The Good, The Bad, The Ugly (and all the things that nobody ever talks about in between!)
By Louise Ballantyne // On August 23, 2020
For me, trimester 1 is done! Complete! Finished! Ended! I’d love to say I nailed it, but instead I’ll go with I made it!
I’d also love to say that the trimester 1 symptoms are gone and that they were exactly like we read in books, but what’s not often spoken about is the severity and the reality of some of the symptoms and the fact that they don’t just go away when you get to 12 weeks. (That part’s a story for the Trimester 2 blog!) So I’m going to delve into my Trimester 1- you can watch my video diaries here or you can read on for an honest account of my first 12 weeks including all the things that nobody ever warns you about…
One of 8 😛
Let’s start with the facts…
Trimester 1: The first trimester begins on the first day of your last period and lasts until the end of week 12. This means that by the time you know for sure you’re pregnant, you might already be five or six weeks pregnant!
A lot happens during these first three months. The fertilised egg rapidly divides into layers of cells and implants in the wall of your womb where it carries on growing. These layers of cells become an embryo, which is what the baby is called at this stage.
During this trimester, your baby grows faster than at any other time. By six weeks, a heartbeat can usually be heard and by the end of week 12, your baby’s bones, muscles and all the organs of the body have formed. At this point, your baby looks like a tiny human being and is now called a fetus. He or she will even be practising swallowing! (Tommys, 2018)
First Trimester Symptoms (Pampers, 2019)
The symptoms you experience in the first trimester can vary from week to week. Also, the symptoms you experience during this pregnancy might differ from what you experienced in a previous pregnancy.
Here are some of the most common symptoms you might encounter during this trimester:
- Tender breasts. In the early part of your pregnancy, pregnancy hormones could be making your breasts heavier, and a little sore or tender. You could also experience a tingling sensation. With all that extra blood to carry around your body, your veins may be more visible through your skin. Meanwhile, those hormones may also make your skin, moles and birthmarks or your nipples a little darker. Most of these changes gradually fade away after birth, although your nipples may stay be a little darker than before.
- Feeling tired or exhausted is particularly common in the first trimester, as your hormones go into overdrive. The best thing you can do is get plenty of rest. Keeping to a healthy diet and doing gentle exercise might also help you feel better. Your doctor or midwife can give you personalised advice on the kind of pregnancy diet to follow to suit your calorie and nutritional needs, and what exercises are safe for you to do at this time.
- Implantation bleeding. After conception, as the fertilised egg burrows into the lining of your uterus, you may experience some light cramping and spotting. This is more likely to occur around the time of your first missed period. Although, implantation bleeding is nothing to worry about, it’s always safest to get in touch with your doctor if notice any bleeding during your pregnancy.
- The queasiness (and sometimes vomiting) known as morning sickness usually appears in the first trimester. Contrary to its name, though, it doesn’t strike only in the mornings! Try to think of morning sickness as a reassuring reminder that you are pregnant. You might be able to ease some of the symptoms with a few lifestyle changes, like avoiding food or smells that trigger your nausea, and eating smaller, more frequent meals of plain, low fat foods. You may find cold foods easier to stomach than hot meals. Food or drink that contains ginger may also help take the edge of your queasiness, but ask your doctor, midwife or pharmacist before taking ginger supplements.
- Frequent urination. The hormonal changes you experience in the first trimester may result in your needing to pee more often than usual in the first trimester of pregnancy. Don’t drink less water, because it’s important to stay hydrated. Instead, you might just need to plan ahead a little more to ensure you always have a loo nearby.
- Thicker, shinier hair. Some mums-to-be find that the extra oestrogen coursing around their bodies makes their hair more luxuriant in the first trimester. This could be one of the more welcome symptoms of pregnancy!
- Hormonal acne. An increase in oil production triggered by hormones can clog pores and lead to acne in some mums-to-be.
- Cravings. It’s not unusual to have hankerings for strange foods when you’re pregnant. Or you may find that you suddenly can’t stomach items that you used to enjoy eating or drinking. It’s usually fine to give in to cravings from time to time, as long as you keep to a healthy diet overall. If you start to crave any non-food items like dirt or coal, tell your doctor or midwife straight away. This could be a sign of an iron deficiency known as pica, which can be dangerous if it isn’t treated straight away. Read more about how to get the right amount of iron and calcium (another important mineral) in your diet.
