Often by the time women find out that they are pregnant their bodies have already started to undergo changes, to assist them in carrying a healthy baby to term. Some significant changes will occur in the first trimester and result in the symptoms that are typical of pregnancy.
First Trimester Symptoms:
- Morning sickness is caused by an increase in pregnancy hormones, can occur at any time of the day, and is often triggered by simple things such as foods, smells or having an empty stomach. Unfortunately, while some women will only experience this symptom in their first trimester others may have to deal with it for the entirety of their pregnancy.
Depending on what triggers the morning sickness, options to relieve discomfort include drinking ginger tea, eating small meals regularly, or purchasing products with odours that do not trigger the nausea..
- Tender breasts will develop as a result of a surge in breast size almost right away and if not right away then by week 6. This sudden growth in size will mean increased sensitivity and a constant tingling sensation. As a result the slightest bump can be extremely uncomfortable.
- Mood swings result from a hormonal imbalance that is normal throughout pregnancy, but comes as a complete shock to the system.
- Heartburn in the first trimester is caused by progesterone, a hormone created by the body to relax the muscles and make space for your growing baby. The effect of the progesterone extends to other muscles in the body, including the valve between the oesophagus and the stomach where the heartburn occurs.
- Constipation occurs as a result of the slowing down of the digestive system. The progesterone hormones’ effect on the body extends to the muscles of the digestive system, relaxing them and slowing down bowel movements.
- Lack of energy and a constant feeling of tiredness are also symptoms experienced as a result of the increase of the progesterone hormone, as it causes women to become particularly sleepy. The body is also producing extra blood that will act as a courier of nutrients to your baby and this will sap a lot of energy. .
- Metallic taste are reportedly experienced by some women.
- Food aversions can occur and are often linked to morning sickness. Although you may have food aversions without experiencing morning sickness.
- Headaches are common and can be caused by a lack of sleep, low blood sugar, dehydration, caffeine withdrawal, and stress.
- Weight gain is natural and healthy during pregnancy. The amount of weight gained will vary depending on body weight prior to pregnancy, whether the mother is carrying twins, and the individual experience with morning sickness.
Although these symptoms won’t be comfortable they aren’t dangerous and there is nothing to fear. However, the first trimester holds the highest risk of miscarriage and there are symptoms that Baby Centre UK recommends expectant mother’s take seriously and discuss with their doctor immediately.
- Heavy vaginal bleeding is not a good sign. A little bleeding may be normal, but a considerable amount of blood could mean something is wrong.
- Severe abdominal pain.
- Sudden and considerable thirst.
- Painful urination can be experienced during pregnancy because of an increased risk of developing UTIs due to the hormonal imbalance.
- A Fever of over 38.6 degrees celsius, cold chills and/or a backache;
- Severe swelling in the hands/face;
- Changes to your eye-site including blurred vision;
First Trimester Precautions:
Given that the first trimester is the period of time from conception to the end of week 12 it is not just the mother’s body that changes. The Foetus also develops, evolving from the size of a single cell to the size of a peach, with limbs and organs. It is because of the dramatic developments that occur during this time that precautions must be taken.
Better Health Channel reports on the dire consequences of smoking during pregnancy which can include an increased risk of the termination of pregnancy by way of a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. It can also result in premature births caused by complications which prevent the mother carrying her baby to term. Often premature babies have a low birth-weight and this can cause its own problems.
Pregnant women should abstain from smoking or inhaling second hand smoke throughout the entirety of their pregnancies as the harm caused by smoking is not restricted to the first trimester. Exposure to cigarette smoke at any time throughout pregnancy can increase the risk of birth defects. Not to mention that babies who are born into households with a smoker have an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
2. Drink Alcohol
The Alcohol and Drug Foundation advises that there is no safe drinking level for pregnant women. As a result, completely abstaining from drinking is the safest and healthiest option.
Consuming alcohol in your first trimester can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, small birth size and premature babies. Alternatively, a foetus can suffer from Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, a condition that will impact the mental development and well-being of the baby as well as the development of their facial features.
3. Consume Drugs
The consumption of any drugs, including cannabis, heroin, cocaine or amphetamines as well as other substances used as drug substitutes (e.g. glues, petrol or aerosols) can result in poor foetal development, damage to the baby’s organs, damage to the placenta that can result in an unsuccessful pregnancy, increased risk of birth defects, miscarriage and premature labour; as well as causing harmful to the mother.
