First trimester facts and fiction

The first trimester of pregnancy’s a time of physical and emotional changes. And they’re happening unseen inside of you. By Natalie Egling

You may not look pregnant – even if your jeans are starting to get a little tight – but you’ll certainly be feeling it. Your first trimester’s a time of excitement, pride and new beginnings. But it’s not all glow: “The most common early-pregnancy misconception I see is that a mom-to-be expects to feel great from the get-go,” says Alinta Munro, midwife and co-founder of BornOnline, an online antenatal service. “But this is the time they’ll feel most fatigued during their pregnancy. It’s absolutely normal to feel exhausted,” she adds.

Number crunching

Your first trimester is from week one to the end of week 12. But did you know that during week one and two of a full-term 40-week pregnancy you’re not actually pregnant? These weeks are counted as part of your pregnancy, but they’re the weeks before actual conception.

In his book, Your Pregnancy MD: The First Trimester, Dr James W. Brann explains: “Although the day of conception is literally when you first became pregnant, doctors don’t think that way. It’s too imprecise.” He goes on to say that, “There is no sure-fire way of knowing which day you actually ovulated and conceived, because there are many variables that come into play to complicate ovulation. Doctors calculate the start of your pregnancy with the first day of your last menstrual period.”

According to Dr Brann, most women don’t know their estimated day of conception, “but they can often pinpoint the date of their last period to calculate pregnancy. A regular menstrual cycle is 28 days and most women ovulate around two weeks (or 14 days) after their period begins. So your estimated date of conception is likely two weeks after your period.”

Most women first realise they’re pregnant during week four, writes Dr Brann. Therefore, it’s common to be concerned that you ate soft cheese, drank a glass or two of wine or changed the cat litter because you didn’t yet know that you were pregnant. More often than not, unknowingly committing these pregnancy don’ts won’t affect your pregnancy negatively. But mention it to your healthcare provider if you’re worried.

Signs and symptoms

“Many women under my care first realise they’re pregnant because they experience one or all of these symptoms: sore breasts, increased breast size, tiredness, vomiting and feeling nauseous, a missed period and always feeling hungry,” says Munro.

Hormonal changes are most dramatic during your first trimester. They cause most of your early-pregnancy woes, or ‘woo hoos’ – bigger breasts, woo hoo!

Feeling tired? Blame it on a spike in the hormone progesterone and the rate at which your body’s working to create a little person. Your unborn baby develops all of his organs during this trimester and your body‘s providing to his every need. So it’s no wonder you’re feeling the effects of it.

Progesterone’s also to blame for constipation in the early weeks. This hormone causes digestion to slow down. It gives your body more time to absorb essential nutrients, which it passes on to your baby.

It’s also normal to suffer from heartburn at this early stage. In the first-trimester, heartburn’s a symptom of the valve between your stomach and your gullet relaxing. During the final stages of your pregnancy, your growing baby pushing up against your intestines causes heartburn.

Going to the loo all the time is another sign that you’re pregnant. This is due to your uterus expanding. It’s important to wee whenever you get the urge. This helps prevent urinary tract infections. Increased urination will continue until your baby is born.

Nausea can start from as early as three weeks after conception. “Morning sickness can happen at any stage of the day or even all day and night,” confirms Munro. Morning sickness will most probably become less frequent or even stop as you move into your second trimester. Although uncomfortable, these early-pregnancy niggles can be relieved through dietary and other lifestyle changes. Talk to your healthcare provider about any symptom that you worry about.

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3

Your first trimester brings with it a number of tests to check that the pregnancy’s progressing safely, as well as to determine whether you or your baby needs special care. You’ll go for ultrasounds to check the positioning of the placenta and the baby, how many babies you’re carrying, if the baby’s growing as expected and to detect any abnormalities. Also, you’ll need to undergo both blood and urine tests. If you’re wary of needles, now is a good time to face this fear head on.

At your first antenatal visit, your healthcare provider will check your body mass index (BMI) to determine whether you’re in a healthy weight range or not. Women who are overweight may have a higher risk of pregnancy-related problems.

At each visit, you’ll be asked to provide a mid-stream urine sample. This is used to check for a number of indicators like proteins, ketones or bacteria. Also, if you’re indulging in one too many squares of chocolate, your healthcare provider will be able to tell by the glucose levels in your urine.

Your blood pressure will also be checked at each visit. Low blood pressure’s common during your first trimester – you’ll have a low-pressure result if you feel light-headed a lot during the first weeks.

Blood samples are drawn to determine your blood type and to find out whether you’re rhesus positive or negative. If you’re negative, your healthcare provider will discuss the risk of rhesus disease with you. Blood tests are also done to check for syphilis, hepatitis B and C, HIV, your susceptibility to rubella and the first-trimester screening for Down’s syndrome.

Did you know?

Prenatal tests aren’t compulsory. It’s entirely your choice. But knowing the results allows you to make informed decisions throughout your pregnancy.

Emotionally driven

You’ll experience a rollercoaster of emotions during your first trimester: While hormones will drive moods and feelings, the reality of pregnancy could leave you feeling frightened, excited, unprepared and elated all before breakfast.


scroll to top

Send this to a friend