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1st trimester

07th Nov 2023

The first trimester of pregnancy: What to expect in the everything you need to know

Everything you might need to know that can happen within the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy

First thing’s first: Congratulations on your pregnancy! The first trimester is a transformative, emotional and potentially a little scary time as you begin your journey into motherhood. Whether it’s your first or fifth pregnancy, there are new things to learn. Of course, experiences can vary from person to person, but here’s a more detailed look at what you can expect during the initial 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Early signs of pregnancy
In the very early stages, you may experience subtle signs such as fatigue, a heightened sense of smell, and mild breast tenderness. These early symptoms are usually due to rising levels of the hormone hCG in your body.

First trimester sickness
Morning sickness (which should be renamed ‘all day sickness’, if you ask us) happens to about 80% of pregnant people, and is characterised by nausea and vomiting, is common during the first trimester. It can happen at any time of the day. To manage it, try eating small, frequent meals and staying hydrated.

Proper nutrition is also important to focus on during pregnancy. You should aim for a well-balanced diet rich in essential nutrients like folic acid, calcium, and iron. Your healthcare provider (GP, antenatal nurse or obstetrician) may recommend prenatal vitamins to ensure you and your baby get the necessary nutrients.

Your first appointment with your doctor
Your first doctor’s appointment typically occurs around 8-10 weeks, but might even stretch to the 12-week mark for a first scan. During this visit, your healthcare provider will conduct a physical exam, discuss your medical history, and may perform an ultrasound to confirm your due date. If you are resident in Ireland you’ll be entitled to access the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme, which your GP can inform you about.

You might also discuss your hospital options with your GP, and they may refer you to any necessary specialists should additional care be required for any reason.

The emotional rollercoaster
Hormonal changes can lead to mood swings, heightened emotions, and increased sensitivity. It’s essential to communicate with those around you, whether that’s a husband/wife, co-parent, parenting partner, friend or family member, and seek emotional support when needed. Ask for help and accept help if it’s offered.

First trimester fatigue
Your baby is growing fast, and that will make you tired. The extreme fatigue in the first trimester is often due to the surge in hormones, such as progesterone. It’s normal to feel like you need more rest, so listen to your body and prioritise sleep where possible (not so easy for those among us who are already parents!).

The first scan
Around 10-12 weeks, you’ll likely have your first ultrasound. This is when you might see your baby’s heartbeat, a moment that can be incredibly emotional and reassuring. Take this opportunity to discuss any worries, concerns or symptoms with your healthcare provider.

this image shows hands holding an ultrasound scan

You might experience discomforts like bloating, gas, constipation, and breast tenderness. Staying hydrated, eating fibre-rich foods, and gentle exercises like walking can help alleviate some of these symptoms.

Your baby’s development in the first trimester
Despite its small size, your baby undergoes significant growth in the first trimester. Major organs and systems start forming, and by the end of this period, your baby will have recognisable features and be about 7cm to 10cm long. For more on your week-by-week baby development, we’ve got everything you need to know here.

When to tell people you’re pregnant
Deciding when to share your pregnancy news is a totally personal choice and will be based on many things, including previous experiences with pregnancy, personal circumstances and considerations around pregnancy or baby loss. Some people prefer to wait until after the first trimester when the risk of miscarriage decreases, while others may choose to share the excitement earlier, which is absolutely fine to do.

Prep for the second trimester
As the first trimester ends, you may begin to feel more energy and a decrease in symptoms like nausea. Use this time to plan for the second trimester and start thinking about your birth plan and baby preparations.

Remember, every pregnancy is unique, and while these are common experiences, your journey may differ. Prioritise self-care, stay connected with your healthcare providers, and embrace this time of huge chance as you embark on the parenting adventure ahead.