How the body changes in the first trimester?
Often women don’t realize that they are pregnant until they have a missed period. There are several common pregnancy symptoms that can be found in the initial stages of pregnancy. However, these symptoms can vary in their frequency, intensity, duration and can appear to be similar to the routine pre- menstrual discomfort. Some common symptoms during the first trimester are given here.
1. Missed period: This is probably one of the first signs that make women aware of their pregnancy. It is the time when the uterus uses all the resources it has for creating an environment for the fetus to grow inside it. Women usually miss their period for the entire tenure of their pregnancy. Some women can experience some spotting or bleeding during early pregnancy. In most cases these women do proceed to have a normal pregnancy and a healthy baby; but some investigation may be done, just to be on the safe side.
2. Nausea and Vomiting: This is also known as morning sickness, as most women have the feeling of nausea and vomiting in the morning (usually after they eat/drink something on an empty stomach). However, some may even have this experience of nausea in the afternoon or evening. Others may feel queasy all day.
The cause of this symptom is medically still unclear. It is believed that it could be partly due to the hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) which is released in early pregnancy.
Doctors and midwives may often suggest that you eat small quantities of snack sized meals, frequently. Some women find eating ginger helps – may be in the form of ginger biscuit - before getting out of bed. These symptoms generally are mild and reduce at the end of the first three months (12 weeks) of pregnancy.
A small percentage of women do experience severe nausea and vomiting medically called Hyperemesis Gravidarum. In this case your Doctor may prescribe medication.
3. Frequency of urination: Pregnancy is a time when women feel the urge to use the bathroom more. The growing fetus causes the uterus to expand and this put pressure on the bladder. At the same time there is an extra creation of body fluids which have to be processed by your kidneys and bladder. You may experience this symptom throughout your pregnancy and should not be alarmed.
4. Heart Burn and Constipation: The expanding uterus starts to push against the other organs of the body, such as the stomach, as it makes room for the growing baby. This may make the expected mother feel constipated or it may cause heartburn.
The increased levels of hormones (progesterone) also slow down the digestion and bowel functions. Hence the slow emptying of the stomach can cause the release of increased stomach acids and digestive juices to flow back to the esophagus, leading to heartburn.
It is hence advisable for a pregnant woman to have smaller yet frequent meals, drinking plenty of fluids, eat fresh fruits, vegetables, cereals and preservative -free foods. They must take care to avoid eating fatty and very spicy foods.
5. Dizziness: Feeling faint or dizzy is quite a common during pregnancy. Pregnant women can find that if they are sitting or standing in the same posture for a long time they feel dizzy, and may even faint for short periods. This happens, due to the release of pregnancy hormones which causes the blood vessels to relax and widen improving the flow of blood to the developing baby in the uterus. As a result, the flow of blood around the expecting mother’s body can slow down leading to hypotension or low blood pressure.
These spells subside after the first three months of pregnancy. Nonetheless, feeling faint can, sometimes, be much more serious. If the feeling does not pass by drinking water eating, taking things slowly as you stand, it is advised to see your Doctor or a midwife.
6. Varicose veins: Varicose veins are raised veins which swell or twist as they fill with abnormal amounts of blood. These can be seen on the surface of the skin. They are generally found on the lower leg and calf area, but pregnant women can get cases of varicose veins on other areas of the body too.
The primary cause of varicose veins is the release of the pregnancy hormone progesterone. This causes the walls of your veins to relax and widen. The added pressure of the uterus demands increased blood supply for the growing fetus and this does not help either.
Though a family history of varicose veins can increase your chances of inheriting this problem during pregnancy there are several precautions that can be taken to prevent or reduce its severity. They include:
- Regular exercise
- Raising your legs while sitting
- Avoid wearing high heel shoes
- Not sitting for long periods of time
- Regular ankle and foot exercises and
- Wearing supportive hosiery.
7. Nosebleeds, nasal stuffiness, bleeding gums: These are part of the hormonal changes, that happen in the women's body during this time, which affect the ear, mouth and nose.
8. Breast tenderness: Into 10 weeks of pregnancy you may find that your breasts become a bit tender. Some women even find some visible changes starting to occur in their breasts. It can help to change your bra. Wearing natural materials like cotton and avoiding any underwire bras are strongly advised. Daily moisturizing and gentle massage may help a bit.
9. Ache around the pelvic area: Now that the embryo has implanted itself on the lining of the uterus and your menstrual cycle stops, the walls of the uterus softens. This is so that the embryo can firmly become embedded and the uterus can start to grow to support the fetus. At the same time the mucus in the cervix thickens and a ball- like layer forms around the embryo protecting it. This is the beginning of the placenta. All these preliminary changes taking place in your body can cause some slight aches around the pelvic area.
10. Food Cravings and aversions: Many women during their first trimester find they suddenly have cravings for certain foods. At times these foods may not even be items they very much cared for in the past. Pickles, chocolates, broccoli, cheese, apple tarts, the list goes on and on. For each women the food craving can be quite unique.
At the same time there may be certain foods that a women may be averse to during pregnancy. Some common ones are garlic, onions, raw salad, fish smells, meat smells or any strong smells.
11. Tiredness: Is a common complaint during the first trimester. Many women find that they are totally sapped of energy by the end of mid-day. This sudden loss of energy is a result of the many changes taking place in the body. Usually by the end of the 13th week most women find they start to feel much better.
Watching your diet and eating iron rich food like dates, green leafy vegetables, wholegrain cereals and pulses to make sure you don’t become anemic. Having vitamin C in your diet can further help your body to absorbed iron from your diet. Drinking a glass of orange juice or eating oranges is good.
- Pregnancy - Version (II) Dec. 2009.
- Conception pregnancy and birth, by Dr. Miriam Stoppard, Revised version 2008
- Practical Parenting Pregnancy and Birth – Gill Thorn
- The best Friends Guide to mother hood – Vicki Lovine
- Ask A midwife – Catharine Parker Littler