The first trimester (0-12 weeks of pregnancy) is when your baby develops the most. This is when your baby’s bones, muscles and organs develop, so it’s not surprising that you may find yourself zapped of energy or that your hormones are up and down. By being aware of why your feeling or thinking a certain way you can put plans in place to help you have a positive, healthy pregnancy.
Taking care of your mental health during the first trimester
For so many women I look after, the excitement of a positive pregnancy test is fantastic. Every woman enters a pregnancy from a different journey which will affect her mindset.
It takes time to adapt to being pregnant, and emotions can run high in early pregnancy as you get used to your body changes both hormonally and physically with the energy it takes to grow a developing baby. From adapting to tiredness, dealing with nausea and working out what to eat, every thought and emotion you have triggered a whole cascade of hormones in the body.
It’s the stress hormones that are caused by anxiety that are the ones you need to deal with, as these can pass through the placenta and affect your baby. From as early as the seventh week of pregnancy your baby may be receiving pleasure-inducing chemicals from your bloodstream – but if you are unduly stressed she or he may be getting high levels of stress chemicals as well.
Learning to control this early in your pregnancy will not only help you get through the nine months with ease but will give you vital tools for the years of parenting to come. The body is always trying to get the balance back though, so 20 minutes a day of visualisation can really help.
Here are a few things to think about to help manage your mind:
- Identify the major stresses in your life
- Which area of your life do you most need to change?
- Think about who can help and support you
- How can you change your reaction to a problem?
- Implement changes: 20 minutes a day of sitting quietly, visualising or meditating will help and if you practice it regularly it will give you a greater sense of control
- Improve your breathing
- Try some gentle exercise
- Protect yourself, where possible, from stressful situations (and people who make you feel anxious)
- Nourish and nurture yourself
How to cope to the changes happening with your body
Although you may not look very pregnant in the first trimester, with so many changes happening in your body, you will certainly feel that something momentous is going on! So many women worry they are now craving carbs, but you do need carbohydrates for energy so don’t cut these out.
Lots of women also worry that they are not eating healthily, but this is very common as it takes the whole of the first trimester to get used to the changes in fluctuating blood sugar levels and the growing demands on your energy.
Exercise is important, here are a few tips:
- Exercise in pregnancy can bring all kinds of benefits to you and your growing baby, but whatever you do and whatever your fitness level, exercise safely using the following guidelines:
- Never push yourself to the point where you have difficulty speaking or you experience any pain
- Make sure you keep properly hydrated before, during and after exercise
- Begin slowly and gently: 10-20 minutes three times a week is enough for beginners
- Do not exercise for more than 45 minutes at a time
- Avoid contact sports and high-impact activities
- Avoid all exercises lying on your front after 12 weeks
- Avoid exercises lying on your back after 16 weeks
- Take care when stretching – raised levels of the hormone relaxin will loosen your joints and ligaments in preparation for birth and make you more susceptible to strain and injury
- Make sure you eat enough to sustain your level of activity
What your baby is doing in the first trimester
During the first trimester, your baby will grow and develop at a dramatic rate, but this is also when she or he is at their most vulnerable – so take good care of yourself and your growing baby.
Your week by week overview of your growing baby…
The blastocyst embedded in your uterine wall divides, the inner half developing into the baby, the outer half into the placenta and umbilical cord.
The ball of cells has started to elongate and the brain, spinal cord, liver and kidneys are beginning to develop. The eyes and ears can be seen. The heart walls are starting to form and the bones and muscles are beginning to form.
The head is beginning to take shape. Chest and abdominal cavities are forming and tiny buds for arms and legs are appearing.
The ‘tail’ has almost gone and the head is taking shape. The eyes are dark spots and nostrils have begun to form. The heart has divided. The arm and leg buds are beginning to lengthen and the hands and feet are forming.
Most of your baby’s organs have formed at a basic level. The heartbeat is beginning to normalise and the skeleton is beginning to ossify. Tiny facial features can be seen and your baby may begin to move around.
The embryo now looks more like a baby. The arms, legs, hands and feet are growing rapidly and tiny toes and fingers are clearly visible.
This week your baby officially changes from ‘embryo’ to ‘foetus’. The head is much larger than the body and facial features are more recognisable. Arms and legs have elongated and ankles and wrists have formed.
Your baby’s vital organs have formed and are functioning. Now his or her body will rapidly elongate.
Your baby can smile, frown and even suck his or her thumb. She or he looks fully formed and their fingers and toes are no longer webbed. The brain and organs continue to develop and the genitals become more visible.
Your baby may look fully formed, but the major internal organs are still developing. He or she can support some head movements and the eyes are gradually coming to the front of the face. The ears may begin to sense sound.
“At 6 weeks the foetus is about the size of your fingernail, and by 12 weeks is roughly the size of your little finger.”
Many women go through IVF these days and while some are lucky the first time around, others may have to try again and again. When you do get a positive pregnancy test result it can be quite a surprise and you might feel that you know a great deal about IVF and fertility but next to nothing about pregnancy itself.
You might feel anxious because you have suffered so many negative experiences and you cannot believe things are going to go well for you. Try not to worry and make sure you receive early pregnancy support and reassurance to put your mind at rest and feel you are doing all the right things.
The early days and weeks of an IVF pregnancy can be fraught and it is very common to spot and bleed. If you have gone through several unsuccessful IVF cycles due to implantation failure, you may be offered a cocktail of drugs that includes heparin to prevent blood clots, steroids to suppress the maternal immune system and intralipids.
You will need guidance and advice about when to reduce these drugs and will be monitored carefully, but don’t be afraid to ask for more information and advice if you need it.