Today I’m sharing a first trimester survival guide. You’ll find tips for nausea, ways to ask for help, and what to expect during your first trimester.
First of all, CONGRATULATIONS! I am so excited for you!
Babies are wonderful and amazing…and growing them is really hard. The first trimester itself can be a really trying time. For me, at least, the excitement of being pregnant quickly fades away into a bleak 8 weeks of pure survival mode.
The good news is, everything is just a phase. It ends at some point. That said, there are a few things you can do to make surviving the first trimester a little easier.
Dealing with Nausea in the first trimester
80 percent of women deal with some kind of nausea during the first trimester and we still aren’t quite sure what causes it. Medical expects agree it is likely some combination of increased hormone levels (specifically HCG) and the nausea likely subsides during the second trimester when the placenta starts creating its own hormones.
What to Eat
- Eat bland foods (really, eat whatever sounds good)
- Eat small snacks frequently
- Sip on something regularly instead of drinking a lot of liquid at once
- Stay hydrated (I have found my nausea is much more manageable when I’m drinking a lot of water)
- Try ginger and carbonation (sipping gingerale comes highly recommended)
My other addition here is to listen to your body. Every body is different and each one is remarkable. With my first pregnancy I craved protein and vegetables even before I knew I was pregnant (at 6 or 7 weeks we got home from the airport at 9 pm and I rushed to the store to buy ingredients for chicken caesar wraps because they sounded SO good right then). My second pregnancy, vegetables and meat sounded disgusting and all I wanted was hash browns and french bread. This time around some protein was okay but I really wanted all the creamy, cheesy things (cheesy enchiladas, alfredo pasta, etc). I cut myself a lot of slack during the first trimester, eating what sounded appetizing, drinking as much water as I could, and overall not stressing about anything very much.
Over the counter: B6 + Unisom tablets
My experience: I didn’t know there were safe and over the counter options for nausea until my fourth pregnancy. My doctor suggested 1/2 a tablet of unisom and 1/2 tablet of b6 up to three times a day, as needed. I tried this for a day and it was helpful for the nausea but Unisom is a sleep-aid and I was pretty useless on the couch for the day (happily not very nauseous …but I can’t lay on the couch all day everyday taking naps). I had a suggestion from a friend to take it in the evening which I hadn’t been doing because I wasn’t having a hard time falling asleep and didn’t think I needed help with nausea while I was sleeping. It turns out that there is a risidual effect the next day from taking it in the evening. Now I take 1 tablet of each before bed and it helps keep the nausea under control for the next day. I am still nauseous if I am hungry but it isn’t that all-day all-consuming gross feeling that first trimester morning sickness usually is for me. I can also feel about 20 hours later when it starts to wear off and sometimes I take a 1/2 tablet of each at around 4:30 to get me through the rest of the evening (knowing I’ll be super tired but less likely to be puking).
Prescription: Zofran, diglegis
There are TONS of remedies online claiming to help with nausea and a lot of them have raving reviews on Amazon from moms who swear by them. I’ve tried a lot of them and some work for me and some don’t so it is pretty hit or miss. If you’re interested you can check out the full list of 19 products that supposedly actually help with morning sickness here.
What to Wear in your First Trimester
Lots of people will tell you just to wear your regular clothes through the first trimester but whether you’re just feeling particularly nauseous or you pop really soon like I do, regularly clothes are not really an option.
I live in maternity joggers, loose sweatpants, and the one pair of loose low-rise jeans I still own. I put together this full guide of dressing in your first trimester (including the 10 pieces I wore the most).
Getting on the same page with your partner
A supportive partner can be a HUGE benefit during a difficult first trimester. This can be hard at first because what you are experiencing is new and very different than something he’s experienced before. Good communication and a little education are key.
Physical support: You might not look pregnant yet but this first trimester you need a lot of physical support. You’ll probably no longer be able to do a lot of the things you used to do. Talk to your partner about this and see what ways they can step up and support you (taking on more of any responsibilities you two share/ you have at home).
Emotional support: The hormonal changes (along with physical challenges, lots of uncertainty, and possible identity changes) can lead to increased moodiness and emotional struggles. A lot of the time you need extra love and encouragement. Talk about this with your partner and explain what you need/ what you think would be helpful. For me, a lot of the time its just “I need you to give me a hug and tell me that you love me.”
You body is working extra hard to accommodate this growing life. You need extra rest during this time (and often rest can help offset some of the other symptoms). Whether it is going to bed a few hours earlier at night or making time for a nap in the middle of the day, prioritize sleep as much as you can.
