How to Manage Common First Trimester Pregnancy Symptoms

Published by 
Jess Miller
Last updated: 
February 25, 2023

The first trimester of pregnancy is tough. Maybe you’ve been hoping, trying and praying for this pregnancy or maybe it is a bit of surprise. Either way, you suddenly find yourself up against a wall of first trimester pregnancy symptoms.

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Uncomfortable, exhausting and downright nauseating. Yet, you are filled with the greatest hope and excitement because you’re pregnant! The first trimester is a weird and bittersweet time. It seems to drag on forever, but trust me, in a blink it’ll be done.

Maybe you’re here to find out if what you’re feeling is normal in the first trimester of pregnancy. Maybe you are looking to find out what’s in store. Or maybe you are symptom-spotting before you’ve even missed your period!

So let’s chat about first trimester pregnancy symptoms. What you can expect and how to cope with them. With our help, you’ll be feeling (at least a little) better in no time.

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Disclaimer: We may be compensated through the affiliate links in this post, but all opinions are our own. Read more here.

When is the first trimester of pregnancy?

The first trimester of pregnancy technically begins on the first day of your last menstrual cycle. Weird, right? So it technically begins before you’ve even conceived. Most women find out they are pregnant with a home pregnancy test after their missed periods. At this point, you are typically around 4 weeks pregnant. This is why the first day of your last menstrual cycle is used to calculate your due date.

When will I start to experience first trimester of pregnancy symptoms?

The hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin) begins to be produced in your body once the egg has been fertilized and implanted. This, along with surges of other hormones within your body are what cause pregnancy symptoms in the first trimester.

Some women report feeling symptoms mere days after conception, but most are really feeling symptoms between 4-6 weeks of pregnancy. By week 8 around 90% of women will experience symptoms.

How should I be preparing in the first trimester of pregnancy?

The first trimester of pregnancy is a strange time. You may be filled with excitement and joy, or shock and adjustment to the news. You might not be feeling your best, yet many choose to keep their news a secret until the end of the first trimester.

Luckily there’s lots you can do to help pass the time! You can read a complete first trimester to do list, but here’s a quick checklist to get you started:

Most Common First Trimester Symptoms (and what to do about them!)

Alright, this is why you’re here! Let’s find out what symptoms you can expect in the first trimester, and what you can do to help make them more manageable. For more detailed advice about managing pregnancy symptoms with natural remedies and techniques, be sure to sign up for Mama Natural’s FREE weekly pregnancy series.

1. Swollen and Sore Breasts

For many mamas this is one of the first physical signs of pregnancy. It will likely be a while still until your bump pops, but your boobs might start changing right away! Some women even report this as the first sign of pregnancy they experience, even before a missed period.

Your breasts may swell or grow, or might be sore and tender to the touch. It can feel uncomfortable to lay on your stomach, or wear a tight fitting bra.

What can you do about sore breasts in the first trimester of pregnancy?

Invest in some larger, supportive bras. We recommend getting some high quality nursing bras at this point. Most nice nursing bras are going to fit and support exactly (if not better) than a regular bra, and by buying these now instead of just buying larger regular bras, you’ll save yourself an expense once baby comes. You’ll have nursing bras all cued up for when you start breastfeeding.

2. Bloating and Constipation

Bloating and constipation is another symptom for many women in the first trimester. This is because the surge in the hormone progesterone. Basically, it causes the muscles in your intestines to slow down, meaning food is not being processed as quickly. This can also cause trapped gas and bloating.

Another culprit could be your Prenatal Vitamin, which may contain extra iron. Add on an additional iron supplement (which many women wind up needing in pregnancy) and things can really get backed up.

What can you do about constipation in the first trimester of pregnancy?

Drink lots of water! Many experts recommend upping your water intake a bit during pregnancy anyway. I know that I naturally felt much thirstier during pregnancy, so simply drinking “to thirst” as they say, did result in a lot of extra water intake! It really will help keep things moving too.

Additionally, you can be more aware of your fiber intake. Eating foods that are high in fiber, and lots of fruits and vegetables might help you stay a bit more regular and less gassy. Oatmeal for breakfast, or other high-fiber fortified cereals. I know that due to nausea in my first pregnancy, I basically lived on oatmeal, so this could be a win, win for you too!

3. Fatigue

This is a symptom that you may experience throughout your pregnancy, just in the first trimester, or maybe not at all. It’s a more general feeling of exhaustion that you might feel like you just can’t shake. Napping may help, but you may wake up feeling kind of the same.

How can I fight the feeling of fatigue during the first trimester of pregnancy?

Some things that can be helpful are going for a brisk walk, eating a nutritious diet full of fruits and vegetables, and even a more purposeful prenatal fitness program. I know that these suggestions can be tough to make a reality when you are exhausted and possibly feeling sick.

