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First Trimester Realities

10 pregnancy symptoms you knew could happen, but never really expected to happen to you.

First Trimester Realities

Before conceiving, I thought I’d be one of those earth-mother types who would instantly start radiating from the inside out. From what the media (and even more-so social media) depicts about pregnant women, I was under the impression (perhaps delusional?) that this would be me from the get-go too. I had of course heard about the early cliche pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness, etc., however the greater emphasis is usually put on the glorified parts. Maybe for some that radiating actually happens out of the gate. But for most women, the reality of the first trimester looks nothing like this at all. I mean not even a slight resemblance.

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Have you ever imagined what it would be like to have the flu for 2 months straight? Probably not, because that would be the WORST THING EVER! Well this was my warm welcome into pregnancy. There were consecutive days when I could barely leave the couch, and pajamas became my standing uniform. I give boatloads of credit to women who work demanding 9-5,6,7? jobs and somehow get their asses to work every day, dressed in appropriate attire, makeup in check. And the real superheros in this universe are women who work these rigid schedules, and already have a kid(s) to take care of at home.

In those early days when I felt like the only person in the world who was struggling. But that's not true. So here's 10 of the less glorified parts of pregnancy that may be part of your first-trimester reality.

1. Fatigue. Think about the most tired you’ve ever been in your life. Now multiply it by 1,000 and it’s still not even close to how tired you will be in your first trimester. While doctors and friends assure you that this will pass come your second trimester, it doesn’t matter because you’re tired today and there is nothing you can do about it. My recommendations include laying low, keeping plans very loose, accepting that you may need to cancel commitments, and resting as much as you can. You will never regain the time back to nurture your body the way it needs during a pregnancy so take advantage of the moments you have to relax. And don’t feel bad about it either. You are creating human life, and the first trimester is the most critical time for development. Take the time you need.

2. Nausea. Fortunately, I never threw up. But I constantly felt like I could. Low-grade nausea plagued me daily. There were even times when I had to bypass taking my prenatal vitamins because I would gag when I tried. There really isn’t any way around being nauseous in the early days when your hormones are on the rise, but there is one thing that can help: eat. Keeping your stomach full (not overly so) can take the edge off and ensure your blood sugar stays intact. My favorite on-the-go snacks included:

● Apples

● Oranges

● Cucumber (w/ a little salt)

● Gluten Free Pretzels

Puffins Gluten Free Cereal

● Kind Healthy Grain Bars

● Lara Bars

3. Dizziness. When pregnant, your cardiovascular system is undergoing traumatic changes. The amount of blood in your body increases by 40-45 percent, and your heart rate goes up, pumping more blood which the majority of goes to the baby. This can slow the return of blood to you. As a result, your blood pressure goes down and there is less flowing to your brain, which causes the dizziness. Sit down if you’re feeling faint and put your head between legs. And if you you are at home, lie down on your left side. This helps move the blood back to your heart. Keep moving to maintain healthy circulation. Low blood sugar could also be another reason for the dizziness, so make sure to eat regularly and bring snacks when on the go. Stay hydrated by carrying around a water bottle (I use this one). Exercise is always important for maintaining healthy circulation.

4. Shortness of Breath. I’m not in good shape, however I don’t usually get out of breath when let’s say, I’m making the bed! Even little activities actually knocked the wind out of me during my first trimester. According to BabyCenter, “ An increase in hormones, particularly progesterone, directly affects your lungs and stimulates the respiratory center in your brain. And while the number of breaths you take per minute actually changes very little during pregnancy, the amount of air you inhale and exhale with each breath increases significantly.” I can’t express how much you need to take it easy (especially if you’re working out) and in the moments where you’re feeling a lack of air - pause and take deep inhales and exhales (inhale - count to 5 - exhale - count to 5). Fill your body up with as much oxygen as possible and take a moment to let it circulate. The shortness of breath only increases into your second trimester while your bump puts more pressure on your diaphragm, so make sure to breathe deep.

