Whether it's your first pregnancy or your fifth, once you see those two lines on that pregnancy test, sh*t gets super real. You may even be a little anxious that you don't know what you're doing. Do you have to give up coffee for nine months? What's that thing you heard about cheese? What about alcohol — is any amount safe? Here are some first trimester dos and don'ts for your reference. But as always, every pregnancy is different. So be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before changing up your diet or starting a new exercise regimen.
The first trimester is an exciting, albeit stressful, time. There's the rush of excitement that you're finally going to be a mom, and then there's the anxiety of hoping everything turns out OK and the pregnancy is legitimate and it sticks. There's also anxiety about life changes that will happen once the baby arrives, and even during pregnancy. You can kiss that glass of wine before bed goodbye for a while, and if you love sushi? You can forget about it — for the next nine months at least. Like parenting, there is no "rulebook" for being pregnant, unless you count What To Expect When You're Expecting, which is basically like a pregnancy bible. But that book is several hundred pages long, and you may be looking for a quick and dirty guide... at least for the first trimester.
According to What to Expect, exercising while pregnant provides a ton of awesome benefits, including, “a boost in your mood, a decrease in many pregnancy symptoms (including fatigue, constipation, and nausea), and a quicker postpartum recovery.” Sounds pretty awesome right? And on top of all of that stuff, it helps keep your weight gain at a steady, healthy pace. It’s not really good for your body to gain a ton of weight all at once, so it’s best and healthiest to pace it out over your pregnancy, according to experts. Safe aerobic exercises include swimming, brisk walking, jogging, group dance and aerobic classes, and even indoor cycling, What to Expect noted. Strength building exercises recommended by What to Expect include prenatal yoga, lower-weight weight lifting, and pregnancy-approved pilates.
While general cramping and even some spotting is totally normal and expected in early pregnancy, if while you’re exercising or doing anything makes you feel uncomfortable or if that cramp doesn’t quite feel right, listen to your body and take a break. Don’t feel comfortable walking down the stairs? Don’t push it. Your intuition is pretty strong and accurate, and you know you best. If you have any questions or concerns, always talk to your healthcare provider.
According to Dr. Sherry Ross, OB-GYN and Women’s Health Expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, there are some symptoms that should definitely not be ignored, and you should see your doctor ASAP. "In 2 percent of pregnancies, persistent nausea and vomiting can become so severe pregnant women can lose weight, become malnourished, and dehydrated where hospitalization is necessary," she tells Romper in an email interview. "If you are unable to keep down liquids or solid foods for more than 24 hours, you should contact your healthcare provider."
She also notes, "Cramping is a common symptom early in pregnancy as the uterus begins to grow. The cramping should feel similar to the mild cramping you may experience with your period. If the cramping becomes more intense and associated with other symptoms such as vaginal bleeding, nausea, vomiting, or fever, however, you should contact your healthcare provider." Ross also says if you have heavy, bright red bleeding with clots and severe uterine cramping, you should go to the ER, as it may be a miscarriage.
For many women, myself included, your doctor probably recommended starting a prenatal vitamin at least three months before you began your TTC journey. Prenatal vitamins are important, and if the thought of taking a prenatal vitamin makes your stomach churn, not to worry. You can take it at any time of day, including right before you go to bed and with a full stomach. Ross says you should just make sure your prenatal vitamin contains at least 400 milligrams of folic acid, because folic acid has been shown to reduce the incidence of spinal defects or neural tube defects. And, it may even reduce the chances of your baby having autism.
Hopefully, you’ve already done some research for an OB-GYN or midwife if you don’t want to stay with your current gynecologist. According to The Bump, at your first appointment, you’ll get an estimated due date, tests done, a physical exam, and even an ultrasound. You’ll be asked a lot of questions about your medical history and you get to ask your healthcare provider all the questions you have about your pregnancy.
According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), when you drink caffeine, it goes directly to your baby, and they can’t metabolize it like you can. Additionally, it’s a stimulant and a diuretic, which can make you have increased blood pressure and be dehydrated. “Numerous studies on animals have shown that caffeine can cause birth defects, premature labor, preterm delivery, reduced fertility, and increase the risk of low-birth weight offspring and other reproductive problems. There have not been any conclusive studies done on humans; however, it is still better to play it safe when it comes to inconclusive studies,” the APA noted. However, you don’t have to cut it out entirely. It’s safe to have 200 milligrams (about a cup and a half) of coffee brewed at home per day, and the APA says the safe amount ranges from 150 milligrams to 300 milligrams a day. And thank God, because that early pregnancy exhaustion is no joke.
