The first trimester of pregnancy is tough. Maybe you’ve been hoping, trying and praying for this pregnancy or maybe it is a bit of surprise. Either way, you suddenly find yourself up against a wall of first trimester pregnancy symptoms.
Uncomfortable, exhausting and downright nauseating. Yet, you are filled with the greatest hope and excitement because you’re pregnant! The first trimester is a weird and bittersweet time. It seems to drag on forever, but trust me, in a blink, it’ll be done.
Maybe you’re here to find out if what you’re feeling is normal in the first trimester of pregnancy. Maybe you are looking to find out what’s in store. Or maybe you are symptom-spotting before you’ve even missed your period!
So let’s chat about first trimester pregnancy symptoms. What you can expect and how to cope with it. With our help, you’ll be feeling (at least a little) better in no time.
Disclaimer: We may be compensated through the affiliate links in this post, but all opinions are our own. Read more here.
About the First Trimester of Pregnancy
The first trimester of pregnancy technically begins on the first day of your last menstrual cycle. Weird, right? So it technically begins before you’ve even conceived. Most women find out they are pregnant with a home pregnancy test after their (many) missed periods.
At this point, you are typically around 4 weeks pregnant. This is why the first day of your last menstrual cycle is used to calculate your due date.
When will I start to experience some of the first trimester of pregnancy symptoms?
The hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin) begins to be produced in your body once the egg has been fertilized and implanted. This, along with surges of other hormones within your body are what cause most pregnancy symptoms in the first trimester.
This is the same hormone that is used by pregnancy test kits to detect whether you are pregnant or not. When you take a pregnancy test, elevated levels of hCG are the indicating factor that you are likely pregnant. However, if you were to take a pregnancy test, you would have to wait several days after the egg has been fertilized in order to predict whether you are pregnant.
Typically, two weeks after doing the deed is when you can test to see whether this hormone is in your urine or not. For the best results, it is usually recommended that you wait a couple of days after you’ve missed your period to take a pregnancy test.
Some women report feeling some signs and symptoms mere days after conception, but most are really feeling the symptoms after 4-6 weeks of pregnancy. By week 8, around 90% of women will experience some symptoms.
How should I be preparing in the first trimester of pregnancy?
The first trimester of pregnancy is a strange time. You may be filled with excitement and joy, or shock and adjustment to the news. You might not be feeling your best, yet many moms-to-be choose to keep their big news a secret until the end of the first trimester.
Luckily there’s lots of things you can do to help pass the time! You can read a complete first trimester to do list, but here’s a quick checklist to get you started:
- Learn what to expect from prenatal appointments;
- Choose where to give birth and learn about delivering with a doctor vs. a midwife;
- Learn what you should and shouldn’t be doing or eating during pregnancy;
- Learn about prenatal testing options;
- Call your insurance company and work on a baby budget;
- Think about how you want to announce your pregnancy;
- And of course enroll in our FREE Bump Smart Series for weekly pregnancy preparing tips.
The Most Common First Trimester Symptoms (and What to Do About Them!)
Alright, this is why you’re here! Let’s find out what symptoms you may expect in the first trimester, and what you can do to help make them more manageable. For more detailed advice about managing pregnancy symptoms with natural remedies and techniques, be sure to sign up for Mama Natural’s FREE weekly pregnancy series.
1. Swollen and Sore Breasts
For many mamas this is one of the first physical signs of pregnancy. It will likely be a while still until your bump pops, but your boobs might start changing right away! Some women even report this as the first sign of pregnancy they experienced, even before a missed period.
Your breasts may swell, get bigger, or might be sore and tender to the touch. It can feel uncomfortable to lie on your stomach or wear a tight fitting bra. Expect your breasts to enlarge by up to one full cup by the end of this trimester and by 2 full cups by due date.
If you are a second-time mom, then you are more likely to pick out this early pregnancy symptom than other expecting moms. Although it is a discreet symptom, sore breasts can be easy to identify, especially if you have experienced this before.
What can you do about sore breasts in the first trimester of pregnancy?
Invest in some larger, supportive bras. We recommend getting some high quality nursing bras at this point. Most nice nursing bras are going to fit and support exactly (if not better) than a regular bra, and by buying these now instead of just buying larger regular bras, you’ll save yourself an expense once baby comes. You’ll have nursing bras all cued up for when you start breastfeeding.
You can also try some natural pain relief solutions for sore breasts, such as warm compresses (10-15 minutes) or a warm (not hot) shower or bath. Also drink plenty of water to flush out the extra hormones and minerals that cause the swelling. It is a good idea to reduce sodium intake by a lot until this symptom subsides.
If the pain is unbearable check with your physicians for some pregnancy-safe pain killers.
