next eight months.
  • By the end of the second month your baby is still the size of an aspirin, but every essential organ needed for life has already begun to develop. Your baby even has little buds forming off its body that will become hands and feet.
  • The end of the first trimester is one of the most exciting times of a baby’s development as the genitalia become visible on ultrasounds, allowing doctors to determine the sex of the baby.

Pregnancy diet

Your first trimester is a time of joy and anticipation. It’s also a time to prepare your body for childbirth. Think about it like birds building a nest for their eggs: you want to give your body the right materials to build a home that will protect and nurture your unborn child.

The most important component is prenatal vitamins. These super vitamins are designed to fill any nutritional gaps in your diet. Prenatal vitamins have higher levels of iron and folic acid than an average adult multivitamin. So why are these particular elements so important?

If your body does not have sufficient levels of iron to produce hemoglobin, you will become anemic. Pregnant women are significantly more likely to become anemic due to the drastic increase in red blood cells during the prenatal period. Iron helps prevent anemia in both mother and child while supporting the baby’s rapid growth during the first twelve weeks.

Folic acid (vitamin B9) helps prevent brain and spinal cord irregularities from developing in the baby. Recent studies by the CDC show women who start taking folic acid supplements at least one month before conception and during their first trimester cut their baby’s risk of neural tube defects by more than 50 percent.

When shopping for prenatal vitamins, look for options containing more than 30 milligrams of iron and 400 micrograms of folic acid. If you don’t eat fish or other foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, you also should pick up an omega-3 supplement. Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential nutrient for your baby’s brain development and studies have shown that babies with a deficiency are at a risk for developmental and behavioral abnormalities.