For me, the brisk walk was what really worked. I never wanted to do it, but my other half often urged me to come for a dog walk in the evenings. Always within 5 minutes of starting the walk I would feel so much better! Something about the fresh air, movement, and activity would energize and distract me from my yucky, exhausted feelings.

Remember to always listen to your body. Don’t overdo it, rest when possible, and give yourself a break during this special time. Your body is working hard to grow a baby after all!

4. Nausea

Ah, morning sickness. Or for many, all day sickness. This stereotypical symptom of pregnancy is present in around 50% of pregnancies. It usually starts around week 6 and for many will disappear by week 12 completely.

What’s interesting about nausea in the first trimester, is you never know how it will present for you.

  • Trina had this frustrating symptom from 3 days before her missed period until week 12, all day and all night. It was so bad that she was actually prescribed an extra vitamin and sleep aid to help combat it.
  • In my first pregnancy, it didn’t start until around week 6 but lasted until week 20! The bright side (I guess) was that I only really felt the severe nausea from 3pm until I went to sleep. This was likely due to the link between exhaustion and nausea during pregnancy.
  • And some lucky women have slight or non-existent nausea- this could be you!

Be sure to read our 10 tips for morning sickness relief for the best help with this uncomfortable symptom!

A quick overview of what to do about morning sickness in the first trimester?

  • Try to eat bland, carb-loaded foods every 2-3 hours. I mentioned above that oatmeal was my lifeline during the first 20 weeks. I brought instant oatmeal packets with me to work for lunch every day. This with cut up bananas did the trick.
  • Morning Sickness Tea, Ginger Ale, Sea Bands, and Preggie Pops are all products known to help with morning sickness
  • Chewing strong mint gum may help. My co-worker actually guessed my pregnancy (though was tactful enough not to ask…) based on my new affinity for gum.
  • Studies have shown that probiotics can really help, especially with extreme morning sickness (known as hyperemesis gravidarum). Eating yogurt daily (if you can stomach it) is a great source, or probiotics can be taken in supplement form.

5. Increased Urination

During pregnancy, your kidneys are processing a lot more fluid due to the increase in blood flow involved with making a human. And yes, this leads to a lot more bathroom trips for you! Some women report this symptom as one that occurs before they even miss their period. But it seems that the height of frequent urination happens around 8-10 weeks in the first trimester. It may let up a bit in the second trimester as your body adjust to the extra fluid. Then in the third trimester, it will likely pick back up again as the growing baby puts pressure on your bladder.

Another contributing factor is that many women naturally drink a lot more water while pregnant. I mentioned above that your hydration needs and feeling of thirst in general will increase during this time.

What to do about increased urination in the first trimester?

In a lot of ways, this isn’t one you can really symptom manage as well as some others. Most experts want you to stay hydrated and not limit water-intake. One thing you can limit is the amount of tea and coffee you consume because they are diuretics. This means they cause an increased passing of urine.

Another tip that worked really well for Trina? Use a belly wrap! It lifts and compresses your early pregnancy belly in such a way that it did relieve some pressure on her bladder already. She also found it provided enough support to make working on her feet all day easier. We also love belly wraps because they can help to keep your maternity pants up, which I know is the plight of many maternity-pants-wearing mamas.

6. Heartburn

Heartburn is a pregnancy symptom that almost always creeps up on women by their third trimester, but for some, may start right away! That’s because the hormone progesterone is at work loosening and relaxing your pelvic and uterine muscles to allow for growing and expanding during pregnancy.

The unpleasant part for you? It means that the muscle that keeps your stomach acid down where it’s supposed to be is also looser, making it easier for acid to bubble up into your esophagus. You might find it particularly bothersome when you bend over or lay down.

What can you do about heartburn in the first trimester of pregnancy?

This heartburn is a little bit different than the heartburn you might experience outside of pregnancy because that muscle at the bottom of your esophagus is looser and more open. This means that heartburn medications aren’t quite as effective, though they may help. Always check with your provider, but it is generally considered safe to take Tums during pregnancy.

My midwife had also recommended a more natural option, Chewable Papaya Enzyme. It works in the same way as Tums to neutralize your stomach, and also has a hint of mint to get the yucky taste out of your mouth. I’m not sure if it was a placebo effect or not, but I swore by this for my entire pregnancy.

7. Mood Swings

As your body begins to grow a baby, you are having a lot of changing hormones in your body. This can lead to some pretty intense mood swings. It is very normal to feel extra emotional, euphoric, sad, and even anxious during this time.

If you find that your extreme feelings are interfering with your ability to function in your day to day life, definitely bring this up to your provider! Mood disorders and depression do affect some women in pregnancy and should be treated professionally.

How can I help manage my mood swings during the first trimester?