I can confirm that all of the above, except for the implantation bleeding (not everyone experiences this and because I didn’t, I won’t be discussing!) happened to me during Trimester 1 and I’m going to tell you all about it now.
Just before an early scan!
Tender Breasts: “Pregnancy hormones could be making your breasts heavier, and a little sore or tender.” What this actually means is that pregnancy hormones make your breasts feel like boulders, it hurts to put a bra on or to turn over in bed and your partner touching them is a thing of the past. Running or jumping is no longer an activity that is safe or healthy and you will spend a fortune on bras that are still unlikely to fit.
They were the reason I decided to take a pregnancy test. I’d only been off the mini pill for a matter of weeks and hadn’t had a period when my boobs started to ache so bad that I was waking up in the night every time I moved. I thought maybe my period was due but this was tender breasts like never before and even washing them whilst showering was difficult. We found out we were pregnant, much to our surprise while only about 2 weeks and I think I only made it to 4 and a half before ordering some unflattering maternity sleep bras to keep them in place in bed. Not long after that, my sports bras were digging in and well, a ‘normal’ bra (rare for me anyway!) was an impossible task. I took some measurements, spent a small fortune and for the next seven weeks, the boulders had holders that were supportive. Unfortunately though, now at 13.5 weeks, it’s time to do all this again. The pain and tenderness has gone and I’m getting used to my fried eggs to melons transformation, but I am spilling out of all those bras as they continue to grow. Time to re-mortgage I think so my new found friends have somewhere safe to live again!
Fatigue: “Feeling tired or exhausted is particularly common in the first trimester, as your hormones go into overdrive.” This one is pretty accurate. An overwhelming tiredness that leads to irritability and discomfort caused by the hormone changes, I’m sure, but also due to the fact that no matter how tired you are, you just cannot seem to sleep!
I’ve never been a napper. Even after long haul flights or weekends at festivals, I’d manage through the tiredness, keeping myself busy ‘til bedtime. I’ve never felt the need and never really wanted to try. Until now! The fatigue started around 5 weeks and hasn’t gone away. It hits like a tonne of bricks at any time of the day with no warning. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you have planned, those hormones like to remind you with a bit of a bang that they are still working. Black bags under my eyes are now just part of my look and mixing up my words and forgetting things, although now I feel I can blame baby brain, were pretty regular occurrences. I’ve had to teach myself how to nap, and how to slow down. The evenings have been tough. I’d get comfy on the sofa after my shower and no sooner had I sat down was I up and down, lying on the floor, swapping spaces with Mat just to try and get comfy. The tiredness would hit and most nights up until about 3 weeks ago, I was in bed for about 9pm!
I’ll do another post on training during trimester 1 but the term ‘listen to your body’ is key. All of a sudden my ‘max effort’ or ‘full capacity’ felt like it had halved. My resting heart rate increased and during exercise, my heart rate easily reaching my usual ‘working heart rate’ simply during the warm up. It’s been very much about adapting and going with the flow. I’ve trained less in the last 12 weeks than I ever have in my life. I thought I’d struggle to accept that but I guess I know I’m ‘training’ for a way bigger event than I ever have too so working out less frequently, lifting lighter or moving slower is ok.
After one of my first workouts since being pregnant!
Nausea: The queasiness (and sometimes vomiting) known as morning sickness usually appears in the first trimester. Contrary to its name, though, it doesn’t strike only in the mornings! You don’t say! This for me did strike in the mornings but unfortunately for most days, lasted ‘til at least mid afternoon, sometimes later! The other unfortunate thing here is the title. For me it should read Sickness with Nausea in between.
