A Facebook group that I am an Admin for has ‘Lives’ on pregnancy and birth topics every Monday evening (click HERE for details of the group!). Last Monday, I hosted a chat with my fellow group Admin, Amelia Parkinson from Wonder Birthing on the Discomforts of Early Pregnancy. It was a fun, informative discussion and I summarise what we covered below….
Early pregnancy is a strange time, you can feel a variety of symptoms and discomforts and all before you might be ready to share your news or be visibly pregnant. So what are the most common discomforts and how can you deal with them?
Bigger (and sore!) Boobs
This is often one of the first symptoms you’ll experience, sometimes even before you can take a test! It’s maybe the first physical change you experience and it can be pretty painful. There’s not much you can do to alleviate this discomfort but it is important to get refitted for a bra, and find bras that are wire-free and supportive. Regularly checking that your bras still fit throughout your pregnancy is good idea, your breast tissue is sensitive and changing all the time!
Changes in Taste/Smell
This can be another early symptom - women report knowing they were pregnant because they suddenly couldn’t bear the taste or smell of some food/drinks or they generally have a metallic taste in their mouth. There really isn’t much to do about this other than maybe steer clear of any unpleasant tasting things until your tastebuds return to normal.
This is a biggie, and it can be pretty miserable. But the good news is that there are a range of measures you can take to alleviate this discomfort. It’s important to stay as well nourished and hydrated as you can during this time. You may not feel like eating so try to make anything you do eat as nutritious as possible - really maximise your bang for your vitamin/mineral buck!!
Many women find relief using the travel sickness wristbands which work using acupressure, if you don’t have the bands then firmly pressing on the P6 point on the inside of your wrist may provide some relief. Similarly, acupuncture can help - depending on your symptoms you can expect to go 1-2 times a week for between 2-8 weeks. The advantage of these approaches is that nothing needs to be ingested when often that’s the last thing you want to do.
Another non-food remedy is light exercise. Of course you should listen to your body and rest when you need to but if you can manage it, doing some light exercise might be worth a try - the endorphins really do provide some relief.
Ginger is well known for easing the symptoms of nausea. There are a variety of ways to take it, you can get ginger lollipops, tea or biscuits or even use it in essential oil form. Mint and lemon can also be effective as essential oils - sometimes it helps to think a little creatively, I once had a client who had lemon essential oil in her hand cream and found it a great relief! It might sound counterintuitive but sour candy is said to be really helpful, no one really seems to know why but it’s anecdotally very successful. Other recommendations include regular protein, crackers, smoothies and a Vitamin B6 supplement.
Like I said, morning sickness is a biggie and different things work for different people, try a range of remedies and hang in there, it should pass after the first trimester.
If you get that first trimester tiredness then you know there’s nothing quite like it. It can be truly debilitating and it can be a little frustrating because, even though your body is really hard at work 24/7 you can still feel like you don’t have much to show for it. Paying attention to your nutrition and hydration are very important during this time, dehydration can exacerbate your tiredness. If you’re feeling exhausted the best thing to do is listen to your body, it really is working very hard to establish this pregnancy and rest is crucial. If you can’t or don’t like to take a nap in the day then even just resting or grabbing some quiet time is helpful. Take a look at your calendar and see if you can reduce your commitments - create opportunities for yourself to rest and make the most of them. And like morning sickness, this exhaustion should ease as you enter your second trimester.
This is more commonly reported as a discomfort in late pregnancy because of the increasing lack of space in your stomach - but hormonal changes in early pregnancy which relax your uterus also relax the valve at the top of your stomach. Common advice is to limit foods that aggravate heartburn, like caffeine, chocolate and spicy dishes. But other options include sleeping in a more upright position, staying mindful of good posture and wearing loose clothing.
Those hormonal changes and an increase in blood volume can make many women constipated in the first trimester. To combat this, it’s recommended to keep hydrated and increase the fibre in your diet. To avoid pressure and straining Amelia recommends keeping a loose jaw while on the toilet, this will keep your pelvic and bowel muscles relaxed (this is also a great tip for labour, by the way!).
There’s not much understanding around cravings during pregnancy. It is thought that some cravings are compensating for a nutrient required by your baby or your body and this does make sense, although no one is really sure. In general, cravings are not a cause for concern unless they are for unhealthy foods or for non-food items. How can cravings be reduced? Eating regularly throughout the day, ensuring you’re getting enough essential fatty acids, light exercise and lots of emotional support have been shown to help. Otherwise, try to make the best choice that you can (eg, switch ice cream for frozen yoghurt etc).
Changes in blood pressure, morning sickness and dehydration can all contribute to a feeling of dizziness during the first trimester. This is another symptom that requires you to pay attention! Obviously if you’re feeling dizzy you should sit or lie down until it passes but you can reduce the symptoms by staying hydrated and slowing your movements down.
Because we're all unique, different approaches might work for some and not others and you should discuss anything that causes you concern with your healthcare provider. Overall, a number of symptoms are reduced by taking care to eat well and stay hydrated, taking some light exercise and most importantly, listening to your body. Pregnancy is just the beginning of your parenting journey, remember to enjoy it among all those early discomforts, x