Surviving the First Trimester (Tips for a Holistic Natural Pregnancy)
Updated: Jun 1
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The first trimester can be BRUTAL! I seriously was not prepared for how hard it was. I’ve titled this post Surviving the First Trimester intentionally, as I feel like I and many other women enter into survival mode during the first trimester! In the first trimester, women usually experience nausea, fatigue, food aversions, breast tenderness, constipation, and a handful of other fun symptoms.
To be fair, every woman’s pregnancy is very different, and my experience is likely different from yours. Some women vomit daily, and others have very little or no nausea at all! I believe myself, and many other women fall into the middle of these two extremes in that there is nauseous and exhaustion, but rarely vomit and we’re still able to function.
Tips for Survival:
1. Have Grace for yourself.
This sounds cliche, but hear me out! Your body is doing THE MOST during the first trimester! Maybe you’re not externally productive, but internal productivity is off the charts! Your body is growing a baby, which requires a LOT! Your body is not only growing a baby, but it is also adjusting to being pregnant, meaning building a placenta, the uterus is growing and shifting positions, and your breasts are swelling to become ready to make milk. So much is happening! Have a lot of grace for yourself. On those days when you feel like you’re only able to operate at 20% of your normal capacity, remind yourself that 80% of your energy is going to grow a baby internally!
2. Learn your nausea triggers
Learning what triggers nausea can be very helpful because you can learn to avoid them. For me, it was any strong smells, hunger/a dip in blood sugar and certain kinds of toothpaste. I adjusted accordingly to mitigate these triggers. I shared these triggers with my husband, and that was a huge help as well. If/when there was a strong smell in our house (such as a dog that had rolled in poo), he could take care of it, knowing it would make me sick. I switched toothpaste brands, AND I learned to eat small (usually bland) meals about every 2 hours, which leads me to my next point.
3. Eat small and frequent meals
My personal theory is that nausea became worse whenever my blood sugar would begin to drop after a meal. Because I also had aversions to 90% of proteins, blood sugar was especially hard to keep steady as my meals were mostly carbs. I learned that eating small meals about every 2 hours helped keep nausea at bay.
4. Ask for help
Have a conversation with your partner or another support person(s) in your life about what you need. Allow others to support you during this time. Cleaning the kitchen, folding the laundry, or preparing a meal can feel like monumentally impossible tasks to achieve! Ask your partner/support person(s) to step in and help. Asking for help can be hard, but I found that the people that really love you want to help and support you however they can!
I’m lucky enough that I work a part-time job from the comfort of my home, which allowed me the time and space I needed when I was sick and exhausted. If you work in an office or other setting, that might mean telling your coworker or supervisor about your pregnancy a bit early, as you may need extra support during the first trimester. If you have a good relationship with your coworkers, this can be hugely helpful! However, do whatever you feel the most comfortable with.
5. Prioritize rest.
Your body is fatigued for a reason. It’s undertaking a huge task! When you can, rest. Take those midday, lunch hour naps, go to bed earlier, and wake up later. If you're working and need a break to rest, take it. Your body absolutely needs it!
6. Follow your cravings
Following cravings is sometimes just necessary to get the calories that you need. Sometimes that’s all you can do to eat for the day. But, I also think that our bodies have cravings for a reason. Craving ice cream? Your body might be needing extra fat intake for the baby-building process. Craving chocolate? Maybe your body needs magnesium. Craving something salty? Your body might need sodium. I also experience non-junk food cravings such as seafood, and chopped salad. You better believe I went out and found some seafood and made a chopped salad. My body needed those nutrients!
7. Stock up on foods that you can still eat
Food aversions were a symptom I was NOT expecting. I just woke up one morning around 6 weeks pregnant and suddenly hated the idea of even smelling 90% of the food in our house. I remember attempting to move on and eat my regular breakfast of eggs, hoping that the food aversion was just in my head and would go away after I started eating. It did not. I got down one bite of eggs after gagging and then nearly vomited that up. Eggs were out. Learning what I could and could not stomach was a learning curve that led to a bit of weight loss and LOTS of nausea as I just wasn’t eating enough. However, I discovered a handful of safe foods that I learned to keep on hand, such as cereal, popsicles, spaghetti, chips, and salsa. Not the most nutrient-dense foods, but again, survival was the priority. I just focused on buying organic, and eating more nutrient-dense foods when I could stomach them. Even though my diet left much to be desired, I knew that at the end of the day, I had done what I could, taken my prenatal, AND I had prepared for pregnancy months in advance to ensure my body was well-nourished going into pregnancy.
Check out my post here on 4 Steps to Prepare for a Holistic Pregnancy
8. Do what you can when you can.
Going to the gym regularly was out of the question for me. Eating nutrient-dense foods was also apparently off the table. BUT I could usually squeeze in a little walk every day, and there were usually a few times during the week when something besides a white carb sounded good. I took these opportunities when I could squeeze in some movement and protein. It wasn’t much, but it was what I could do, and that’s ok!
Other things I did that were helpful:
1. Magnesium spray/lotion
This may or may not have actually helped me, but I saw somewhere (it may or may not have been tik tok) that supplementing with magnesium was supposed to alleviate nausea. So of course, without doing any more research I immediately began using topical magnesium and taking a lot of Epsom salt baths. I opted for a homemade magnesium lotion and spray, but you can also purchase magnesium butter online. Here’s a link to a good one.
I was about 10 weeks pregnant at this time, and that is when the nausea began to lift for me. It may have been the magnesium or it might have just been I was nearing the end of my first trimester. Take that information and do what you will.
2. Keeping other beverages in the fridge such as tea or lemonade
I of course developed a fun food aversion to water (cue eye roll). Ice water was easier to drink than tap water, but they were both a struggle for me. One thing that really helped me stay hydrated was keeping homemade iced tea and lemonade in my refrigerator. I found a glass dispenser at Goodwill (here’s a similar one) and would pre-make sweet teas and lemonade. I prefer to stay away from white sugar so I usually used either honey or coconut sugar. I also enjoyed mixing up the kind of tea I used when I made sweet tea. Sometimes I did use the traditional black tea, but I also enjoyed using raspberry leaf tea, or a blend of herbal teas.
3. Move however much you can when you can
I already kind of mentioned this, but it really was incredibly helpful, so I‘ll bring it up again! The days that I moved more, as opposed to sitting all day are the days I felt the best. The days I spent all day either on the couch or in bed were the days I felt like I could vomit all day long. For whatever reason, moving helped me a LOT! For example, one day I spent the day hiking with friends, and felt 80% back to normal! Another day, I helped a friend build her garden (which involved building raised beds and shoveling multiple truckloads full of dirt), and again, I felt 80% back to normal! There were still moments of nausea during the day, but I was usually so busy that they seemed to pass within minutes. I was of course absolutely exhausted by the end of every day like this, BUT I had a great day! While this is not feasible for everyone, these days of heavy activity and movement taught me to incorporate as much movement into my day-to-day as possible.
I wrote this post as if the first trimester was behind me, however, at the time of writing I am currently only 11 weeks pregnant. Still fighting the daily battle of nausea, exhaustion, breast tenderness, and food aversions! But I know it gets better, and it will all be worth it in the end! What helped you in the first trimester? Let me know in the comments!