Whether you’re an experienced mama or a first-timer, there is always a bit of a rollercoaster that ensues between pregnancy test turning positive and the onset of pregnancy related symptoms. Every single person has a different experience, but lucky for me as a doctor, I’ve had the majority of “usual pregnancy symptoms” happen to me in one of my 3 pregnancies – giving me insider knowledge that I appreciate as it can help me help others… even if I curse them in the moment.
I’ll give a little run-down of the most common things, how to deal and when to worry here. More in depth posts will follow! And, as always, this is not personalized medical care here – ask your own health care provider for help on any issues.
There are women out there – I know because I’ve seen them in my clinic – who do not experience pregnancy-related nausea. If this is you, move on, you magical unicorn being, you. For the rest of us the nausea, oversensitivity to smells, food aversions and cravings and sometimes vomiting usually hits between 6-8 weeks of pregnancy and lasts until 14-16 weeks… or until birth for some of the really special ones of us.
Some simple tips can help minimize how bad it is, but by far, the most important thing, is to STAY AHEAD OF IT! The nausea feeds off itself. Do NOT try to tough this one out – the worse it gets, the worse it will get. Oh, ps. even though you’re not eating real meals, you may start to look like you just had a Thanksgiving feast thanks to the bloating – hooray!
- Eat all. the. time. Seriously, you should put some little bit of caloric intake in your mouth every 1-2 hours while awake. Avoid big meals – split them up into basically constant grazing throughout the day. The empty stomach is your enemy.
- Start keeping easy-to-access snacks everywhere – baggies of whole-grain crackers, applesauce pouches, dried fruit, cheese sticks and nuts make healthy options, but really this is the time to least worry about nutrition. If you are getting bad morning sickness, try to eat a snack in the middle of the night or have one on your bedside table for before you get out of bed. This is your most important and first line of defense, take it seriously!!
- Try the different natural aids. Some people do well with ginger, others with citrus, others with mints. I’m a big fan of Preggy Pop Drops as an emergency purse go-to. Others swear by Sea Band Mama acupressure bands. See what works for you.
- Avoid places you know you’ll be assaulted by strong smells. If they are unavoidable, consider an aromatherapy necklace or a scarf spritzed with a light fragrance for defense.
- Do not, and I mean DO NOT try to force yourself to eat something you know doesn’t sound good out of politeness. You will regret it. I don’t care if grandma slaved away on the chicken piccata for hours. Not worth seeing it again later in reverse. You can always go with “my doctor said I can’t eat that” ;^)
- Distract yourself. Dwelling on the sensation of nausea will get you one thing: more nausea. This is the time to give yourself some grace about catching up on Netflix, flipping through magazines or scrolling social media during the difficult moments. The more you can keep your mind off the sensation, the less severe it will get.
- Take your prenatal vitamin at NIGHT, not in the morning.
When to worry: If you are vomiting multiple times per day or unable to keep nourished or hydrated, contact your doctor right away. You may need to start on Diclegis (doxylamine and vitamin B6) to help prevent nausea or need a prescription anti-nausea medicine to take.
I will never forget reading The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy when I was gestating for the first time and bursting into hysterical laughter as she describes the “titty fairy” coming to visit. One of the first signs of pregnancy many women experience is a rapid, and often very painful expansion of one or multiple cup sizes in your breasts.
The first time for me, I felt like someone had taken a baseball bat to my poor unsuspecting boobies. Going up stairs brought me to tears with the bouncing. This is (unfortunately) totally normal. It also will get better towards the end of the first trimester for most.
When to worry: The only danger present here is the unwanted attention the newly enlarged chest apparatus might garner from your partner – warn them ahead of time so they don’t unintentionally grab and get karate kicked in self-defense!!
Yep, the vaginal kind. You’ll get more of it. It might smell different. This is normal. Not a whole lot else to say about that.
When to worry: A slight amount of pink or brown spotting can be normal in pregnancy, but if you have more bleeding or ongoing spotting or if it comes with any cramping or other new symptoms, you should talk to your health care provider. You should also be checked if you have vaginal pain or discomfort or the vaginal discharge is yellow, green or foul-smelling.
Dreams and Feelings
You are probably going to get some CRAZAY dreams, girlfriend. Some lucky ladies have dreams that include “dream-gasms”, orgasms in your sleep, thanks to the increased blood flow to the lady parts. Some less lucky ladies have very disturbing and vivid dreams.
It has become cliche to talk about the pregnancy hormone emotional rollercoaster, but it’s actually a thing. Many women can be laughing at a joke one moment and balling hysterically at a toilet paper commercial the next. Ups and downs just get a little more extreme thanks to ye olde brain chemistry. Again – give yourself a break here – and also maybe warn those around you.
When to worry: If your dreams are causing you distress in the daytime, it may help to see a counselor. If you are experiencing consistent anxiety or depressed mood that is impacting your day to day function, talk to your health care provider.
This one hit me hard with this pregnancy. I don’t know if I just had mom-nesia (when you forget how bad pregnancy was after a while because you’re momming), or if it wasn’t this bad the last couple times. I could barely drag myself off the couch for about 2 months straight. This is mainly because of the hormone shift that goes on and your body trying to make 1/3 more blood than it usually keeps on hand in preparation for the rest of pregnancy and birth. You’re functioning like you’re very anemic. You might feel short of breath with relatively little physical activity. You might micro-sleep while at dinner with boring relatives. It’s normal to be tired AF.
Listen to that voice – you NEED rest. Follow the medical school mantra: Don’t stand if you can sit, don’t sit if you can lie down and don’t be awake if you can sleep.
When to worry: If you have family history of thyroid problems, a known history of anemia yourself or might be low on vitamin D (if you aren’t taking a supplement and don’t spend all day in the sun), you might need extra blood tests to make sure your level of fatigue is normal. Ask your person.
You’re gonna pee a LOT. I went 9 times in 1 night. My husband thinks this is the worst thing about pregnancy because apparently I grunt like a grizzly bear trying to get out of bed at night and wake him up. Guess how sorry I feel for him?
Don’t let this stop you from staying hydrated!! Think of it as a great way to get in your steps, because you’re probably not feeling like doing much other exercise right now.
Bowel movements, on the other hand, tend to have the opposite change. Constipation is a super common pregnancy woe. The gut moves slower (part of the issue with above-mentioned nausea, ahem). Try as much as you can to get in fiber. Prune, pear, peach and plum fruit or juice can also help as do probiotics for many. Simethicone (gas-x) can help with gassiness and is safe. If that’s not getting you a daily or close-to-daily BM, talk to your health care provider about other safe options.
When to worry: If you have pain when you go pee, a history of diabetes in the family or fevers or back pain, you should be checked by your health care provider. If the constipation is several days ongoing or causing significant abdominal discomfort – also check in with them.
So many other things can come up – again, every pregnancy is different. There is a whole cornucopia of options for how to be miserable in the first trimester – yeeha!!
Your skin might get sensitive, decide to rehash teenage acne or have color changes and sprout new moles. You might have strange metallic taste in your mouth all the time. You might have headaches. You might get crazy I-ate-the-habanero-salsa-by-accident level heartburn and reflux. Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll be the unicorn that skates through with nary a complaint. Hats off to you, miracle mama!
Bottom line – ask your health care provider about anything odd for you. We LOVE talking about this stuff – these are the easy questions for us and make us feel smart. Don’t hesitate to bring something up at your visit or between. And remember – this too shall pass.
Dr. Annie is a married mom of 2 with one more on the way and family doctor in the Sacramento area.