Obviously, it’s totally expected and normal to give in to your pregnancy cravings every once in awhile. But remember, everything you’re putting into your body goes directly to that baby. So in addition to the indulgences you crave, try to also eat a diet of whole foods, including fruits and veggies in a variety of colors, lean meats, low-fat dairy, and even safe fish, like salmon, for those Omega 3s. Moderation and balance is key.
Feel like garbage and you can barely keep your eyes open, but it’s only 8:30 p.m.? Oh well, it’s bedtime, and that’s totally OK. You’re feeling pretty fatigued right now, and that’s not unusual for early pregnancy. It could also be because you’re no longer getting your caffeine fix at 2 p.m. like you used to before you were pregnant. Exercise can help get you out of your slump, and snacking on energy-rich foods like nuts and even cheese sticks can help you have more energy. So why are you so exhausted during the first trimester? Ross says it's completely normal and a classic symptom. "Women experience overwhelming fatigue and find they cannot get enough sleep. These symptoms of feeling exhausted occur as a result of the hormonal changes caused by progesterone," she says.
Unfortunately, "morning" sickness isn't accurately named as it can (and usually does) last all day and night for a lot of women. Ginger ale and saltines not doing the trick? Sometimes non-alcoholic ginger beer works better, because the ginger taste is stronger. Otherwise, you can find a lot of different nausea relief products formulated for pregnant ladies, including acupressure wristbands called "Sea Band Mama," "Preggie Pop Drops," "Pink Stork Organic Ginger Morning Sickness Tea," "Preggie Pops," and more.
The APA lists the following foods to avoid while pregnant: "Raw meat, including sushi, deli meat, fish with mercury, smoked seafood, raw eggs, non-pasteurized cheeses or milk, pate, and unwashed vegetables." Mainly these are all safety precautions to avoid harmful bacteria that could potentially give you toxoplasmosis, salmonella, or listeria. The no fish with mercury rule is because mercury has been proven to cause developmental delays and brain damage in your baby, according to the APA.
The APA noted that more than 1,000 babies in the U.S. die each year because their mothers smoked while they were pregnant. "When you smoke… so does your baby. When you smoke you inhale poisons such as nicotine, lead, arsenic, and carbon monoxide. These poisons get into the placenta, which is the tissue that connects you to your baby and sends oxygen and nutrients and eliminates wastes. These poisons keep your baby from getting the proper supply of nutrients and oxygen that he or she needs to grow," the APA noted. Additionally, "Smoking during pregnancy can cause low-birth weight, preterm delivery, and infant death," according to the APA. Make sure your partner quits, too, because second-hand smoke causes issues as well. "According to the American Lung Association, new studies have shown that if a woman is around second-hand smoke during pregnancy, there are added risks. You have a greater chance of having a baby that weighs too little and may have health problems," the APA noted.
Cigarettes aren't the only vice you may have to give up. The APA also noted, "Studies have shown that consumption of illegal drugs during pregnancy can result in miscarriage, low birth weight, premature labor, placental abruption, fetal death, and even maternal death." So definitely stay away from those, too. And the APA even recommends staying away from marijuana, even though studies have been inconclusive. "Studies of marijuana in pregnancy are inconclusive, because many women who smoke marijuana also use tobacco and alcohol. Smoking marijuana increases the levels of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide in the blood, which reduces the oxygen supply to the baby. Smoking marijuana during pregnancy can increase the chance of miscarriage, low birth weight, premature births, developmental delays, and behavioral and learning problems."
While some doctors say 4 ounces of wine every once in awhile is OK after the first trimester, the APA noted that "there is no amount of alcohol that is known to be safe during pregnancy, and therefore alcohol should be avoided during pregnancy. Prenatal exposure to alcohol can interfere with the healthy development of the baby. Depending on the amount, timing, and pattern of use, alcohol consumption during pregnancy can lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or other developmental disorders."
Though I've given you a list of dos and don'ts, ultimately, what you do with your pregnancy is up to you and your doctor. Moms, in-laws, friends, coworkers — you name it, everyone seems to have an opinion on what's healthy for you and what you should or shouldn't be doing while pregnant. They also have the tendency to spill the beans about your pregnancy when you ask them not to, and have some weighty opinions on what you should or shouldn't put on your registry, what you should and should't be eating, and if you should exercise or not. Try to tune them out and just take the advice of your healthcare provider, and your own intuition.
In the hustle and bustle of telling everyone about your pregnancy, scheduling appointments, and researching what you should and shouldn't do, be sure to spend some quality time with your partner. Even though they aren't the ones carrying the baby, their life is about to drastically change, too, and they may need some reassurance. Plus, you may not have as much time as you once did for fun date nights and romantic evenings in, if you know what I mean. So try to cherish these moments now.
You've got this, girl. And everything is going to be great. Do your best and remember, as long as the baby is healthy and happy once it's born, you've done the right things during your pregnancy.
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