2. Bloating and Constipation
Bloating and constipation is another symptom for many women in their first trimester. This symptom is caused by the surge in a hormone called progesterone. Basically, it causes the activity of the muscles in your intestines to slow down, meaning food is not being processed as quickly.
This phenomenon may also cause trapped gas and bloating and hard and dry stools. The same bloating that you typically experience on your period is the kind of bloated cramping that you may feel when pregnant. It’s not a sudden change but it is one that will develop slowly over time.
Another culprit could be your Prenatal Vitamin, which may contain extra iron. Add on an additional iron supplement (which many women wind up needing in pregnancy) and things can really get backed up.
What can you do about constipation in the first trimester of pregnancy?
Drink lots of water! Many experts recommend upping your water intake a bit during pregnancy anyway. I know that I naturally felt much thirstier during pregnancy, so simply drinking “to thirst” as they say, did result in a lot of extra water intake! It really will help keep things moving too.
Additionally, you can be more aware of your fiber intake. Eating foods that are high in fiber, and lots of fruits and vegetables might help you stay a bit more regular and less gassy. Oatmeal for breakfast, or other high-fiber fortified cereals. I know that due to nausea in my first pregnancy, I basically lived on oatmeal, so this could be a win, win for you too!
If you suspect that the bloating is a result of your prenatal vitamin, then check with your doctor to see if there are alternate prenatal vitamins you can try out instead. One of the most popular types of prenatal vitamins that many expectant moms use are the gummy prenatal vitamins.
What’s more, if iron is the culprit, try taking it only after a hearty meal and drink plenty of liquids to get it out of your system. Also, beside high-fiber foods and drinking plenty of water, don’t skimp on exercising. Plus, against constipation, an effective but little known folk remedy is juice consisting of (organic) carrot and apples, equal parts, and honey to taste.
This is a symptom that you may experience throughout your pregnancy, just in the first trimester, or maybe not at all. It’s a more general feeling of exhaustion that you might feel like you just can’t shake off. Napping may help, but you may wake up feeling kind of the same.
Fatigue is your body’s natural reaction to the new resource-intensive task of growing a baby. Also, the extra production of progesterone, which acts like a natural sleep aid in large amounts, is likely the culprit for your newly found enthusiasm for afternoon naps.
You may feel the most fatigued during the first few weeks of pregnancy. The symptom may subside by trimester 2 and may or may not make a comeback during semester 3.
How can I fight persistent fatigue during the first trimester of pregnancy?
Some things that can be helpful are going for a brisk walk, eating a nutritious diet full of fruits and vegetables, and even a more purposeful prenatal fitness program. I know that these suggestions can be tough to make a reality when you are exhausted and possibly feeling sick.
For me, the brisk walk was what really worked. I never wanted to do it, but my other half often urged me to come for a dog walk in the evenings. Always within 5 minutes of starting the walk I would feel so much better! Something about the fresh air, movement, and activity would energize and distract me from my yucky, exhausted self.
But most importantly, don’t get overly frustrated over the exhaustion. Accept the new situation and adjust your schedule and daily activity levels to be able to give your body the rest it so badly needs. And remember to always listen to your body. Don’t overdo it, rest when possible, and give yourself a break during this special time.
Your body is working hard to grow a baby after all!
Ah, morning sickness. Or for many, all day sickness. This stereotypical symptom of pregnancy occurs in around 50% of pregnancies. It usually starts around week 6 and, for many, should disappear by week 12 completely.
What’s interesting about nausea in the first trimester, is you never know how it will present itself to you.
- Trina had this frustrating symptom 3 days before her missed period until week 12, all day and all night. It was so bad that she was actually prescribed an extra vitamin and sleep aid to help fight it off.
- In my first pregnancy, it didn’t start until around week 6 but lasted until week 20! The bright side (I guess) was that I only really felt the severe nausea from 3 pm until I went to sleep. This was likely due to the link between exhaustion and nausea during pregnancy.
- And some lucky women have slight or non-existent nausea- this could be you!
For many expectant moms, morning sickness can be so severe that it actually has a name. Hyperemesis gravidarum is when an expectant mom experiences morning sickness that can be crippling and debilitating. Hyperemesis gravidarum is essentially your body in a constant state of nausea and vomiting.
Unlike many moms who can expect to ease out of the morning sickness phase at the end of their first or at the start of their second trimester, hyperemesis gravidarum stays with an afflicted expectant mom usually throughout the whole pregnancy.
Additionally, because the nausea and vomiting makes it hard to keep fluids and nutrients down, many expectant moms who suffer from this will typically go on medication. There are several types of medications that can help you keep from throwing your food back up if you suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum.
Additionally, some moms will need to go on IV fluid treatments because they cannot keep water down. If you think you may have hyperemesis gravidarum, be sure to speak with your doctor as this can have negative side effects on your baby’s development if not addressed.
