No matter how well you prepare for your pregnancy, you may not be able to fully anticipate all of the different changes that are about to take place in your body. During the first trimester (the first three months after your last menstrual period), these changes will help your baby develop and prepare your body to nourish the baby.
Knowing what to expect can help you get ready for the months ahead and learn to distinguish between symptoms that are just uncomfortable and signs that there might be a real problem with your pregnancy.
Pregnancy is different for every woman. Some women glow with good health and vitality during those first three months; others feel absolutely miserable. Here are some of the changes you might experience, what they mean, what you can do to relieve any uncomfortable symptoms, and which signs warrant a call to your doctor.
Bleeding. About 25% of pregnant women experience some bleeding during their first trimester. Early in the pregnancy, light spotting may be a sign that the fertilized embryo has implanted in the uterus. However, if you have significant bleeding, cramping, or sharp pain in your abdomen, call your doctor. These could be signs of a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy in which the embryo implants outside of the uterus).
Breast tenderness. Sore breasts are one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. They’re triggered by hormonal changes, which are preparing your milk ducts to feed your baby, and will probably last through the first trimester. Going up a bra size (or more) and wearing a support bra can make you feel more comfortable; you can go back to the lacy bras after your baby is finished nursing.
Constipation. During pregnancy, the muscle contractions that normally move food through your intestines slow because of higher levels of the hormone progesterone. Add to that the extra iron you’re getting from your prenatal vitamin, and the result is uncomfortable constipation and gas that can keep you feeling bloated throughout your pregnancy. Increase your fiber intake and drink extra fluids to keep things moving more smoothly. Physical activity can also help.
If your constipation is really bothering you, talk to your doctor about what mild laxative or stool softeners are safe to use during pregnancy.
Discharge. It’s normal to see a thin, milky white discharge (called leukorrhea) early in your pregnancy. You can wear a panty liner if it makes you feel more comfortable, but don’t use a tampon because it can introduce germs into the vagina. If the discharge is foul-smelling, green, or yellow, or if there’s a lot of clear discharge, call your doctor.
Fatigue. Your body is working hard to support a growing fetus, which can wear you out more easily than usual. Take naps or rest when you need to throughout the day. Also make sure you’re getting enough iron (too little can lead to anemia, which can cause excess fatigue).