I’ve been pretty honest about my struggles during the first trimester. I know a lot of women dread those first 12 weeks, and not for nothing. The first trimester is not for the weak. It can be especially hard for someone who is used to their body working with them, not against. Here’s a few things that made surviving the first trimester as an active person feasible for me.
Surviving the First Trimester – As An Active Person
Struggles of the First Trimester
First, let’s talk about all of the things that can make 13 weeks feel like 27 years. Most women experience some form of discomfort and early pregnancy symptoms. The most common being nausea and lack of energy. For a lucky few, the nausea might be mild and fleeting. For those who are not lucky, and I’m the last person that should ever gamble based on this logic, the nausea may be constant and accompanied by frequent vomiting.
Not being able to keep anything down doesn’t exactly help with the fatigue. And it usually leads to dehydration, which can make those early pregnancy headaches a whole lot worse. Let’s not forget those fun mood swings, the heightened sense of smell, and the achy body parts. These are the things that can make getting up and out the door (or just down the stairs to the fridge) really hard, sometimes.
What Helps for Most
So, do you have to just accept that feeling terrible might be the price for making tiny humans? Not necessarily. For a lot of women, most of these symptoms can be managed without too much difficulty. Here’s a few recommendations that might help:
- Reduce intensity, but stay active – As counter-intuitive as it may seem, a lot of women report that some moderate exercise can help reduce symptoms of nausea and fatigue. Respect the fact that your body is working hard, and don’t push it too far, but if you can move around regularly, go for it.
- Focus on hydration – It’s hard to drink enough water, especially if you’re not feeling great. But dehydration has a way of making everything else feel worse. From nausea to headaches, dehydration can bring on a lot misery. Do everything possible to drink as often as possible.
- Make sure the body is supported – If you’re fortunate enough to feel up for regular exercise, make sure those workout clothes are able to keep up. Your changing body might need a different type of sports bra, leggings, or even shoes a lot sooner than you expect.
- Get more sleep – It’s no secret that creating a person from scratch takes a lot out of you. Trying to push to be as productive as usual when your body is screaming for rest isn’t helpful. Giving yourself a little extra time in bed, or on the couch, can go a long way.
- Ask for help at home – Spending some additional time resting just might mean that the dishes and laundry pile up faster than usual. Don’t be hesitant to ask for help, especially if you have people wanting to support you. One of the best gifts my husband gave me was the encouragement to order food as often as I wanted. Having one less thing to worry about made a huge difference on the really hard days.
- Be flexible – Some days you might feel kinda, almost, halfway normal. That doesn’t mean you need to make up for two weeks of doing almost nothing, but it does mean you want to take advantage of those days. Having a flexible mindset when it comes to working out, cleaning, and pretty much everything else, isn’t just helpful. It’s essential.
- Talk to your OB – Don’t put off telling your doctor if you are struggling with early pregnancy symptoms. Sometimes there are very easy and reasonable changes they can recommend to help.
What (Sorta) Worked for Me
- Stay as hydrated as possible – In all honesty, I really wasn’t able to keep down regular water, and sugary drinks like Gatorade didn’t help. I did have an easier time with the water enhancer, Liquid IV. It really felt like a life safer on multiple occasions, because it wasn’t overly sweet and went a long to keep me hydrated.
- Liquid Calories – After a few days of not being able to keep anything (no, not even the Saltines)down, I turned to my old running tricks. Tailwind. It didn’t always work, but it worked a lot better than anything else. Being able to take sips here and there, and having control over dilution, helped more than you might think.
- Drugs – Look, I’m usually someone who prefers “natural remedies” when possible. However, the preggo pops, ginger (in all forms), and seabands did absolutely nothing for me. So, I turned to my doctor and begged for drugs. Prescription ant-acids, nausea medication, and the occasional IV kept me from completely losing my mind.
- Remember it’s temporary – Being sick for months can feel like the 9th circle of hell. And in the hard moments, it can be really hard to remember that you won’t always feel like death warmed over. But having reminders that pregnancy is temporary can help, sometimes.
- Be Still – As much as I wanted to be one of those women who could find some solace in light exercise, I could barely tolerate the on flight of stairs in my home most days. Instead of fighting with myself, I gave in to being still. I don’t love being in bed all day, in fact, it kinda drives me nuts. But that’s all I could do, so I was still.
- Return Slowly – I can’t say it hasn’t been humbling to lift 25# dumbbells or feel completely wiped after a 3 mile run, but I knew my body would crumble if I didn’t take it slowly. If you’ve had to sit it out for anything more than about two weeks, trying to get back to previous activity levels immediately is going to more harm than good.
- Refuel intentionally – It’s hard to eat and hydrate the way your body truly needs you to, even when you aren’t pregnant. And if you’ve been sick or struggling for any period of time, eating a balance of protein, fat, and carbs is even more difficult. My recommendation is to find small meals that have a decent balance and have what you need on hand to make it just a little easier.
At the end of the day, the first trimester is “easy” for a very select few. If you aren’t one of the lucky ones, I hope at least one these tips makes life just a little more bearable.