First Trimester Recap | The good, the bad and the ugly

Grey felt folder with Baby Caton Maternity Notes personalised on the front.

Well, I’ve officially waved goodbye to the first trimester and entered into a whole new realm of pregnancy called, the SECOND trimester. 

It’s fair to say, the first trimester was harder than I imagined. Whether you’ve planned for your pregnancy or it was unexpected; and whether that planned pregnancy was a breeze to conceive or was a rollercoaster of a journey, I think we all have an idea of what pregnancy would be like: some exhaustion, maybe a little sickness, and lots of cravings – they were the three key symptoms I was led to believe every pregnant woman would experience, based on what I heard, read and even watched on TV.

What you don’t hear or see enough of however, is how mentally and physically draining the first trimester is, but also how incredibly lonely it can be at times. Don’t get me wrong, I have a great support group – the number one being my husband. However, when you’re feeling extremely low or anxious, or symptoms have come on very strong one day, it doesn’t matter how much that support person is there for you, you can still feel incredibly lonely, because you’re trapped with whatever is going on in your mind. 

The first trimester is tricky, as you’re still at risk of early miscarriage which is sadly so common at this stage. Because of this, you’re not given much antenatal support in the first trimester. I can understand (to a degree) why that’s the case, but when they say “don’t stress” as a way to prevent early miscarriage, that limited support doesn’t help anyone. 

Grey felt folder with Baby Caton Maternity Notes personalised on the front.
Personalised maternity notes folder from Etsy – shop here.

The big one: symptoms

I always imagined I’d find out I was pregnant by suddenly being sick one morning and instantly thinking, “oh my gosh, I’m pregnant!” – that seems to be how the movies show it. But no, it was not like that at all. I had a lot of symptoms throughout the first trimester, some of which stuck with me from day one and still to this day, and others which came on suddenly and vanished within a matter of days. Below are the symptoms I suffered with in the order they first appeared. 

Symptom 1: Hip pain and lower back ache

This was my first symptom and lasted weeks. This started around one week before finding out I was pregnant and would start with a dull ache and then move into a sharp-ish pain which would move right down to my bone. This lasted from week 3 through to week 6, then returned in week 12 – just as I’m closing off this chapter. 

Symptom 2: Breast tenderness

This started around the time PMS would, of course, leave me wondering, “is this my period coming or a sign I’m pregnant?” – the same question I asked myself for over a year. This lasted around three to four weeks and was coupled with a lot of fullness and resulted in me ditching bras whenever possible. Nipple stickers have become my new best friend – I can’t remember the last time I wore a bra now!

Symptom 3: Bloating

Oh my, the bloating was bad. I looked six months pregnant from around week 4 through to week 8 with how much bloating I suffered with. It was incredibly uncomfortable, made wearing my normal clothes a pain, and I struggled to hide it at a time when it was still so early for us to announce anything.

Symptom 4: Exhaustion

I’ve never been one to nap in the middle of the day, but since day one, I’ve pretty much craved naps – not food. Fortunately, I work from home which has made resting and recovering during the first trimester a whole lot easier. But between week 4 to week 9, I struggled to sleep during the day. I think it was just so unusual for me that trying to take a nap left my body confused. But from week 10, my body soon got the message that it’s not that I wanted the nap anymore, I needed it. The tiredness stuck with me during every waking hour with mini boosts of energy coming after a yoga session or eating some strawberries. I don’t think this symptom is going anywhere in the second trimester. 

Symptom 5: Skin breakout

I had heard about “pregnancy glow” beforehand, but didn’t know when this would likely happen (I’m now aware it’s more likely to happen in your third trimester). But although I definitely did not get it in my first trimester, what I did not expect was the amount of breakouts I would get. My chest, shoulders, neck, chin and forehead were covered for weeks. By week 9 however, this cleared up nicely and I’ve been left with smooth skin and even reduced redness. Let’s hope it stays this way now.

Symptom 6: Food aversions

I hoped this day wouldn’t come, as I do love my food, but from week 6 I established a few food and drink items which I would be left dry heaving over. They were: mushrooms, red peppers, any hot drink, eggs, baked beans and the one that upset me most… garlic. Some of these became manageable in small doses such as hot drinks – I’m capable of a hot chocolate every now and then, but not tea or coffee. But garlic, the smell and taste just turns my stomach. I hope this isn’t permanent.

Symptom 7: Prominent veins

My calves were the first place I spotted prominent veins – they appeared larger and more blue. These then started to appear across my chest also, which I read was a common body change as the weeks go on.

Symptom 8: Morning sickness

Oh boy, this was definitely the one I wanted to avoid like most women I assume, but it slapped me in the face for sure. Around week 6 is when the nausea began and one or two occasions where I was actually sick. That I could cope with and only lasted two weeks. Then, from week 9 the morning sickness came on strong. This lasted around five days and then I felt great again. Then in week 11 it returned, but this time I was advised by my GP that it was like a “flu” symptom rather than morning sickness due to me catching Covid and suffering with that for just under a week. After that, I didn’t have any more sickness.

Symptom 9: Vertigo

This was tricky for me to gauge whether it was pregnancy-related or not as I have suffered with BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo) for a year and a half before conceiving, so it wasn’t anything new for me to experience this. However, it’s how sudden it came on and coupled with the morning sickness that appeared the very same day that made me think, “hmm, maybe this one is down to hormones”. Vertigo is when you feel the room spinning quite intensely when you’re perfectly still. Some pregnant women get this when they stand up too fast or have stood for too long for example. BPPV, however, comes on when you lie down. I mainly suffer with it when I lie on either side, but have also had it come on when I tilt my head back in the shower or even over the bath to wash my hair for example – anything which involves me tilting my head causes the room to spin when I’m suffering an episode of this. This came on at week 9 and lasted roughly two weeks.

Symptom 10: Attitude adjustment

Would you class this as a symptom? Either way, I’ve noticed how blunt or straight to the point I have become – more so at work rather than in my personal life. To be honest, there’s nothing wrong with this and I like it, as I used to just accept the additional workload and figured, “well I guess it needs to get done”. But over the final month of the first trimester, I pretty much said no to everything I disagreed with, refused to take on additional work when it wasn’t necessary, and spoke my mind very easily when people I worked with were a cause of concern. I feel like this has come on more because I don’t want anything affecting my pregnancy i.e. stress, and given I’ve already had to take seven weeks of stress leave from work earlier this year, I don’t want to reach that point again when I’m trying to enjoy a healthy and safe pregnancy. So, this will continue to stay with me!

I’d say they’re the bulk of my symptoms from the first trimester. There’s probably been some other things that have come and gone within 24 hours, but the above ten outstayed their welcome on a few occasions. 

It’s sad that I’m exiting the first trimester without having had our dating scan yet, but catching Covid meant we had to delay this – typical timing. But, we have our scan on Friday and I can’t wait to see Baby Caton.

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