Early Stages of Pregnancy – 20 Facts About Your First Trimester

20 facts you might not know about your first trimester

First and foremost, many congratulations on your pregnancy! Your body is phenomenal, I still gaze in awe at every baby I deliver – I’m taken aback as to how a woman can grow a tiny human within her so perfectly! No wonder you may feel overwhelmed and unsure about your body’s changes during the first trimester.

There are lots of myths about pregnancy so these 20 facts aim to answer your queries and provide you with trustworthy, reliable facts you might not know about your first trimester!

1. The first trimester lasts 12 weeks

By 12 weeks, your baby is fully formed! They’ll continue to grow and develop their organs from this point onwards but everything is formed, including parts of the brain!

2. Consider the environment around you

As important as your work and the environment that you’re in are, they generally don’t get covered enough. Think about what you are exposing yourself to whilst your baby is forming vital organs and brain tissue. Are you exposed to chemicals or harmful pollution? Do you have to do heavy lifting? These influences can get dismissed, especially before your pregnancy is showing but could be vital to the health of you and your baby. If you work with or around chemicals talk to HR as soon as possible and consider alternative duties if necessary.

3. Folic acid

It’s advisable to take folic acid for the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy. As your baby is fully formed by 12 weeks, folic acid is no longer required so don’t waste your money.

To reassure you, most symptoms in the first trimester are normal and nothing to worry about – you just need to know what is abnormal and how to tackle the normal symptoms.

4. Odd sensations and symptoms

You may get several odd sensations and symptoms during the early stages of your pregnancy. Sore/uncomfortable breasts are common and some women even experience shooting pains. This is just related to a surge of progesterone and an important hormone known as human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) which is responsible for the maintenance of your pregnancy – it’s the hormone that is detected in your pregnancy tests. Your breasts will change again during pregnancy and after birth.

5. Morning sickness is not always in the morning!

Around 85% of women experience morning sickness. It can actually be a sign of a healthy pregnancy as it’s thought to be caused by changing levels of the hormone HCG which is produced by the placenta after implantation.

Morning sickness is more likely (or worse) in the morning for many women due to low blood sugar, so try to eat little and often. Ginger biscuits are good (for those of you that like ginger), as ginger is a natural way to reduce sickness. Also, the texture of a biscuit is best when you feel nauseous. Hydration is also key – be sure to drink at least a litre of filtered water a day, preferably from a glass bottle.

6. Excessive vomiting (hyperemesis) is not normal.

There’s a big difference between ‘morning sickness’ nausea and occasional vomiting and not being able to keep much or anything down (hyperemesis). You can become dehydrated quickly and as this is an important time for your baby, it’s vital that you’re getting the hydration, vitamins and nutrition you need. Call your midwife or doctor if you think you are developing hyperemesis as you may need intravenous fluids to help you. Keep calm though – help is on hand! The Duchess of Cambridge had hyperemesis when she was pregnant with George.

7. A metallic taste in your mouth (parageusia)

You can blame oestrogen for this one! Some women say it’s like sucking on a penny, the taste is that strong. Drinks may also taste different and you may start to dislike your favourite drinks. This is completely normal and will go by the end of the first trimester. To help alleviate the taste, try orange juice or lemonade.

8. You might bleed – don’t panic!

Bleeding happens in around 20% of pregnancies but don’t panic it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re having a miscarriage. Contact your midwife or doctor as they’ll be able to advise you about any blood loss.

9. Your hair might grow, become thicker and more glossy!

There’s a well-supported theory that you ‘bloom’ in pregnancy. This ‘bloom’ is due to good old hormone surges – mainly oestrogen. It tends to occur at the beginning of your pregnancy to keep the male around so that the pregnant woman has protection as she becomes more vulnerable. Enjoy!

