Woman experiences morning sickness in first trimester
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13 Reasons Why The First Trimester Is Legit The Hardest — Science Backs Me Up

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There's nothing "easy" about pregnancy. A human body going through that much change that quickly is taxing, to say the least. But most of the pregnant women I have talked to would agree that the first trimester is the hardest. It's not that the second or third are without their difficulties (sciatica, squished up lungs, being so damn tired of being pregnant), but taken as a whole, the physical and mental stress of the first 12 weeks of gestation are hands down the goddamn worst.

For the record, I am not a happy, glowing pregnant woman. I absolutely know I was #blessed in many ways regarding pregnancy, since I didn't have any medical issues that created cause for concern or required bed rest. For that, believe me, I am grateful. But that doesn't mean I wasn't uncomfortable AF and generally extremely cranky. (Increased irritability was totally one of my most prominent symptoms over the course of both of my pregnancies.) These feelings were the strongest, for sure, in my first trimester. Emotionally, physically, and mentally, it's a time that really tests you, over and over again, new things are happening every damn day, and the comfort of those growth charts that compare your baby to various fruits can only make it so much better, ya know?

So what, specifically, is making this such a miserable time for so many preggos? Let me count the ways:

Because It's Overwhelming

“In the first trimester, many things are changing within the female body and women don't know how to respond to these changes,” says Elizabeth Kilmer-Sterling, a certified nurse midwife with UCHealth Women’s Care Clinics. If this is your first pregnancy, you're especially overwhelmed by all the stuff you're expected to learn immediately. While the many books, blogs, and other resources may help you, the sheer volume can be overwhelming. And even if you've been around the baby block before, you may find yourself in unfamiliar territory every single time. My grandmother talks about the fact that each of her four pregnancies felt like her first because they were all so different.

“Many people don't realize that in pregnancy, due to hormone changes, women are at high risk for developing anxiety/depression which can directly influence their mental wellbeing,” cautions Kilmer-Sterling. “Being proactive in educating about changes and identifying tools to cope are all very important.

Because Morning Sickness

Morning sickness is a misnomer!” declares Kilmer-Sterling. “Many women will experience sickness in the morning, afternoon, evening, even all day.”

If you are among those lucky women who do not go (at least) 12 weeks feeling nauseous AF, congratulations and bless. I cannot be counted among your ranks, and neither can at least 70 percent of my pregnant comrades, per data from the March of Dimes. While I was never at hyperemesis gravidarum levels, I always felt just queasy enough to feel uncomfortable and cranky. (And, lucky me, it stretched well into the second trimester. Twice.) But if you, too are all aboard the S.S. Queasy, take heart, research from the National Institutes of Health indicates that nausea in early pregnancy can be a sign of a healthy pregnancy.

Kilmer-Sterling suggests eating a small, protein and carbohydrate snack every hour or two, because “if the body’s glucose levels can be kept in a steady state, nausea and vomiting are less likely to be as intense.”

Sea bands, ginger products, and acupuncture are just some of the other possible remedies but, honestly, whether or not they work varies tremendously from person to person… and some of us were just born under an unlucky star...

Because Overly Sensitive Boobs

Sensitive boobs are the damn worst. It was painful to put them into, or take them out of, a bra every day. The slightest brush of a t-shirt against my nipples was toe-curling agony. But it wasn't just the nipples! It was the whole boob. Both of them, you guys.But thanks to that surge of first trimester hormones, our boobs are just so excited to get to work.

“Our bodies are already beginning to think about feeding our baby when he/she arrives,” says Kilmer-Sterling. “This supports the onset of lactogenesis, which helps the breast tissue to begin remodeling to produce milk. Unfortunately, the only comforting activities include finding a soft, well-fitting bra and limiting stimulation and irritation until you’re entering the second trimester when breast tenderness improves.”

This was also mildly torturous for my partner. My boobs got huge and awesome in my first trimester but touching was absolutely out of the question. There was a lot of staring going on, though.

Because Worry

Not to bring up an uncomfortable topic, but the fact of the matter is that the first trimester is generally the most precarious of pregnancy, when one's risk of miscarriage is the highest. It's harrowing, especially (in my experience) if you're experienced a loss in the past. Fear is normal, but it’s important to not give in to it completely. “I like to counsel families that in the presence of normal pregnancy discomforts—nausea and vomiting, increased urination, fatigue, and breast tenderness—and the absence of warning signs—bright red vaginal bleeding, period style cramping, pelvic pain—our bodies are usually increasing production of hormones to support a healthy pregnancy,” Kilmer-Sterling says.While the risk of loss never technically goes away, the second trimester brings with it far better odds for mom and baby. Take heart in the fact that every week actually brings better and better chances!