I started feeling nauseous around 4 weeks. Earlier than most, I believe, and at that stage, made us question whether we might be having twins. (There are two sets of twins in Mat’s direct family so it was a high possibility but an early scan, which I’ll talk about later, confirmed only one!) I wasn’t physically sick until about 5 and a half weeks, and oh how I wish I hadn’t moaned about the nausea at 4! This started with morning sickness; feeling like I was going to vomit the minute I opened my eyes in the morning, followed by around twenty minutes of constant retching before finally being sick and whatever I’d managed to put in my mouth between retches coming straight back up again. In the earlier stages, sometimes I’d be ok once I’d had something to eat; other days I was lulled into a false sense of security and would be at work, often having to make an excuse to clients to run inside for something mid session, having a quick vom, a ginger snap and heading back outside to continue their session. Other days, the nausea and vomiting would last all day long with most days being sick around 8 times every morning and often upto another 8 times over the course of the day. Some days I’d think I was doing well, only being sick in the morning then feeling good, but a smell could change all of that, making me sick again and changing my whole day. Toast, crackers, biscuits and potatoes were all I could stomach (along with some random foods which I’ll discuss under cravings) and meal times were becoming an issue. Around 6 and a half weeks, I got really dizzy, my blood pressure was on the floor and I was extremely dehydrated. A bit of scare which resulted in me on the bathroom floor, calling Mat who was outside resulted in a call to the GP and the first warning of hospital admission. At that point, the doctor diagnosed me over the phone with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG), which is a condition that affects around 1-3 in every hundred pregnant women. If you want to read more on this check out NHS information here. I was prescribed my first lot of anti sickness medication, which Mat immediately went to collect and was told if I hadn’t managed to consume a certain amount of liquids by that evening, they would like to admit me for monitoring, stronger anti sickness meds and fluids via IV drip. This wasn’t something I really wanted, given that the NHS was just opening back up after the global pandemic so I did everything I could to keep those liquids in and managed (just!) to avoid it.
Full fat, flat coke (my hangover cure) were the fluids of choice; I’m sure not what they would have advised given the lack of nutritional value and caffeine content (around half of the recommended caffeine allowance in pregnancy) but it worked, and has continued to work for me since. Ginger snaps in a tub by my bed help and I have a couple the minute I open my eyes. Then whenever I make it downstairs after the series of retching and vomits, a slice of white bread toasted, with honey and a can of Cola along with an anti sickness tablet would determine how my day would go. If the toast and cola stayed down, it was/is (I’m still doing this!) it would be a good day.
Around week 7, I was prescribed a second type of anti sickness which I was to take along side the first one. This helped a bit, but by the end of week 8 (what is often described as peak week), I was sofa or bed bound most days, clients and sessions were cancelled and the threat of admission was looming once again. A third anti sickness drug was prescribed and the combination of all three meant I was able to have some good days where I could do more than lie on the sofa and run to the bathroom. I even managed to introduce some vegetables and although my diary now started at 1pm, I could work most days.
I haven’t enjoyed pregnancy because of this and if you are in a similar position, or know someone who is, do something about it! Get help. I think I am over the worst of this now but I am still being sick most days and surviving on a very limited diet and a combination of anti sickness tablets. I’m not sure if I have HG or just bad sickness, but it definitely hasn’t been easy. Now I’m not taking anything for granted. Craving carrots or broccoli= WIN! Hoovering my house = WIN! Going for a walk = WIN! Showering, getting dressed and applying mascara = WIN!
Eating biscuits in bed is now normal!
Frequent Urination: The hormonal changes you experience in the first trimester may result in your needing to pee more often than usual in the first trimester of pregnancy. This really means, ordering a SheWee and a urinal bottle and using it in the back of the car or van. It could also mean family and friends questioning you after using their bathroom twice an hour. Or dropping your belongings at the front door so you could run in and wee with the bathroom and front door wide open.
This was worse at the start of Trimester 1 and has eased a lot now but wasn’t easy to manage mid pandemic when many public toilets are still closed! There’s not really much more to say about this other than now planning my days around toilet stops!
Thicker, Shinier Hair: Some mums-to-be find that the extra oestrogen coursing around their bodies makes their hair more luxuriant in the first trimester. This was also the case. However, for someone who’s hair is already pretty thick, this has resulted in a few bottles of plughole unblocker for the shower.
The statement also refers to or is read by most as the hair on your head. What I will tell you however, is that this affects all of the hair on your body. Pre lockdown, I was getting IPL (laser hair removal). I had only had a couple of sessions but it was working really well, and by now, if it wasn’t for lockdown and not being allowed these treatments while pregnant; my legs, underarms and intimate area should have been silky smooth. Now, 13 weeks pregnant, I have two simple choices. Shave every single day, or, turn into a gorilla. When the beauty therapists opened back up a few weeks ago, I decided I would go back to waxing. I used to get waxed regularly, and although I disliked having to grow the hair long enough, I never had any problems. I managed with the pain and I’d go as far as saying it really didn’t phase me.
