What to expect: The first trimester

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Congratulations. It’s confirmed. You’re having a baby! It’s an exciting time, but a little scary too, as you’re about to embark on a rollercoaster ride of hormone-charged emotions and an ever-changing body. The first thing you need to know is that you’re going to be pregnant for about 280 days – 40 weeks from the first day of your last menstrual period. You’ll go through three distinct phases – medically referred to as trimesters – as your baby makes the miraculous transition from tiny single cell to tiny human being.

The first trimester extends from weeks 1-14; the second from weeks 14-28, and the third from week 28 till delivery. Knowing what to expect both physically and emotionally should go a long way in easing your journey towards a brand new life, with a brand new life in your arms! 

THE FIRST 14 WEEKS

Your body
Breast tenderness, exhaustion, increased urination, dizziness and nausea – welcome to early pregnancy! Physically you don’t look much different, aside from heavier breasts, and you may well discover, like many women, that ‘morning sickness’ is a complete misnomer as it can happen at any time of the day!

Some women become constipated; others suffer from heartburn too. Some develop a very definite sensitivity to smell and most find that their nipples and surrounding area – the areola – become larger and darker around 12 weeks. Your may also start craving all sorts of weird and wonderful food, but all of this is completely normal.

Your emotions
With your hormones in overdrive, your emotions will definitely follow suit so expect to undergo huge mood swings. Irritability, weepiness, anxiety and general feelings of being unsettled are all part and parcel of the pregnancy package at this stage, interspersed with moments of sheer delight and exhilaration.

Even though you may be overjoyed by the thought of being pregnant, there may also be times when you constantly worry: about your baby’s health, about the future, about how your baby’s going to fit into your lifestyle emotionally, financially and practically. Relax. These feelings are totally natural and going though this emotional turmoil is one of Nature’s ways of helping you to adjust to your new role as a mother.

Taking control
  • Knowledge is strength so make sure you’re well informed about where you are right now. From about 12 weeks you’ll be undergoing a number of tests and scans which will allow you to see your baby for the very first time. You may see the foetal heart on a scan from as early as about 6 weeks. An abnormality scan can be done from 11 to 13 weeks to give you your risk for chromosome abnormalities.
  • You’re going to be bombarded with advice and old wive’s tales about everything, from remedies for nausea – rather try ginger biscuits, fresh grated ginger in hot water, or dry crackers – to horror stories about ‘what happened to me’. Surround yourself with a team of ‘advisors’, family and friends who have been there, and of course your medical practitioner. Prioritise reading, and surfing the Net. But at the same time, learn to trust your instincts and follow your heart. 
  • Give up smoking and alcohol and cut back on the caffeine, all are detrimental to your baby’s health. Your doctor will advise you on what to eat and what to avoid – giving the thumbs up to lots of fresh fruit and veggies and plenty of fibre.
  • Verbalise your concerns with your partner and your doctor, no matter how ridiculous you think they may be. Whether you’re worrying about your chances of miscarrying; have second thoughts about the pregnancy; or feel trapped in a cycle of emotional upheaval far worse than any PMS you’ve ever experienced, talk. By sharing your feelings with your ‘support group’, you’ll receive much-needed understanding and encouragement, and prevent the build-up of unnecessary tension and stress. 
“The mood swings and exhaustion of the first trimester are really tough on a working woman. What worked for me was to leave home a little earlier to avoid the frustration of being stuck in traffic, and to make a point of getting some fresh air during my lunch breaks. I also outsourced household chores which meant that when I got back each evening I was able to put my feet up and relax.” SHERI, 28

When did you first find out you were pregnant? What was your reaction?
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