Pregnancy is exciting, and beautiful journey of woman’s life. It is the beginning of journey of a mother. When you announce your pregnancy to your friends and family, first thing they ask is “When is the due date?” On the first visit to your healthcare provider, he will give expected delivery date.
Pregnancy is divided into 3 trimesters. Full term pregnancy is usually considered as 40 weeks.
First Trimester: From 1st day of last period – end of 12th week
Second Trimester: From 13th week – end of 26th week
Third Trimester: From 27th week – end of 40th week
Early signs of pregnancy
First Trimester starts from 1st day of your last menstrual period until the end of 12th week .During this time baby development is very rapid, and is crucial stage of pregnancy. Lots of changes are going on during this stage as baby starts to develop. During this period fertilized egg implants into the uterine wall , and most of the organs like heart starts to beat , bones ,hair ,eyesight ,brain starts to develop.
Even before you get positive pregnancy test, your body will start to show early signs of pregnancy. But it is hard to differentiate between early pregnancy signs and period symptoms, as they both are very similar. Every pregnancy is different, not every woman has the same symptoms as other. Below are some early pregnancy symptoms –
The first most common and well known sign of pregnancy is missed period. Most pregnancy tests will show positive by this time. In some cases if you are pregnant some tests may show negative, in that case wait for some days and test again or go to your doctor for blood work to get more accurate result. But keep in mind that not all missing period is due to pregnancy, there are many other reasons for delayed periods, like hormonal problems, sudden weight gain, and too much stress. Some women may also miss monthly period after they stop taking birth control pills.
Spotting or Bleeding:
Spotting or slight bleeding is very common during first trimester. In early stage of pregnancy light spotting may be due to fertilized embryo implanted in uterus that is also called implantation bleeding. This happens after about 10 to 12 days after conception. Spotting is something which you see after wiping with tissue, but if you see lot of bleeding then seek medical help immediately that could be sign of other complication like ectopic pregnancy or even miscarriage. If you have light spotting then your doctor may ask you to take complete bed rest until everything comes to normal. In some pregnancies, moms see light spotting throughout the first trimester, and are normal.
Increase in urination:
For many women frequent urination is early sign of pregnancy. Hormonal changes in your body during pregnancy increases urine production, which might result in increased bathroom trips. This will ease in second trimester, but again comes back in the third trimester. To avoid getting up at night to pee several times, try not to drink more liquids 4 hours before going to bed.
Soreness or Breast Tenderness during pregnancy is another very common early signs that many woman experiences. This is due to hormonal changes which are preparing your breasts to produce milk for your baby after he/she comes to the world. This may also due to your monthly periods, but if you usually don’t get soreness in breasts during periods then its high possibility that you could be pregnant.
Some remedies help to ease the discomfort are –
- Try taking warm showers that may relax your breast muscles.
- Applying ice pack may also help in easing your soreness.
- Try taking over the counter pain reliever if pain worsens, but of course ask your doctor which medicine is safe to take during pregnancy.
Morning sickness or Nausea is most common symptoms of pregnancy during first trimester, and is sometimes very severe in some woman. It usually starts somewhere around sixth week of conception and starts to subside around 13th week or end of first trimester. It is usually due to an increase in estrogen levels. As the name morning sickness, it does not mean expecting mom will feel it just in the morning; it can be any time of the day .Morning sickness is not at all harmful to mom or baby. Common symptoms of morning sickness include nausea, feeling sick and in worst case vomiting .Sometimes these symptoms can be treated with over the counter medicines, but before using any medication please consult your doctor, as most of the medicines are harmful for your baby.
Some natural ways to treat Morning Sickness:
- Do not eat food that makes your nausea worse. Sometimes foods with strong smell makes you feel sick during this time. Foods that you loved once are now your biggest enemy and are making you sick. Every pregnancy is different; I use to get sick with wheat flour bread or Indian bread and also with tea during my first trimester.
