Written by Lara Taylor, Specialist Midwife
So, you’ve recently found out you’re pregnant and I’m sure you’re experiencing a mix of emotions: excitement, anxiety, and maybe even a little bit fearful, because you’re really not sure what to expect! Well, let me help prepare you for one of the most challenging and empowering times of your life.
One of the first things you may have already noticed are changes to your body: you may need to go to the toilet a little more frequently, your breasts might feel tender and appear swollen and you could be experiencing nausea and possibly vomiting while you patiently wait for the biggest tell-tale sign of pregnancy, your growing tummy.
As a midwife I find being aware of these symptoms early in pregnancy can be super helpful, to give reassurance and to help reduce any anxieties you might be experiencing. I’ve also included my top tips to help deal with some of those symptoms and give yourself the best chance of having a happy pregnancy. They come from my own experience, holistic practitioners, and fellow medical professionals I’ve worked alongside, but mainly listening to those I’ve cared for, and understanding what has helped them. I really hope they can help you too!
Let’s first take a look at the powerful, if not mysterious chemicals found in the body, hormones. Think of these as the body’s own little messengers, sending information between the tissues and organs of the body. They’re crucial in helping prepare the body for your developing baby, and for the birth process too. So, although they can make you feel awful at times, we have such a lot to thank them for.
In the early stages of pregnancy oestrogen, progesterone and HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) are collectively responsible for helping to maintain your pregnancy, however, their rapid increase can bring on many symptoms.
Lara’s top tips:
- Make your own fresh ginger tea. Slice into boiling water and let it infuse. Use a slice of fresh ginger and inhale the aroma.
- Mix one drop of orange or grapefruit essential oil, with a teaspoon of carrier oil and massage into the feet 3 times a day*.
- Using these oils in a diffuser or on a tissue can help when nausea is bought on by the smell of certain foods.
- Eat little and often…having an empty stomach can bring on nausea.
- Keep that fluid Intake up.
- Get some fresh air!
Even though we don’t actually know what causes it, most likely it’s due to rapidly increasing hormones and in particular HCG. Now whilst feeling nauseous is quite normal, if you find yourself constantly vomiting and notice that you’re producing little or no urine, you should contact your midwife or health provider so they can check you’re not dehydrated.
Fatigue is one of the most common early pregnancy symptoms with progesterone being mainly responsible. Although when we think of the work the body is carrying out to develop your baby, it’s really no wonder we need more rest. So, listen to and respect your body…and enjoy the extra rest before those interrupted nights arrive.
Lara’s top tip: It’s always good to talk.
Headaches in early pregnancy are common and whilst frustrating for you, rarely cause any harm to your developing baby. They are most likely caused by not only the sudden rise of hormone levels, but also by the increase in blood volume, which is required by the body to help meet the needs of your baby. Making sure you're getting enough sleep and plenty of hydration is key to preventing headaches, but if you’re really struggling you can take paracetamol. If you’re looking for a more natural approach, try...
Lara’s top tips:
- Use a cold compress on the back of the neck or a warm compress around your eyes.
- Peppermint or Lavender essential oil in a diffuser Deep breathing. In for 4 and out for 7.
- Massaging the temples, around the eyes and the back of the neck.
However, if you experience a frontal headache, you have changes to your vision, along with sudden swelling, then it’s important to get checked out as it could be a sign of pre-eclampsia.
That increase in blood volume may also be the reason you’re feeling dizzy and lightheaded too. This can happen because the blood circulating around your body is working hard to help supply your baby’s needs too, making it harder for blood and oxygen to reach the brain as fast as usual. To help reduce those instances of feeling faint, avoid getting up quickly, be sure to keep hydrated and have some healthy snacks, to give yourself a little boost throughout the day.
Lara’s top tip: Ask your Midwife to make sure you’ve had your iron levels checked and be aware of the results. Increase those Iron rich foods like green leafy veg, beans, nuts, and red meat.
Breast changes are more than a feeling of tenderness and an increase in size. They may feel tingly, and you might notice veins are more visible as the structure of the breast changes to enable the production of breast milk. Your nipples can feel sore, and your areola may darken and increase in size.
Lara’s top tip: It’s a good idea to look at more supportive bras in the first trimester… and no it’s not too early!
Food cravings or food aversions can happen at any time when pregnant and can be quite sporadic. ‘Go with it’, listen to your body but make sure you’re taking the necessary nutrients daily to keep you and your baby healthy.
For some a small amount of light spotting, known as implantation bleeding, can occur around 10 to 14 days after conception. It’s usually around the time of your period and happens when the fertilised egg attaches to the lining of the uterus. If you experience heavy bleeding during your first trimester, contact the hospital at which you’re booked, or your Midwife.
You might find you’re visiting the toilet to urinate more frequently. Although it’s common throughout pregnancy, in the first trimester it’s down to the hormone changes and that increase in blood volume, giving your kidneys a little extra work to do. They filter and process this extra fluid before flushing it out via the bladder. Later on, in pregnancy that urgency to go to the toilet can increase, not only because your baby is growing and putting pressure on the bladder, but because your pelvic floor muscles are under strain.
Lara’s top tip: Start to strengthen those pelvic floor muscles without delay, and don’t reduce your water intake for fear of more trips to the toilet!
Backache and pelvic pain are also common complaints in early pregnancy, with the hormone Relaxin being responsible for this discomfort. Found in the ovaries and placenta, this hormone’s job is to relax and soften the muscles, joints, and ligaments to help make room for your growing baby. Strength training can really help ease this discomfort with 2 sessions per week being recommended by the NHS.
Lara’s top tip: Pilates is a great introduction, but ensure you have an instructor qualified to teach and support you in pregnancy.
Now you may have experienced all, some, or none of these symptoms and that is perfectly normal… our pregnancies are individual to each of us. You may feel exhausted by the changes and feel that your body is not your own, but these symptoms usually subside by around 13 weeks as you head into the 2nd trimester. Remember that these symptoms are a result of the amazing work your body is doing to develop and grow your baby. To say our bodies are miraculous is an understatement!!
If you are ever worried or concerned about any aspect of your pregnancy, please speak to your Midwife or healthcare provider.
*NB. The three essential oils mentioned above are safe to use in the first trimester of pregnancy, although not to be Ingested. Please check with a professional or aromatherapist before introducing other essential oils during pregnancy.
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