5. Headaches. Some women experience what I call a “pregnancy headache,” likely caused by the changing hormones and increase in bloodflow. Although most doctors say Tylenol is fine (contact yours first before taking anything), I steered clear of medication because of the excess I had to take during my IVF process. If you are not taking medication and you get a pregnancy headache, lay down, close your eyes and go to bed! Drink a ton of water, and if the pain is that great, put an ice-pack or bag of frozen peas on your head. A massage/tickle from your partner doesn’t hurt either. It helps the release of endorphins which causes euphoria and pleasure, and can help you relax. Another key thing to stay aware of is what you are eating because food/caffeine can trigger headaches too. Keeping a food diary will help track potential causes. Check out The Mayo Clinic, which has a bunch of recommendations for avoiding headaches all together.

6. Emotional/Depression/Anxiety. This past year was full of ups and downs for me, especially since the process of conceiving included fertility treatments. When I finally found out I was pregnant, I thought for sure I’d be over the moon and all of my sadness, frustration and defeat would disappear. WRONG! Pregnancy takes your hormones on a roller coaster ride and if you’re an already sensitive person (like me), expect it to be supersonic. Especially in your first trimester. It also doesn’t help when you perpetually don’t feel well, and that could depress anyone. Being pregnant is also scary! The plan to have a baby and the reality of being pregnant are two completely different things. It can bring up tons of emotions which lead to anxious and/or depressing thoughts and this is all very normal. Know that you are not alone, and like I mentioned, continue to remind yourself that everything you are feeling is natural. Unfortunately, 33% of women do face clinical depression/anxiety during pregnancy, and if you think this may be you, there are ways to seek help.

7. Hunger. If there was a theme song playing throughout my first trimester, it would be “Hungry Like the Wolf”, because that is exactly how I felt. I pretty much had to eat every 1-2 hours and if I didn’t get something in my stomach before that window of time, I’d start to feel faint, nauseous and dizzy. Before getting pregnant, I imagined my diet to consist of tons of veggies and fruits, lean meats, and fish (per recommended amount), but you can throw that all out the window in your first trimester. I ate what I craved, and that’s it -- tons of carbs, minimal veggies, a little more sugar than I had hoped, ginger ale (regular, not diet), surprisingly red meat, and (luckily) oranges. I recommend keeping food handy. Pack snacks in your bag and always have something to nibble on in case you are not home and reach the witching hour before sh*t hits the fan.

8. Thirst. Parched as if you’ve been stuck in the sahara for a week, yes, that is how thirsty you will be in your first trimester. Staying hydrated is obviously important, so keep a water bottle handy so you can constantly quench your thirst. While water is not very exciting when you’re pregnant and craving anything from macaroni and cheese to pizza (or maybe that’s just me), I add lemon to my water for flavor. And club soda is a solid alternative too.

9. Sense of Smell. A heightened sense of smell could possibly have been one of the worst symptoms I faced, caused by the increase in estrogen. Before I got pregnant, I started to make my own cocoa body butter, and ordered so much cocoa/shea butter and oils that it now takes up an entire bottom row of a cabinet in the kitchen. I hooked my wife Dina onto it too. Cocoa butter has a very distinct smell, especially if you don’t buy it with chemicals or fragrance. And this is the smell that came back to haunt me once I conceived. Not only did I smell it constantly because Dina wore it, but I smell it every time I open the kitchen cabinet. I now have over $150 worth of ingredients to lotion up a small army, yet I cannot deal with even the slightest whiff. Unfortunately, it is difficult to escape smells, and no matter where you go or what you do, you will be faced with breathing in something that will make you want to run for the toilet to vomit. Something I read (which I didn’t do, but is genius) is carrying around a lemon so that in the event that you smell something that turns your stomach, you can whip it out and sniff it as a distraction.