- Eat smaller and frequent meals in a day instead of heavy meals.
- Eating bananas will also help in reducing nausea. Bananas are rich in vitaminB6, which can help in reducing nausea.
- Try drinking lemon water to reduce nausea.
- Eat small snacks before getting up from bed, like try to eat crackers and drink water. Avoiding spicy food will also help to reduce morning sickness.
Other than home remedies, you can also try following remedies available on amazon –
Experience: My friend tried this tea; it helped her with morning sickness during first trimester of pregnancy. These are available in ginger flavor also, both flavors are great.
During early stages of pregnancy an increase in levels of hormone progesterone can make you feel tired all the time. Rest as much as you can, eat healthy diet and follow light exercise diet to increase your energy.
Sensitivity to smell:
Many pregnant women experience smell sensitivity during early stages of pregnancy that could lead to nausea or even vomiting. Some tricks that may help are-
- Avoid any strong smell deodorants that are causing nausea.
- Avoid cooking and eating foods that you cannot stand the strong smell.
Mood swings are normal during first trimester of pregnancy due to hormonal changes.
Vaginal discharge is very common during first trimester of pregnancy. The discharge is white, thin, and it has mild smell. If you see more discharge and feel uncomfortable, try using panty liners.
An increase in hormone progesterone during pregnancy can make your body constipated. Try to drink lots of water and eat food that is high in fiber. Light exercise and light walk may also help in constipation.
Headaches are very normal during pregnancy. Try taking some over the counter pain reliever which are safe to take during pregnancy.
As I said, every pregnancy is different, symptoms are also different. Pregnant women may experience all of the above listed early symptoms in first trimester, while some experience only one or two symptoms. If any of the symptoms worsens it is always better to consult your healthcare provider to check what is going on.
You can refer to some pregnancy books available in amazon.
Experience: I used this book during my pregnancy, and I would say very helpful book with week by week guide. The information is presented very thoroughly. My husband use to read the book to understand all the changes that I am going through.
Pregnancy to-do in First Trimester:
- Choose best Gynecologist in your area and book first appointment with him/her.
- During your first visit doctor will take your pregnancy urine test to make sure it is positive and they will do blood work to check your blood type , HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) levels to check how far you are in your pregnancy to decide on your due date . You will likely get your first ultrasound to check your baby’s heartbeat, and to check how pregnancy is progressing so far. Your OB-GYN ask you to start prenatal vitamins immediately, this will help in reducing the risk of neural tube defects.
- At the end of the 1st trimester you will likely have nuchal translucency screening, to check Down syndrome and congenital heart defects.
- Eating healthy food is very important during pregnancy, as you are passing nutrients to small life which is growing inside your body. During first 3 months for some mom-to-be it’s difficult to eat food due to morning sickness, in that case drink lots of fluids to keep your body hydrated.
- Eat plenty of fresh fruits, lots of green vegetables which will help both baby and mom remain healthy.
Healthy diet during pregnancy:
During pregnancy it is very important to follow healthy and balanced diet, to get nutrients like folic acid, protein, iron, calcium. Make smart choice of food that can make your pregnancy healthy and also satisfy your taste buds. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads, dairy products, and protein rich foods.
Fruits to eat during pregnancy:
- Oranges: Oranges are great source of vitamin C, which will help in keeping body hydrated.
- Pomegranates: Pomegranates are very healthy fruit to eat during pregnancy, which provides iron, protein, folate, calcium, vitamin K. The high iron content in the fruit helps to prevent iron – deficiency.
- Avocados: Avocados are good source of vitamin C, monounsaturated fatty acids, and potassium. These contain healthy fats that provide energy and help in building brain tissues of the developing baby.
- Bananas: Bananas are high in potassium, fiber. The fiber content in bananas helps with constipation during pregnancy.
- Apples: Apples contain fiber, potassium, vitamin A and C which provide good nutrients for developing baby.