I can confirm that waxing in Trimester 1 is unlike any other waxing experience I have ever had. I always thought I would be one of those people who were neat, tidy and smooth down below for labour and the thought of anything otherwise, genuinely made me cringe. I can now safely say, however, that if I’m so big that I cannot shave myself, and Mat isn’t willing to do the deed, I will quite confidently and happily present myself in the labour ward hairy. The pain! That wax was like a brutal attack; it made me clench my fists, I was sweating, I almost kicked the therapist in the chest and I left with only half of the hair removed. This is your warning ladies- do not attempt an intimate wax in late Trimester 1. It is not worth it. I am however, keen to establish if it does get any better during Trimester 2 or 3, as although I’m saying I’ll confidently deliver my baby looking like a gorilla, I know I am not actually that confident and would much prefer to be silky smooth. I am not going to find out for myself though so if there are any ladies in Trimester 2 or 3 who have had a wax and not had to come home and sit in an ice bath, please shout!
Hormonal acne: An increase in oil production triggered by hormones can clog pores and lead to acne in some mums-to-be. I don’t really have much to say on this. I had skin that looked like it’s teenage self for a few weeks but a change in skin care seemed to help. I’ve always been prone to breakouts and pre pregnancy was following a really good skincare regime after seeking advise from a specialist last year. Unfortunately, most of these products contained ingredients not safe in pregnancy and so after a bit of research, found a new love for the brand Tropics. I will post later about pregnancy skin care and share what is working for me!
Cravings: It’s not unusual to have hankerings for strange foods when you’re pregnant. Or you may find that you suddenly can’t stomach items that you used to enjoy eating or drinking. Thankfully, I haven’t had any strange cravings. You hear about some people eating coal or chalk, or deciding they suddenly love liver, but for me it’s been a bit of survival mode on my standard diet of beige carbs with whatever I’ve fancied in between.
I haven’t had a coffee in about 8 weeks and although I still love the smell, the thought of drinking it makes me nauseous. That’s a huge deal for someone who normally survives on it! The other odd thing I’m not really feeling is cheese. Normally, cheese is life. As there are so many cheeses which aren’t safe to eat during pregnancy it was something I was pretty worried about. I’ve been known to have cheese as part of every meal and snack. Other than a bit of halloumi and an even smaller amount of cheddar, I just haven’t felt like it one bit. I do hope that soon I grow to love them again as I really can’t imagine a life without my two favourite C’s!
I’ve been a bit up and down in terms of what I’ve fancied throughout this trimester. To the point that for a while, spending over £80 on foods I ‘might want’ was pretty normal. Mat struggled to get it right too, often returning from the shop with my favourite snacks (Ben and Jerry’s and Reeces to name a few) for me to tell him I didn’t like them. At the beginning of my pregnancy, I wanted salt and vinegar crisps. I couldn’t get enough of them! Then one night, Mat had a packet sat next to me on the sofa and I had to tell him to leave the room, I then left the room to be sick and I haven’t been able to be anywhere near salt and vinegar crisps since. I also went through a phase of having tinned pears on a daily basis, another thing I’m not fussed for now and there was an incident with an Indian takeaway that has resulted in me questioning whether or not I will ever eat a curry again. I’d had a ‘good’ day around week 8 and decided I wanted an Indian takeaway, something that I loved before. In fact, we’d make two curries a week for dinner pretty regularly. Anyway, I devoured this takeaway but at around 11pm, I woke up and was instantly sick. This sickness bout lasted all night and all day and the thought of anything remotely like this, still to this day makes me want to be sick.
I’ll finish this section by saying, if you or someone you know is suffering from sickness in pregnancy, eat whatever you want. Don’t worry about nutrition, just go with it and eat whatever you can stomach and keep down that day. If it changes daily, find something else you might want. Don’t fight it. Eventually, you will be able to add some ‘goodness’ back in and enjoy food again. I’m making slow progress but I’m definitely eating more of a variety now than I was 4 weeks ago!