10. It’s Already about Baby. If you think you’re going to spend the next 9.5 months getting your sleep, having dinner with friends and filling up your social calendar before your baby is born, you are sorely mistaken. From the moment the sperm meets the egg, and your magical being is conceived, your baby will be the main priority in your life. That means lots of sleep, downtime, an adjusted diet, no booze, minimum caffeine and a whole lot of energy spent nurturing the little one inside. Things change from the moment the seed is planted.

Image source.

By its very nature, motherhood requires some lifestyle adjustments: Instead of staying up late with friends, you get up early for snuggles with your baby. Instead of spontaneous date nights with your honey, you take afternoon family strolls with your little love. Instead of running out of the house with just your keys and phone, you only leave with a fully loaded diaper bag.

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With countless hours spent breastfeeding, pumping and bottle-feeding, the editors at Motherly know the secret to success is having dependable supplies that can help you feed your baby in a way that matches lifestyle.

Here are 9 breastfeeding and pumping products to help you no matter what the day holds.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's electric pump

For efficient, productive pumping sessions, a double electric breast pump will help you get the job done as quickly as possible. Quiet for nighttime pumping sessions and compact for bringing along to work, this double pump puts you in control with fully adjustable settings.

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Hands-Free Pumping Bra

Dr. Brown''s hands free pumping bra

Especially in the early days, feeding your baby can feel like a pretty consuming task. A hands-free pumping bra will help you reclaim some of your precious time while pumping—and all mamas will know just how valuable more time can be!

$29.99

Manual Breast Pump with SoftShape™ Silicone Shield

Dr. Brown's manual breast pump

If you live a life that sometimes takes you away from electrical outlets (that's most of us!), then you'll absolutely want a manual breast pump in your arsenal. With two pumping modes to promote efficient milk expression and a comfort-fitted shield, a manual pump is simply the most convenient pump to take along and use. Although it may not get as much glory as an electric pump, we really appreciate how quick and easy this manual pump is to use—and how liberating it is not to stress about finding a power supply.

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Nipple Shields and Sterilization Case

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There is a bit of a learning curve to breastfeeding—for both mamas and babies. Thankfully, even if there are some physical challenges (like inverted nipples or a baby's tongue tie) or nursing doesn't click right away, silicone nipple shields can be a huge help. With a convenient carry case that can be sterilized in the microwave, you don't have to worry about germs or bacteria either. 🙌

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Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's silicone pump

When you are feeding your baby on one breast, the other can still experience milk letdown—which means it's a golden opportunity to save some additional milk. With a silent, hands-free silicone pump, you can easily collect milk while nursing.

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Breast to Bottle Pump & Store Feeding Set

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Washable Breast Pads

washable breast pads

Mamas' bodies are amazingly made to help breast milk flow when it's in demand—but occasionally also at other times. Especially as your supply is establishing or your breasts are fuller as the length between feeding sessions increase, it's helpful to use washable nursing pads to prevent breast milk from leaking through your bra.

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Breast Milk Storage Bags

Dr. Brown's milk storage bags

The essential for mamas who do any pumping, breast milk storage bags allow you to easily and safely seal expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Brown's™ Breast Milk Storage Bags take it even further with extra thick walls that block out scents from other food items and feature an ultra secure lock to prevent leaking.

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Watch one mama's review of the new Dr. Brown's breastfeeding line here:

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

Comforts fruit snacks

If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

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When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

comforts nite pants

Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

Becoming a mother has been life-changing. It's been hard, tiring, gratifying, beautiful, challenging, scary and a thousand other things that only a parent would ever understand.

It is these life-changing experiences that have inspired me to draw my everyday life as a stay at home mom. Whether it's the mundane tasks like doing laundry or the exciting moments of James', my baby boy's, first steps, I want to put it down on paper so that I can better cherish these fleeting moments that are often overlooked.

Being a stay-at-home-mom can be incredibly lonely. I like to think that by drawing life's simple moments, I can connect with other mothers and help them feel less alone. By doing this, I feel less alone, too. It's a win-win situation and I have been able to connect with many lovely parents and fellow parent-illustrators through my Instagram account.

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