- Dried Fruits and nuts: Dry fruits and nuts are loaded with calcium, zinc, magnesium, and are good source of antioxidants. Dry fruits like dates, prunes and apricots strengthen the muscles of uterus, thus making baby delivery smooth. Nuts like almonds, cashews, walnuts are loaded with lots of nutrients which will provide energy to the body. Dry fruits contain lot of calories than fresh fruits. Some nuts are also high in calories, which may result in more pregnancy weight gain.
- Berries: Berries like Strawberry, Blueberry, and Raspberry are good source of vitamin C, antioxidants, fiber. They also contain lots of water, which helps in keeping body hydrated.
Vegetables to eat during pregnancy:
Pregnant woman should eat all dark green leafy vegetables which contain so many nutrients that a body need during this time. Include lots of Broccoli, Carrots, Beetroot, Spinach, and Fenugreek Leaves (which you will find in Indian Grocery) to your diet.
- Broccoli: Broccoli is packed with lots of nutrients which is important for healthy pregnancy. They are rich in fiber, which will help in preventing constipation, and also contain antioxidants.
- Carrots: Carrots are good source of vitamin A and is very important for the development of baby’s teeth, eyes and bone.
- Beetroot: Beetroots are packed with nutrients which are required during pregnancy. They are rich in antioxidants which may improve immunity during pregnancy. Beets are rich in calcium which keeps your bones strong. They also maintain blood pressure levels to normal during pregnancy.
- Spinach: Spinach is a green leafy vegetable which is rich in folic acid, which is the essential nutrient that helps to prevent birth defects. This vegetable contains iron, vitamin A, potassium, and folate.
- Fenugreek Leaves: Fenugreek leaves or methi leaves (Very healthy green leafy vegetable which is used in India) are rich in folate and vitamin B12, which is helpful in brain development of baby and prevents neural birth defects. Consumption of fenugreek leaves during and after pregnancy will improve the milk production in moms.
Dairy products are good source of calcium, which will help in developing bones of unborn baby. Dairy products like cheese, milk, and yogurt should be included in your diet. These contain vitamin D, calcium, protein that support baby’s growth.
Protein rich food:
During pregnancy, eating healthy means not eating as much as you want, it is important eat healthy, nutritional, and balanced diet, and one of the most important nutrients you need is protein. Some of the protein rich foods are-
- Eggs: Eggs are the great way of getting required daily amount of protein for vegetarians. Try to include egg in your daily diet.
- Lentils: If you are vegetarians, any kind of lentils are good source of protein. Include lots of lentils in your daily diet, like chickpeas, kidney beans, split moong dal, masoor dal and so on, there are endless options. Try Indian lentil soup, which is healthy option to include lentils to your diet.
- Greek yogurt: Greek yogurt is great for pregnant women who are craving for carbohydrates. Yogurt is not only healthy fat, but it also provides lot of protein.
- Fish: Fish provides protein which is essential for your developing baby in early stages of pregnancy.
- Quinoa: Quinoa is very healthy and great option which is rich in protein. Try including quinoa salads in your diet with lots of vegetables.
- Try including Tofu and soya products in your diet.
Foods to avoid during first trimester:
- Avoid eating uncooked meat, as there is a risk of bacterial contamination which can cause food poisoning.
- Avoid eating any raw or partially cooked eggs.
- Avoid eating any food that produces heat in your body, especially during first trimester. During first trimester there are chances of miscarriage, so do not include foods which are heat to your body.
- Avoid drinking alcohol during pregnancy as it is not good for your developing baby.
- Decrease the intake of tea, coffee during pregnancy as too much caffeine is not good during pregnancy. Many foods and drinks contain caffeine in them, for example sodas, chocolate, energy drinks, and tea. Drinking one cup of tea or coffee every day is fine.