Because Waiting For Appointments Is Stressful

When you can't really tell you're pregnant (unless you have a suite of miserable symptoms) you can sort of get panicky and wonder if you are, in fact, still pregnant. “That time between the missed period or positive pregnancy test and being able to have identifiable confirmation of a normal pregnancy is sometimes four to eight weeks,” Kilmer-Sterling confirms.

Waiting for those first few appointments with your care provider can be agonizing. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that while prenatal care must be individualized, typically you can expect a visit every four weeks starting at around 8 to 10 weeks until you hit 28 weeks. At that point you'll be visiting your care provider every two weeks. In your last month? Once a week, kid. Trust me: in time, you'll feel like you live there.

Because Your Baby Feels Imaginary

You can't feel it kicking. You can't see a difference in your body. You weren't suddenly filled with a sublime maternal knowledge. Like... does this baby even exist? Can we be totally sure?

It is absolutely normal to feel pregnancy is not real early on,” Kilmer-Sterling assures us. “Partners usually also experience this issue until they actually see development of a tiny human—arms, legs, heart, face, activities babies complete like sucking on fingers. This association of normal human actions and form has a tendency to make the pregnancy more "real."”

Because You Don't Know When To Break The News

This is a tricky topic for a lot of people and there's no right answer to the debate. Many people want to wait to tell people about a pregnancy because they want time to process everything themselves first, and maybe make a plan for their workplace before they tell management. Or they don't want to be flooded with too much attention so early on. Some keep their pregnancy a secret in the first trimester "just in case" something happens and they want to avoid a roller coaster of emotions.

Other people want to tell because they're so excited. Or they want to be able to openly share good and bad outcomes of an early pregnancy. Lots of us are torn between the two instincts. It's a head-scratcher, for sure.

Because Keeping A Secret Is Hard

Between frequent puking, sluggishness, mood swings, abstention from alcohol and other adult substances, and (especially towards the end of the trimester) your subtle weight gain, it can be tricky to keep a pregnancy a secret. But if that's what you want, committing to that secret can feel like a full-time job (especially when you're at your full-time job).

Because Exhaustion

You're growing a human and that's exhausting work, which feels like a sufficient explanation to me, but information from the University of Rochester Medical center explains that this is specifically due to the epic surge of progesterone and the fact that your heart is pumping extra hard in response to your increased blood volume.

But from the outside looking it you don't appear to be doing anything differently, at least nothing that would warrant your going to sleep by 8:00 p.m. every night. But just give in to the pillow, my friend. This is like nature's way of apologizing to you for all the sleep you'll miss out on once your baby is born.

Because You Can't Physically Eat Your Cravings

My first pregnancy craving was beer. I'd hated beer until then, but a week before I peed on a magic stick I bought my first six-pack (at the tender age of 28). Obviously that was out (at least on a regular basis) once I discovered my gestational status.

Then there were all the delicious, extremely salty foods I wanted to eat but couldn't stomach on account of the miserable morning sickness. I just wanted some ramen, you guys!

Because You Don't Know What You Can Eat

There are so many rules and they're always changing. You seriously feel like you have to Google before every damn bite. "OK, so soft cheese isn't OK, but... this cheese is, like... is this hard or soft? It's not super hard. How soft is soft? And what about sushi that's been cooked? Like... is it the sushi or the rice? What if the cooked sushi was touching the uncooked sushi? Is it all fish that I should be careful of or just the mercury heavy fish? How do I know which fish have a lot of mercury in them?"

Because Your Due Date Also Feels Imaginary

As anything 40 weeks away feels imaginary. What even is 40 weeks, you guys?

Because Confusion

Overall, the anxiety, ignorance, excitement, happiness, fear, surprise, relief, and the million other emotions that come along with pregnancy (to say nothing of the physiological changes, inside and out) result in an overall state of existence like none other. It takes some getting used to and, often, by the time you're finally used to it you give birth.


Elizabeth Kilmer-Sterling, certified nurse midwife with UCHealth Women’s Care Clinics

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