There is no hard and fast fix for this symptom either, however keeping other mood triggers at bay can certainly help. I’m talking HALT here: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. If you can keep yourself well fed, well rested, and avoid situations that will cause anger or loneliness, you’ll be in better shape. This is an acronym often associated with toddler parenting, but we love it for adults too 🙂

8. Cravings/Aversions

Don’t be surprised if you start having strong food cravings or aversions right away in your pregnancy. Pregnancy cravings are often highly specific and intense. Aversions might be even stronger than cravings, especially in the first trimester, and are often rooted in smell in addition to taste.

For me, anything that smelled like garlic or was cooked with garlic remained a strong aversion for my entire pregnancy. I couldn’t even stand to be near Patrick if he ate anything with garlic in it. Intense, and specific for sure.

I liked how Trina put it in one of her first trimester bumpdates, she felt like no food sounded really good, but then one random and specific food would sound amazing, but only that food. Pretty much exactly what pregnancy cravings are like.

What can I do about first trimester cravings and aversions?

Honestly, your best bet is to roll with them. Don’t stress too hard about not eating the most balanced and hearty diet right now. It’s really tough in the first trimester. Eat what sounds good and doesn’t make you feel sick. Your prenatal vitamin will do a good job at covering the slack. And when in doubt, eat crackers, oatmeal and PB&Js.

One thing that was helpful for me was having food already prepared. Often the act of cooking, and even the smells being in a grocery store were too intense for me, but if someone put cooked food in front of me and I started eating, I’d feel a lot better.

Try some meal prep to hurdle aversions and eat a more balanced diet in the first trimester

Consider getting a loved one or your partner to do some meal prep for you. The Complete Freezer Bundle is a great resource of no pre-cooking, healthy crock pot meals. Simply combine ingredients in a zip lock and freeze. Defrost one meal overnight and before work in the morning pop it in the crock pot. You’ll come home to delicious and healthy food. Investing in this now will allow the resource to serve you through pregnancy, and when it comes to stocking your freezer with meals before baby arrives too!

9. Cramping and Spotting

Let’s start by saying any cramping or spotting that comes after you’ve had a positive pregnancy test warrants a call to your provider. It’s always best to get a professional opinion on what’s going on with your body when it comes to any blood or cramping.

Spotting in the first trimester

However, it is actually more common, especially in the first trimester, than many expectant mamas know. It’s hard to find an accurate or average statistic but most resources state that as many as 25%-30% of women experience spotting. It’s typically brown or light pink and color, and not enough blood to fill a pad or tampon. Typically, you’d only see it when you wipe or a bit on a panty liner.

Cramping in the first trimester

Cramping can be felt during your first trimester due to your uterus flexing and expanding to prepare for a growing baby. If you are experiencing cramping, please call your provider, but don’t be surprised if they say it is normal.

Implantation spotting and cramping

Along with general spotting and cramping, you may experience these two symptoms around the time your fertilized egg implants in the uterus. This occurs anywhere from 3-14 days after the egg is fertilized (day of ovulation, generally).

Because this window has such large range, you may actually experience implantation bleeding and cramping right around the time you are expecting your period. This will present as spotting and is usually light pink or brown in color. It will not be enough blood to fill a pad or tampon.

10. Weight changes

Most women will not start to show in the first trimester, especially if it is your first pregnancy. Remember that weight change will be unique to your body type, pregnancy, and weight gain goals. Comparing your body and weight gains during pregnancy with others is probably not productive or helpful. Every pregnancy is unique!

That being said, the average weight gain in the first trimester is around 5 lbs. Some women will gain more than that, and some women may actually find that they lose some weight.  This may be due to food aversions and nausea. Some women might lose or stay the same weight if they were overweight to begin with and have switched to a healthier more balanced diet. In other words: there’s a huge range of normal!

What can help all women with weight changes in the first trimester?

Setting goals with your provider and talking about your nutritional intake. It can also be helpful to track and chart weight gain throughout your pregnancy so that you can look for any trends or concerns.

The First Trimester Will End!

We know the first trimester is tough and you most likely aren’t feeling your best, but it will end! The second trimester is an exciting time, marked with a lot more energy and improved symptoms for most mamas.

In the meantime, try the tips in this article, learn specific natural remedies for first trimester symptoms from Mama Natural, and stay distracted by starting some early baby prep.

Get advice on how to keep busy in the first trimester by reading, 18 Things to Do in the First Trimester, and Positive Pregnancy Test, Now What? Both are filled with great advice about what you can do right away to get your pregnancy off to a healthy and productive start!

Hang in there, Mama! And don’t forget to subscribe to the Bump Smart Series! We’d be honored to be a part of your entire pregnancy journey <3

What’s been the toughest first trimester pregnancy symptom for you? Have a tip we forgot? Comment below! We love to hear from our readers.

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First Trimester Pregnancy Symptoms

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