So that’s the things people talk about in more detail than it’s normally discussed. There’s a couple of extras though that I’m adding in that really got me thinking; bowel movements and keeping pregnancy a secret. Let’s go:
Bowel movements: Probably a controversial talking point at the best of times and during pregnancy it’s no different. It’s apparently normal for pregnant women to experience constipation. It’s less common, but still relatively normal for pregnant women to experience diarrhoea. (NHS, 2020)
I got both. Yes, every day without fail, in between retching or vomiting, I had diarrhoea with very little warning. There’s really no need to go into any detail here, but for those of you who’ve asked why we haven’t been out enjoying our new campervan since we got it, there really is only one place to be if you’re having sickness and diarrhoea and that isn’t a PortaPotty or a communal campsite bathroom.
So that’s my morning routine covered, I was also lucky enough to experience the other end of the poop scale, albeit thankfully, not regularly. There were numerous evenings mid trimester 1 where I’d be rolling about the living room floor, eating copious amounts of fruit salad and Googling how to treat constipation. This isn’t something I’ve been bothered with much, but I can confirm it hurts, it is uncomfortable and it didn’t ease easily.
Thankfully, I’m now a lot better in both areas. I guess the re-introduction to non beige carbs and the sickness easing a bit is helping but after this pregnancy, let’s just say I won’t ever take my stomach of steel for granted again!
Keeping pregnancy a secret: Hiding all of the above has got to be the hardest part of the first trimester. We traditionally keep it a secret until after the twelve week scan to make sure everything is ok, which I understand, however, I also think it’s very beneficial to tell close family and friends in advance of this because let’s face it, if everything wasn’t ok, you’d probably welcome their love and support. In addition to close family and a couple of friends, by around week 4 of my pregnancy, my skin specialist, my personal trainer and my business coach all knew. By around week 8, my beautician, my hairdresser and a couple of clients knew. (My hair cut and colour, the dreadful wax and my lack of energy in training sessions were all important to me!)
Not only was I struggling to hide my vomiting and frequent urination, I was expanding rapidly. I should have mentioned; I went up 3 bra sizes and 8 cm in a matter of weeks, but for someone who had a pretty flat stomach, the growing bump (or bread bloat as it was in the early weeks) meant clothes weren’t fitting properly anywhere. I was wearing Mat’s clothes to work, his pyjamas to chill and the thought of finding something to wear for upcoming events was causing me stress. My car was like Postman Pat’s van with the number of parcels I got delivered and then had to return in an attempt to find something to wear for a garden party hen day. My normal clothes wouldn’t button up, the size bigger I had ordered in advance was now gaping open and the next size up fitted around my chest and midline but was hanging off my shoulders. I turned to maternity options, (which I will write another post on I’m sure) but there is nothing in my usual style and I felt like I looked pregnant. I ended up telling a few of the girls I would be with before the event, at around 11 weeks (5 days before my scan) because my alternative was genuinely making a rubbish excuse and not going.
Maybe it’s easier to hide for some or maybe my hormones and lack of sleep and nutrition made me over think things, but I can honestly say, the relief at 12 weeks when we found out everything was ok and we could share our news was real! What felt like the biggest and hardest secret ever to keep was out in the open! The best thing about this though, being able to finally talk about how I feel. That was the hardest part; going through this and not being able to really tell anyone how I actually felt.
My girls and I after me telling them my news at 11 weeks weeks and eventually finding something to wear for this hen day!
So that’s it. The longest blog post I have ever written but by far the most honest. This wasn’t written to scare anyone off becoming pregnant, it wasn’t written for sympathy. Instead, it was written to highlight the reality of what a lot of women unfortunately go through. The best thing about writing it though; being able to talk openly.
I’ve been honest; I haven’t enjoyed the first trimester but it certainly hasn’t all been bad. There have been some fun times, some memorable times and some ‘pinch yourself’ moments. I’ve moaned a lot (sorry Mat, Mum and sister!) but all the while I’ve remembered the good that is going to come from this. All of this; the good, the bad, the ugly and all the things that nobody ever talks about has been absolutely worth it! Our baby isn’t even here yet and I’m sure I still have a bit of a journey before he or she arrives, but the love I feel for our little baby bear, my wee bumpie is indescribable. We cannot wait to become parents, to start the next chapter of our lives as a family and bring our little one up surrounded by love and happiness.
Now, Trimester 2; if you wouldn’t mind being a wee bit kinder to me and show me where to find that pregnancy glow everyone speaks about, I’d be very grateful!
Thank you so much for reading,
The team is expanding!
, baby announcement
, trimester 1