The first “symptom” of pregnancy I felt was low energy. I’d heard that you felt tired in the first trimester, but I’d say that doesn’t quite describe it properly. If someone said, “You will have an unquenchable, deep and burning desire to do nothing but sleep”, it still would have seemed like an underestimate of how tired I felt.
How I Knew I Was Pregnant
My mother is in her late 50’s and she’s an ironman triathlete. She runs 40kms with her other crazy friends on the weekends for “fun”. She’s intimidatingly fit. Every once in a while she convinces me to do a race with her. I really love to run, but haven’t quite gotten into organized races. I’ve done a few half marathons with her, and although I finish strong and in what feels like good time, I know she’s holding back for me. It’s a humbling experience.
Late last summer she signed us up for an approachable 10k race. Even though I run 10k at least once or twice every week, I was really struggling on that one. So much so, that I told her to leave me at the 6k mark and I walk/ran the rest of the race on my own. When she met me at the finish line I said, “Damn, what’s wrong me? I better be pregnant!” And I was.
Exercising in My First Trimester
From then on, I had to cut my activity level way back. Pre-pregnancy I was exercising 6 days a week. I never had to force myself to do something because I truly loved being active. It made me feel balanced and kept me sane. Once pregnant, this fell back to 4 days a week, and every single time I had to draaaag myself to do it. Regardless of how challenging I found it, I knew the importance of keeping up some routine because of the benefits it provided me and my new little energy sucker. I still had a really hard time running during the whole first trimester and was lucky to limp through 5k’s. Instead I started attending more spinning classes, and kept up with pilates, some weight lifting, and hiking on the weekends.
In the beginning I was quite concerned with what I “should and shouldn’t be doing” physically. I read different things about heart rate limitations and other restriction put on pregnant women. Still not confident of what I could safely do, I asked one of my fitness instructors who is trained in prenatal fitness. She told me to just listen to my body. It was the best advice I could have received. It made so much sense to me because that is the same approach I take myself with nutrition, and teach to others. I understood clearly that my body would tell me my limitations much better than Google would. My body told me (pretty loudly) not to push myself, to rest more often than I was used to, and to avoid deep twists.
I was very, very fortunate to have made it through my first trimester without much nausea at all. I found that keeping my blood sugar stable played a big role in this for me. I did however have some pretty major food aversions. I definitely didn’t experience the pregnancy cravings I’d heard about, but instead some things that I normally loved tasted just plain disgusting. The foods that turned me off changed week to week. The only consistent turn off was cruciferous vegetables. My once beloved brussel sprouts, broccoli and kale made my stomach turn. I know that pregnant women can often be turned off by green foods, but I thought that my intense love and appreciation for all things green would prevail. I was wrong.
When consulting pregnant women, I often hear that they lean towards more starchy and comforting foods in the first few months of pregnancy. This makes a lot of sense because when we’re tired, our bodies call for quick energy in the form of denser calories. The more tired you are the more likely you will be to make poorer choices nutritionally. Instead of reaching for simple carbs like muffins and pasta, I recommend trying complex carbs like root vegetables, squash or pseudo grains like quinoa or buckwheat. This worked well for me in my first trimester. These foods provide more stable energy and won’t cause an insulin crash that will just leave you even more fatigued.
Nutrients I Focused On
A well balanced diet is important throughout your entire pregnancy, but in each trimester certain nutrients play more important roles. The protein requirements of pregnant women increases throughout all trimesters. Iron requirements go from 18mg up to 27mg, although this is even more crucial in the second trimester. Omega 3’s and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) are important throughout, but play the biggest role in the third trimester.
In the first trimester, basic water-soluble vitamins (B & C) are very important to defend against neural tube defects and support immunity. The most well know water-soluble vitamin for the first trimester is folate, (vitamin B9). I talk about natural sources and supplementing here.
Supplementation is never a replacement for a nutrient dense diet, and good old vegetables and low sugar fruits are always the best source of vitamins. Although, many women find it a bit more of a challenge to maintain an ideal diet in early pregnancy and would like to take a multi vitamin. In this case, I suggest getting one from a whole foods source like these because they are much easier for the body to assimilate.
Things I Quit and Miss The Most
I’m not a big drinker, but I do miss a nice glass of red wine. I miss tuna tataki, which is a double no-no (being a high mercury fish and raw). I also miss gum. Yes gum. Now gum isn’t something that’s found on the list of things that pregnant women are advised to give up. I wasn’t your average gum chewer though. I could fly through a pack like nobody’s business. Like a chain smoker I would spit out an old piece and toss in a fresh one, back-to-back. I know that gum seems pretty innocuous, but in reality, what IS it? The ingredients reveal a whole host of chemicals, artificial sweeteners and artificial colouring. Now in my pre-preg days, I could justify this because I was so mindful of my diet, but once pregnant I had to come to terms with the fact that my gum habit wasn’t a casual one, and I had to go cold turkey…. on gum. I know. Ridiculous, but true.
General Health and Wellbeing
From as early as I could remember, I’d always revered pregnancy as the most amazing stage of a woman’s life. With every pregnant woman I saw, I also saw this aura of specialness glowing around them. Once pregnant myself, I was literally quite shocked when I didn’t instantly feel this feeling of specialness that I was so certain accompanied each and every pregnancy. I was most definitely excited to have a little bun in my oven, but I spent my first trimester feeling more weak than I was used to. I got a cold early on and could tell that my immune system was being taxed. I was no longer just looking after myself, but already having to defend the both of us. I was tired (have I mentioned I was tired?) and a little listless. With the exception of our immediate family, we also chose to keep our pregnancy a secret, which for me was the hardest of all! I really hate secrets and I’m no good at them.
I’d heard that it all turns around in the second trimester though, so I waited…. and took naps. Lots and lots of naps.