How to Survive the First Trimester: First Steps

Those two little lines on a pregnancy test are some of the most wonderful things you can see. All at once you feel joy, elation, excitement, and maybe a bit of ambivalence, too.
It's a huge thing to know that you're going to be growing a baby for the next nine months.

Of course, those two little lines also mark the beginning of the first trimester, which for many moms is the hardest part of pregnancy. How can you survive fatigue, morning sickness, cravings, and aversions… and grow your baby through the most critical part of his or her development?

a pregnancy test on the how to survive the first trimester article

Lower Your Expectations

I'm going to start with this because really, you need to do it. I know it's hard to believe. Your baby is the size of a speck, nobody else can tell you're pregnant, and there's a good chance you're not even announcing it until you hit your second trimester.

But the changes that happen in the first trimester are very, very real.

You will feel tired. In fact, tired is and understatement. It's close to impossible to get through the first trimester without sleeping more than you normally do.

You will feel queasy… and it may be all day nausea or morning sickness complete with throwing up.

You will probably feel more emotional and sensitive to everything.

All of this is normal. Don't expect yourself to be totally “normal.” It's OK – even though nobody else can see what's happening, you're building the most important foundations of a new person during this trimester.

Food: Your Best Friend and Worst Enemy

Food helps your body stay strong and healthy. It helps you build a healthy baby. It helps prevent debilitating fatigue and wards off nausea and morning sickness.

But, like some sort ofbad joke, it becomes very hard to eat food during the first trimester. Everything smells different. Sometimes it even tastes different. Normal favorites are intolerable and strange things suddenly seem appealing. You know you need to eat, but the thought of putting something near your mouth makes you gag. What's a girl to do?

Pre-sickness Prep

If you've just gotten a positive pregnancy test and no nausea or aversions have hit yet, you're in luck. It's time to get busy!

Take some of your favorite meals – I'm talking comfort food here – and double or triple them over the course of the week. Eat one entree and throw the others into the freezer. On that night when you just can't cook, pull one out and make it. This is also good if you're subsisting on one food group but still need to cook for older children or your man.

Don't get fancy here, you want foods that you know you generally enjoy to maximize the chances that you'll be able to eat.

Stock Up on Easy, Complex Proteins

Protein really does help with nausea and morning sickness, but you need to eat it frequently, and you need to eat complex proteins that don't digest so quickly. So, though milk is a quick and easy protein to get down, it digests quickly. Stock up on things that take longer to digest:

  • Full-fat yogurt
  • Cheeses
  • Cottage Cheese (not “lite” or low-fat)
  • Beef jerky or sausage (if you can stomach them)
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Smoothies (make with full-fat yogurt or high quality protein powder)
  • High-quality protein bars

Eat something like this every two hours or so to help keep yourself energized and nausea at the minimum.

Carry a small lunch bag with you if you need to – keep it available at all times. A cooler beside your bed and a protein snack in the night is very helpful. One wedge of orange eaten with protein right before bed seems to help some women.

Worried about weight? Don't… but focusing on protein and fat will keep you satiated and feeling less nausea. Lots of carbs will pack on pounds and keep you on a blood sugar roller-coaster that can make morning sickness worse.

Go At Your Pace

You'll feel a lot better if you respect where your body is at — that means to do things at the pace that works for you at this period of your life. Remember, it's not really that long before you'll be feeling better. And mama, you will feel a lot better a lot sooner if you're forgiving of yourself right now.

One of the biggest mistakes I made in a pregnancy was to get frustrated with the fact that I had to cut food up very small and eat slowly to get it down. I'd often just not eat… and, well, dry heaving and feeling worse and worse are NO fun.

When I did what I needed to be able to eat, I started feeling better. I'm talking dramatically better within just a couple of days.

Indulge yourself. If you need to cut your food into tiny bites to get it down, do that. If you're still at the table 20 minutes after everyone else is finished, that's okay. Pull out that novel you've been trying to find time for and munch away.

And again, eat frequently so that you are not getting overly hungry. Again, eat what you need to to be able to eat (protein foods are best, with a little fruit here and there for quick energy).

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Photo by Janine

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