Fluids in your body while pregnant are responsible for building new tissues, forming amniotic fluid, and carrying nutrients. I know, I know, it can be HARD to stay hydrated when you’re suffering from morning sickness but drinking enough water can also help with nausea.
Here’s what can help:
- Keep a straw cup or straw water bottle on hand: Whatever is going to make it easier for you to drink is worth having around. I love my Stanley cup for drinking water throughout the day and also this straw contigo water bottle.
- Sparkling water might be easier to sip while nauseous.
- Sipping herbal teas can help settle your stomach.
- Use water flavorings: Some women really can’t handle plain water in their first trimester and flavored water can really help. I love Mio water drops and True Lime flavor packets.
- Sip throughout the day: Drinking large quantities of water at once can exacerbate nausea so try to have something you’re sipping on at all times.
Asking for help
It is especially hard to ask for help if you’re having a difficult first trimester and aren’t sharing the news yet. I decided to share the news earlier this time around because I wanted people to understand why I was acting differently (less social, less animated, less friendly, less engaged, and a lot more likely to be lying down or throwing up).
- ask your family and close friends for support
- prepare what you can in the early weeks before the nausea + exhaustion hit
- review your finances and see where you can hire help
Outsourcing / hiring help
In my fist two pregnancies my husband really stepped up and took on more of the household load. He was awesome. The third time around the hardest 6 weeks of my first trimester coincided with his 6 weeks of break between semesters in business school and that was a lifesaver. This time around he is in the middle of a very demanding work season. We sat down and figured out what things I do that I can no longer do sufficiently that still need to get done. We figured out which of these would be the easiest to hire out.
For me, my first instinct is always to hire more childcare. I think this is because hiring babysitters is straightforward and I already have a list of them. This time we decided what we really needed was someone to do dishes, help with laundry, and pick up the house. I could lie on the couch and read books with my two year old all morning but I could not sort and put away five loads of laundry. This time we hired a housekeeper to come in twice a week and spend 2-3 hours getting the house picked up. I recognize this is a huge luxury we couldn’t have afforded in previous pregnancies. It came out to $120 a week and we budgeted to have this for about 8-12 weeks until that second trimester energy came back. When I got to 15 weeks we dropped her down to once a week for 2 weeks and stopped her services around 17 weeks.
Things to consider outsourcing:
- childcare: If you have other kids at home this might mean a few extra hours of babysitting so you can take a nap. It might mean an extra day of daycare
- house cleaning: Deep cleaning (bathrooms, mopping, kitchen, etc) is straightforward to hire. If you haven’t had cleaners before, usually the first time they come they’ll charge more for a deep clean and then have a lower rate for regular service going forward.
- housekeeping: This is different than cleaners (who often don’t pick up “stuff” around the house). A housekeeper requires a little more training and supervision from you to show him or her where things go/ how you want things done.
- laundry: This can be included in housekeeping but you can also just hire laundry separately. You can send your laundry out to a laundry service or hire someone to come into your home to do laundry. I have a friend who washes her clothes throughout the week and hires someone just to come and sort, fold, and put away the clothes (which, for a family of 6, saves her about 7 hours a week).
- food: There are lots of ways to outsource food. You can spend money on delivery services like Uber Eats and have restaurant food delivered to you. You can subscribe to meal delivery services like “Freshly” that bring in pre-cooked meals you just have to heat up. You can see if there are any local chefs who offer home meal services. Some housekeepers cook and are willing to prep a few meals while they’re at your house that you can keep in the fridge and have on hand. You can also decide to do a lot more “packaged foods” that you still “cook.” We did a lot of frozen Trader Joes burrito bowls and prepared foods during first trimesters.
Setting expectations (letting go of expectations)
Your first trimester might be rather uneventful or it might rock your world. A big help can be letting go of any “shoulds.” Just drop the expectations. No more telling yourself the following:
- “I should have a clean house.”
- “I should cook healthy meals for me and my growing baby.”
- “I should be exercising more.”
- “I should be able to xyz.”
Switch it up to:
- “I am growing a human.”
- “This stage will not last forever.”
- “I can get through today.”
Also, quit comparing your pregnant self to anyone else. Each woman’s pregnancy is different and your capacity during pregnancy is different than other people.
I have a friend who throws up multiple times a day for many months. She needs an IV for hydration regularly. Taking a walk around the block will put her in bed for the next 24 hours.
I also have a friend who keeps up her HIIT classes all through her first trimester. She feels a little nauseous and goes to bed a little bit earlier but that is about it.
I am somewhere in the middle – throwing up in random parking lots, spending as much time horizontal as possible, and feeling permanently yucky for about 3 months. It is easy to feel “lazy” when you compare yourself to other people but just know your body is doing incredible things and only you can really know what your body can handle right now.