I went into being pregnant with no real sense of what the first weeks of pregnancy would be like. I’d heard about morning sickness of course, and had a vague memory of a friend who was in early pregnancy talking about taking naps, but the first trimester isn’t a time that people usually talk about. The risk of miscarriage drops significantly at 12 weeks, so most folks wait until then or a little after to start talking about being pregnant. I wasn’t really sure what to expect – and at four, five, six weeks pregnant was somewhat desperate for any description of what that time was like for a real, live woman. The early weeks of pregnancy are a little isolating (or at least they were to me): there was this huge thing happening in my life (but we weren’t really talking about it). I was really excited (but trying not to be TOO excited) and nervous (but trying not to be the crazy pregnant lady). I wasn’t feeling like my normal self (but was trying to ACT like my normal self). Honestly, I found the first trimester to be hard, much harder than I was expecting (and I am so relieved to be in my second trimester now and feeling so much better physically and emotionally).
I spent a lot of time on the internet trying to find women talking about their early pregnancy (but not about miscarrying – a good thing to write and read about, but not when you are 5 weeks and overanalyzing every twinge). So here is my contribution to the blogosphere about the physical experience of early pregnancy and when those symptoms occurred for me. Every pregnancy is different, but this is one version of a perfectly normal first trimester.
My very first symptom was frequent urination. I actually noticed this before I knew I was pregnant. I was at work on a Monday and realized in the afternoon that I had been peeing like crazy. I took a home pregnancy test that night – POSITIVE! I was pretty surprised by the frequent urination – I thought that wouldn’t happen until later in my pregnancy, when the baby was squeezing my bladder, but early in pregnancy it is caused by the hormones that are suddenly flooding your body.
My next symptom was spotting. To put it nicely, this symptom sucked. On Tuesday, I had bloodwork at the doctor’s office, which confirmed that I was pregnant. I was happy and giddy and shocked and excited. Then at 9PM I went to the bathroom and there was blood. Red blood. I had been feeling a little crampy all day, but figured that was just my uterus getting used to the new activity. Of course I immediately Googled my symptoms and what I heard was not reassuring. Spotting in early pregnancy was normal, you didn’t need to worry UNLESS the blood was red or you were also cramping. I had both worrisome symptoms and I was totally freaked out, absolutely convinced that I was miscarrying. I called my doctor’s office the next morning, trying to act calmer than I felt, and the nurse reassured me that it was normal (even with red blood, and some cramps). I had more bloodwork on Thursday which showed that my progesterone and HCG levels had more than doubled, as you like to see, which made me feel a little better. The blood had stopped by Friday (it turned from red to brown after about 12 hours and the cramps got better too), but I spent literally the rest of the first trimester inspecting the toilet paper for blood every time I went to the bathroom. It was so scary to me and made me more nervous than I think would have been otherwise. So I’m here to say, ladies, that if you bleed in your first trimester, even if it’s red and you have cramps, it doesn’t automatically mean that you are having a miscarriage. Also, don’t Google your symptoms when you think something is going wrong. Call your doctor’s office, that’s what they are there for.
By 5 weeks the exhaustion had hit in full force. I usually go to bed at around 11 PM, by 5 weeks (just one week after the positive pregnancy test), I was in bed by 9 PM. I started taking naps on the weekend (I almost never take naps). The exhaustion felt like what I imagine Mono feels like. I never had Mono, but my brother did and he spent months doing nothing but sleeping and watching movies. That’s how I felt. I stopped cooking dinner. I stopped doing chores. It was all I could do to work all day, come home and stay awake until 9 PM. It was overwhelming and I really wasn’t prepared to feel so drained. Luckily this has gotten better in the second trimester too. I’m able to stay awake a little later and do more stuff around the house. It’s good.
Also by week 5, I bought a bigger bra. Yes, my boobs grew that much. It’s crazy. (And they are supposed to grow more at the end of pregnancy). Other boob symptoms that happened over the course of the week – my nipples turned brown (it’s the hormones) and I started being able to see big blue veins under my skin (your blood volume increases during pregnancy to support the baby). A lot women have really sore boobs in the first trimester, but that wasn’t a problem for me. There was a day where they felt sort of tingly, and they felt hot to the touch most of the time (I think it was all the expanding blood vessels), but they didn’t hurt, which was good.
Midway through week 5 the nausea hit. I never really had full blown morning sickness. I only threw up twice (both times my prenatal vitamin – that thing is nasty), but I felt gross for most of the next 7 weeks. It was especially bad if I hadn’t eaten in a while or if I ate fried foods (which I only did once because the nausea was so bad). I never really felt hungry in my first trimester and I had to force myself to eat on a regular schedule. I didn’t really have any food aversions or cravings either – if you put something in front of me, I could eat it, which was good news on the healthy eating front. Some women can’t stand leafy greens in early pregnancy, but if someone made me a salad I would eat it no problem. That said, nothing tasted good for weeks either. It didn’t taste bad, it’s just like the nausea took all the pleasure out of eating. The day I realized (somewhere around week 13) that I felt hungry and that the food I bought was yummy was a very happy day indeed.
One of the things that happens in pregnancy is increased vaginal discharge (sorry if this is TMI) called Leukorrhia. It’s designed to help keep everything healthy and clean in there, to help prevent infection. The midwife mentioned it at our 9 week appointment, but I didn’t really start noticing it until week 10.
Around week 11, I started being able to feel the top of my uterus right over the top of my pubic bone. It’s a weird sensation, sort of feels like a full balloon or something. It’s the first real physical sign I have that not only is there something in there, but it’s getting bigger. I find it reassuring even now to be able to feel it.
Those were my first trimester symptoms. Some have gone away (the nausea and extreme exhaustion) and some are here to stay for the rest of pregnancy (big boobs, expanding uterus). There are some standard pregnancy symptoms that I didn’t have at all (constipation – happy to have been spared that one), but this is what the first trimester looked like for me.