However, don’t panic! Hyperemesis gravidarum is a relatively rare pregnancy symptoms that affects just 1% to 2% of pregnant women. For the rest of us, these 10 tips for morning sickness relief offer the best help we’ll ever need to handle morning sickness.
What to do about morning sickness in the first trimester?
- Try to eat bland, carb-loaded foods every 2-3 hours. I mentioned above that oatmeal was my lifeline during the first 20 weeks. I brought instant oatmeal packets with me to work for lunch every day. This with cut up bananas did the trick.
- Morning Sickness Tea, Ginger Ale, Sea Bands, and Preggie Pops are all products known to help with morning sickness
- Chewing strong mint gum may help. My co-worker actually guessed my pregnancy (though was tactful enough not to ask…) based on my new affinity for mint gum.
- Studies have shown that probiotics can really help, especially with extreme morning sickness (known as hyperemesis gravidarum). Eating yogurt daily (if you can stomach it) is a great source; of probitics; or you can always take probiotics in supplement form.
- Practice strong breathing techniques to help you ease nausea and vomiting. When you regulate your breathing and take slow deep breaths, you give your body the ability to take its control back. What is great about using breathing techniques to help you is that you can apply them anywhere, including at work to help you get through the day.
5. More Bathroom Trips
During pregnancy, your kidneys are processing a lot more fluid due to the increase in blood flow involved with making a new human. And yes, this leads to a lot more bathroom trips for you! Some women report this symptom as one that occurs before they even miss their period.
But it seems that the height of frequent urination happens around 8-10 weeks in the first trimester. It may let up a bit in the second trimester as your body adjust to the extra fluid. Then in the third trimester, it will likely pick back up again as the growing baby puts pressure on your bladder.
Another contributing factor is that many women naturally drink a lot more water while pregnant. I mentioned above that your hydration needs and feeling of thirst in general will increase during this time.
What to do about increased urination in the first trimester?
In a lot of ways, this isn’t one of those symptoms that can manage as well as others. Most experts want you to stay hydrated and not limit water-intake. One thing you can limit is the amount of tea and coffee you consume because they are diuretics. This means they cause an increased passing of urine.
Another tip that worked really well for Trina? Use a belly wrap! It lifts and compresses your early pregnancy belly in such a way that it relieves some pressure on the bladder already. Trina also found it provided enough support to make working on her feet all day easier.
We also love belly wraps because they can help to keep your maternity pants up, which I know is the plight of many maternity-pants-wearing mamas.
Heartburn is a pregnancy symptom that almost always creeps up on women by their third trimester, but for some, may start right away! That’s because the hormone progesterone is at work loosening and relaxing your pelvic and uterine muscles to allow for growing and expanding during pregnancy.
The unpleasant part for you? It means that the muscle that keeps your stomach acid down where it’s supposed to be is looser, making it easier for acid to bubble up into your esophagus. You might find it particularly bothersome when you bend over or lie down.
What can you do about heartburn in the first trimester of pregnancy?
This heartburn is a little bit different than the heartburn you might experience outside of pregnancy because that muscle at the bottom of your esophagus is looser and more open. This means that heartburn medications aren’t quite as effective, though they may help.
Always check with your provider, but it is generally considered safe to take Tums during pregnancy. If you do not like the consistency of chalk Tums, then there are some rather tasty chewy Tums that you can take advantage of. The chewy Tums let you get over the heartburn really quickly as it works instantly.
My midwife had also recommended a more natural option, Chewable Papaya Enzyme. It works in the same way as Tums to neutralize your stomach, and also has a hint of mint to get the yucky taste out of your mouth. I’m not sure if it was a placebo effect or not, but I swore by this for my entire pregnancy.
As you get into the final stages of your pregnancy, the heartburn will only get worse. Unfortunately, this means that your sleeping routine will become more difficult. One of the best things that helped me sleep through the night when I was dealing with heartburn at the later stages of my pregnancy was sleeping upright.
By propping the pillow behind my back and sleeping in a somewhat sitting position, I was able to find some comfort while keeping the heartburn at bay.
7. Mood Swings
As your body begins to grow a baby, you are having a lot of changing hormones in your body. This can lead to some pretty intense mood swings. It is very normal to feel extra emotional, euphoric, sad, and even anxious during this time.
If you find that your extreme feelings are interfering with your ability to function in your day to day life, definitely bring this up to your provider! Mood disorders and depression do affect some women in pregnancy and should be treated professionally.
How can I help manage my mood swings during the first trimester?