Try reading following book about nutrition guide during pregnancy –
Experience: My friend is using this book, and is very helpful for mom-to-be. The information is well presented and organized. The recipes in the book are healthy and fantastic
Baby development in first trimester:
First trimester of pregnancy is crucial stage of pregnancy. Each week baby development is different. It starts from day 1 of your last menstrual period to end of week 13. Baby is growing and developing rapidly during this period. By the end of the first trimester, all baby organs are formed, and baby will look more like human with all developed facial features.
During 1st week, you are not even actually pregnant: Because it is not possible to know the exact day of conception, your healthcare providers count your due date as 40 weeks from first day of your last menstrual period. Week 1 and 2 are considered as first 2 weeks of your menstrual cycle.
During weeks 3 and 4 fertilized egg attaches to the lining of uterus. This is called implantation.
From the beginning of 5th week, your baby’s tiny heart begins to beat for the first time. But still you cannot hear it yet. Baby’s nervous system starts to develop by this time, which includes brain, spinal cord, and nerves.
By 7th week, your baby is developing distinct facial features, like eyes, ears start to take shape.
By 8th week, your baby’s wrists, ankles, and elbows are visible.
By 9th week, your baby’s reproductive organs are beginning to form, along with some other key organs, like gallbladder and pancreas.
By 10th week, your baby is no longer classified as embryo, but he will be a fetus. Baby’s bones will begin to harden and kidneys are producing urine.
By 11th week, baby will begin to inhale some amount of amniotic fluid, which will help in developing of your baby’s lungs.
During 12th week, baby’s reflexes are starting to develop. He/she will also start stretching and kicking, though it is too early to feel the movement of baby yet.
By week 13, your baby’s face is looking more like human. By this time he will be able to stick his thumb in his mouth.
Risks during early pregnancy:
During first trimester you need to be very careful, as it is most crucial stage of pregnancy. First 3 months you need to take care of your body to avoid complications.
Complications during early pregnancy include-
In ectopic pregnancy fertilized egg is implanted outside the uterus. This condition is very dangerous and even life threatening. As fetus continues to grow inside fallopian tube, it can burst inside and resulting in internal bleeding. It can be life threatening and needs emergency treatment. Since fertilized egg cannot survive in fallopian tube, your doctor may ask you to terminate pregnancy. That is hard for moms but that is the only option in case of ectopic pregnancy.
Miscarriage is loss of baby in early stages of pregnancy. Unfortunately miscarriages are common during first trimester. Most miscarriages occur in first trimester and reasons are not always known. The most common sign of miscarriage is heavy and abnormal vaginal bleeding, lower abdominal pain and cramping. After your doctor hear heartbeat around 6 to 8 weeks, your risk of miscarrying a baby goes down.
In some cases miscarriages are unavoidable, but you can lower the risk by avoiding drinking alcohol, smoking, and cutting down on your caffeine intake.
Pregnancy is the most beautiful experience of life, not just for mothers, but also for fathers as well. For some women pregnancy goes smoother, but for some it is tough. My personal experience with first trimester is not good. I had spotting for first 3 months during my both pregnancies and was on bed rest to avoid any further complications. But despite of all the complications, weight gain, morning sickness, when you feel that first movement and kick of your baby that is magical.
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 Reeves, Nedra, Kathleen Potempa, and Agatha Gallo. “Fatigue in early pregnancy: An exploratory study.” Journal of Nurse‐Midwifery 36.5 (1991): 303-309.
 Hinkle, Stefanie N., et al. “Nutrition during Pregnancy: Findings from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Fetal Growth Studies–Singleton Cohort.” Current Developments in Nutrition 5.1 (2021): nzaa182.
 Lozeau, Anne-Marie, and Beth Potter. “Diagnosis and management of ectopic pregnancy.” American family physician 72.9 (2005): 1707-1714.
 Maconochie, N., et al. “Risk factors for first trimester miscarriage—results from a UK‐population‐based case–control study.” BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology 114.2 (2007): 170-186.