All About the First Trimester
For most women, the first 12 or so weeks of pregnancy are the most consuming because everything is all so new, so exciting, even overwhelming. To satisfy the little voice inside your head that keeps asking questions, here's a primer. Keep it handy.
Harmful stuff to avoid
- Alcohol, cigarettes, illicit drugs
- Unheated deli meats, soft-cooked or raw eggs, raw or undercooked meats, raw sprouts
- Handling cat litter or gardening without gloves
- Herbal supplements and teas
- Hot tubs and saunas
- King mackerel, shark, swordfish and tilefish; raw oysters, mussels and other mollusks
- Oil-based paints, lead, mercury (found in some latex paints), chemical solvents, oven-cleaning products and dry-cleaning chemicals
- Over-the-counter and prescription medicines not approved by your doctor
- Soft cheeses, such as brie and feta; unpasteurized milk and juice
- Unnecessary X-rays
There are a lot of reasons to get (or stay) physical in the first trimester. “Exercise may help alleviate nausea,” says Renee Jeffreys, an exercise physiologist and owner of Fitness for Women in Cincinnati. It also boosts energy, reduces stress and helps you get in shape faster postpartum. (Anecdotal evidence also indicates that prenatal exercise makes for a shorter, easier labor.) If you’re feeling sick, at least walk, if only in 10-minute spurts. Whatever you do, monitor the intensity. Jeffreys suggests using the Borg Scale, which allows you to rate your exertion level from 1 to 10. Sitting would be a 1; an all-out sprint, a 10. If you worked out before becoming pregnant, stay between 3 and 5. If you’re new to exercise, aim for 3.
Increased sensitivity to low blood sugar and higher levels of the hormones estrogen and Beta HCG can contribute to nausea. The following may help:
- Eat something, anything—often: An empty stomach worsens nausea.
- Sniff lemons or snack on lemon-flavored foods.
- Drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
- Try sports beverages, such as Gatorade. They also supply glucose and essential minerals.
- Have a protein-rich bedtime snack. Protein keeps your stomach feeling full longer, making it easier to face the morning.
- Wear acupressure wristbands, such as Sea-Bands (sold at most drugstores) or the prescription ReliefBand Device.
- Move. Exercise diverts blood from your stomach, alleviating nausea.
- Brush before eating. Toothbrushing stimulates the gag reflex.
Even before you conceive, start taking a prenatal multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid daily (take 600 micrograms when you get pregnant). “Folic acid goes a long way toward preventing serious neural-tube defects of the brain and spinal cord,” explains Mattison. Spina bifida is perhaps the most well-known of these problems. Avoid over-the-counter prenatal vitamins that contain herbals or “natural” products; they are not as strictly regulated. If the vitamins upset your stomach, iron is probably the culprit. Ask your doctor about taking folic acid alone until your morning sickness passes. In the meantime, eat lots of folate- and iron-rich foods, such as beans, spinach and raisins.