There is no hard and fast fix for this symptom either, however keeping other mood triggers at bay can certainly help. I’m talking HALT here: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. If you can keep yourself well fed, well rested, and avoid situations that will cause anger or loneliness, you’ll be in better shape. This is an acronym often associated with toddler parenting, but we love it for adults too 🙂
Don’t be surprised if you start having strong food cravings or aversions right away in your pregnancy. Pregnancy cravings are often highly specific and intense. Aversions might be even stronger than cravings, especially in the first trimester, and are often rooted in smell in addition to taste.
For me, anything that smelled like garlic or was cooked with garlic remained a strong aversion for my entire pregnancy. I couldn’t even stand to be near Patrick if he ate anything with garlic in it. Intense, and specific for sure.
I liked how Trina put it in one of her first trimester bumpdates, she felt like no food sounded really good, but then one random and specific food would sound amazing, but only that food. Pretty much exactly what pregnancy cravings are like.
What can I do about first trimester cravings and aversions?
Honestly, your best bet is to roll with them. Don’t stress too hard about not eating the most balanced and hearty diet right now. It’s really tough in the first trimester. Eat what sounds good and doesn’t make you feel sick. Your prenatal vitamin will do a good job at covering the slack. And when in doubt, eat crackers, oatmeal and PB&Js.
One thing that was helpful for me was having food already prepared. Often the act of cooking, and even the smells being in a grocery store were too intense for me, but if someone put cooked food in front of me and I started eating, I’d feel a lot better.
Try some meal prep to hurdle aversions and eat a more balanced diet in the first trimester
Consider getting a loved one or your partner to do some meal prep for you. The Complete Freezer Bundle is a great resource of no pre-cooking, healthy crock pot meals. Simply combine ingredients in a zip lock and freeze. Defrost one meal overnight and before work in the morning pop it in the crock pot.
You’ll come home to delicious and healthy food. Investing in this now will allow the resource to serve you through pregnancy, and when it comes to stocking your freezer with meals before baby arrives too!
9. Cramping and Spotting
Let’s start by saying any cramping or spotting that comes after you’ve had a positive pregnancy test warrants a call to your provider. It’s always best to get a professional opinion on what’s going on with your body when it comes to any blood or cramping.
Spotting in the first trimester
However, it is actually more common, especially in the first trimester, than many expectant mamas know. It’s hard to find an accurate or average statistic but most resources state that as many as 25%-30% of women experience spotting.
It’s typically brown or light pink and color, and not enough blood to fill a pad or tampon. Typically, you’d only see it when you wipe or a bit on a panty liner. In some cases, the spotting was mistaken for an irregular period which may explain why some women first learn that they’re pregnant shortly before or during delivery.
Cramping in the first trimester
Cramping can be felt during your first trimester due to your uterus flexing and expanding to prepare for a growing baby. If you are experiencing cramping, please call your provider, but don’t be surprised if they say it is normal.
Implantation spotting and cramping
Along with general spotting and cramping, you may experience these two symptoms around the time your fertilized egg implants in the uterus. This occurs anywhere from 3-14 days after the egg is fertilized (day of ovulation, generally).
Because this window has such large range, you may actually experience implantation bleeding and cramping right around the time you are expecting your period. This will present as spotting and is usually light pink or brown in color. It will not be enough blood to fill a pad or tampon.
10. Weight changes
Most women will not start to show in the first trimester, especially if it is your first pregnancy. Remember that weight change will be unique to your body type, pregnancy, and weight gain goals. Comparing your body and weight gains during pregnancy with others is probably not productive or helpful.
Every pregnancy is unique!
That being said, the average weight gain in the first trimester is around 5 lbs. Some women will gain more than that, and some women may actually find that they lose some weight. This may be due to food aversions and nausea.
Some women might lose or stay the same weight if they were overweight to begin with and have switched to a healthier more balanced diet. In other words: there’s a huge range of normal!
What can help all women with weight changes in the first trimester?
Setting goals with your healthcare provider and talking about your nutritional intake. It can also be helpful to track and chart weight gain throughout your pregnancy so that you can look for any trends or concerns.
The First Trimester WILL End!
We know the first trimester is tough and you most likely aren’t feeling your best, but it will end! The second trimester is an exciting time, marked with a lot more energy and improved symptoms for most expecting mamas.
In the meantime, try the tips in this article, learn specific natural remedies for first trimester symptoms from Mama Natural, and stay distracted by starting some early baby prep.
Get advice on how to keep busy in the first trimester by reading, 18 Things to Do in the First Trimester, and Positive Pregnancy Test, Now What? Both are filled with great advice about what you can do right away to get your pregnancy off to a healthy and productive start!
Hang in there, Mama! And don’t forget to subscribe to the Bump Smart Series! We’d be honored to be a part of your entire pregnancy journey <3
What’s been the toughest first trimester pregnancy symptom for you? Have a tip we forgot? Comment below! We love to hear from our readers.