10. You may need to pee more often (now and throughout)

Right now your baby is low in your pelvis, below your belly button, which means that he/she can put pressure on your bladder causing the need to pee more frequently. This is completely normal and nothing to worry about, unless you have additional symptoms such as burning, stinging, change of colour or smell of urine. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, let your midwife know and she’ll send off a mid-stream urine (MSU) specimen to be tested to check that everything is ok.

11. Fatigue

Fatigue is most common during the first trimester. Your blood sugar levels and blood pressure can lower as your metabolic rate increases to provide your baby with everything it needs to develop, which can make you feel very tired. Again, try to eat little and often and drink plenty because this will really help you to feel better. A surge in hormones, especially progesterone, is also responsible for tiredness. Take it easy as much as you can – don’t forget your body has started to grow a human!

12. Feeling emotional?

It’s very common in early pregnancy to feel a change in your emotions – whether it’s feeling ecstatic, having mixed emotions or feeling anxious. These feelings are all normal, whether your pregnancy is planned or not, it’s a lot to take on. So, don’t be hard on yourself, just know that your hormones may be heavily affecting your mood. Don’t worry too much about the ups and downs, just take things as they come and trust the process. If you’re crying most days and really not yourself, then talk to your midwife about how you feel, she’ll be there to fully support you.

13. Cramps, aches, twinges and pinches

As your uterus expands to accommodate your growing baby you may start to get ligament pain. This is normal and should settle – there’s not much you can do to stop this as your uterus has to expand. Don’t fret as some cramping and lower abominable pain can be very normal! If it continues for hours and is paired with bleeding, then call your midwife and she’ll advise you further.

14. Backache

Most people, quite rightly, associate backache with the third trimester but it’s also associated with the first. The sudden release of the hormone relaxin allows your uterus to expand, which means the ligaments in your back need to accommodate your growing baby. To help reduce aching, try to wear flatter shoes if you usually wear high heels and maintain good posture by distributing your weight evenly and sitting upright. If you work in an office, make sure your chair is at the right height for you and consider a back support. It’s vitally important to look after your back from the beginning of your pregnancy.

Now that I’ve covered some of the common symptoms you may experience in the first trimester, here are a few other facts you may find interesting:

15. Twins?

Around 2% of natural conception results in twins. You may feel quite early on that you are having twins due to all of the changes discussed and there’s a small chance that you are. You’ll find out at your routine 12-week scan, if this is the case!

16. By just 6 weeks your baby has a heartbeat…

17. And by 8 weeks your baby is officially called a foetus, this means ‘little one’ in Latin.

18. Make the most of free dental care!

Once your pregnancy is confirmed by ultrasound and up until your baby is 12 weeks old, you’ll be entitled to free dental care. Take advantage of this and see your dentist or hygienist regularly. They’ll spot any changes early on, which may prevent tooth loss and gum disease.

19. Understanding testing

You’ll be offered testing during the first trimester by the NHS. All tests should be fully explained to you. There are also options available privately such as the Harmony test, which looks for serious abnormalities in the DNA of your baby via a blood test (maternal cells). The most important thing to remember when it comes to testing is to understand the options, tests available and what they may tell you.

20. Look after yourself

Last but not least, the first 12 weeks may be the most consuming because everything is so new, especially if this is your first pregnancy. A lot of physiological changes have taken place by the time you reach the end of the first trimester. Hormones, increase in blood volume, metabolic rate and anxiety may all play a part in how you feel. So, look after yourself, take it easy and listen to your body when you need rest!

It’s always important to remember that the midwives and health care professionals that you meet along the way are there to help and guide you. They’ll provide you with evidence-based information so that you can make informed decisions. They’re not there to take over or tell you what to do because they’re referring to your body and your baby, so you should feel in control at all times.

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Marie Louise, The Modern Midwife - 20 facts about the First Trimester
Marie Louise, The Modern Midwife

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Marie Louise, The Modern Midwife

Marie Louise is a senior midwife, maternity educator and managing director of Marie Louise Maternity