Different types of illicit substances will have varying effects and impacts. Better Health Channel reports that:
- Amphetamines will cause low birth weight, birth defects, and premature birth.
- Cannabis causes growth retardation, sleeping problems both in utero and once the child is born, as well as behavioural problems later in life.
- Cocaine results in increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth, growth retardation, stillbirth and birth defects of body parts such as the brain, heart, genitals and urinary system.
- Heroin effects birth weight, premature birth, the likelihood of foetal distress, stillbirth, hepatitis, and infant withdrawal after birth.
- Inhalant can cause an increased risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, birth defects,and Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI).
4. Take Medication
Most women take some form of medication and these can have a hidden detrimental impact on an unborn child. This doesn't mean pregnant women should stop taking medications immediately. Better Health Channel reports that certain conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, epilepsy and asthma need to be treated and if you stop treatment the condition itself can impact on the health of the baby. It’s important to consult with your healthcare provider about the use of any medications and come to an informed decision.
5. Consume Caffeine
Research indicates that dangerous levels of caffeine-intake (in excess of 150mg) will increase risk of miscarriage. As caffeine can be found in coffees, teas, soft drinks, chocolate and desserts it's recommended that these foods and beverages be avoided to ensure the safe level is not exceeded.
In addition, caffeine increases your metabolism so a pregnant woman whose body is processing food and withdrawing all nutrients to pass to the foetus, will not benefit from a faster metabolism.
6. Engage in Dangerous Working conditions
Most working women will continue in their positions into their third-trimester unless instructed to cease work earlier. However care needs to be taken at work particularly in circumstances where the workplace has:
- Chemicals, gases, infectious diseases, or toxic waste?
- High levels of smog or cigarette smoke
Working conditions also need to be considered, and day-to-day activities that require excessive, risky or intense physical activity or exposure to extreme heat should be avoided.
7. Come into contact with animals
This precaution needs to be taken because some animals carry toxoplasma gondii a parasite that is not good for the foetus and can cause a lot of damage to the unborn baby by attacking a foetus’s brain, and causing eye defects and stunted growth.
1. Eat Healthy Foods
Expectant mothers should maintain a healthy and well-balanced diet as this will ensure all the nutrients the baby needs are available to it. Healthline recommends increasing your calorie intake and making sure it is made up of dairy products, legumes, sweet potatoes, eggs, broccoli, lean meats, berries, and avocados.
Despite the variety of foods an expectant mother should consume there are some food groups that should be avoided and particular care taken when preparing meals. Pregnant women should make sure:
- All meats, poultry and fish are thoroughly cooked.
- Meat is prepared correctly, including being thoroughly defrosted prior to cooking and consuming.
- Raw meat or raw eggs do not touch other foods.
- only pasteurised dairy products are consumed.
- Soft cheese and processed deli-meats are avoided.
- To avoid seafood, and in particular King Mackerel, Shark and Swordfish which contain high levels of mercury.
2. Get Vaccinated
Expectant Mothers who want to ensure they provide their baby with the best immunity should make sure they have all of their vaccinations up to date. In Australia, most women should already be vaccinated for Rubella but if an expectant mother comes into contact with someone who has German measles a doctor should be notified right away because antibodies can lose their efficiency over time and as a result one’s immunity will be compromised.
Recommended vaccines include both the flu shot and whooping cough vaccine as this will ensure both the mother and the baby receive the antibodies that prevent them contracting these illnesses when the baby is born.
3. Take prenatal supplements
According to Queensland Health pregnant women should be taking folate, Iodine, and Iron supplements throughout their pregnancy. Taking these supplements will lower the risk of a baby being with neural tube defects and assist in the development of the brain and nervous system.
Exercising throughout the first trimester has many physical, emotional and mental benefits. Better Health Channel reports that some of these benefits include:
- increased energy
- reduced back and pelvic pain
- decreased risk of pregnancy and delivery complications
- preparation for the physical demands of labour and motherhood
- weight management
However not all forms of exercise are safe during pregnancy and pregnant women should stick to low impact activities such as walking, yoga, aerobics and swimming.
5. Drink fluids
Sasha Watkins Dietitian at babycenter.com.au recommends pregnant women need to be drinking approximately 2.3 litres of fluid every day to ensure they stay hydrated. Drinking water is the best way to consume fluids however other healthy fluid options include fruit juice, milk, smoothies, flavoured water and ginger drinks.