I’ve been debating if I should make one post on this topic or break this down into multiple posts, because there’s truly so much to talk about. Consider this post an over-arching summary of what I figured out along the way, but expect more posts to come getting into the nitty gritty details of it all! Let’s talk about the bigger things I discovered during my whirlwind first trimester of my first pregnancy:
Your Immune System Dies
I feel like this is one of those things that is assumed to be common knowledge that I was completely unaware of. (I’ve had a lot of moments like this so far). When you become pregnant, your immune system typically weakens which not only makes you more susceptible to illness, but prevents you from getting better like you normally would.
I experienced this first-hand when I got the flu in November. My PCP told me to just wait it out and I would be fine. I never got better. The flu turned into pneumonia when I was across the country after my doctor told me I was fine because I didn’t have a fever. I called them to tell them I was extremely ill and needed a prescription for some kind of antibiotic right away (this was two weeks later!). They fought me saying “you had a virus, we can’t give you antibiotics” – completely ignoring my new symptoms. By the time I got home to Illinois, the pneumonia had turned into the beginning of sepsis (where the infection spreads into the bloodstream which can cause organ failure and kill you quickly). I was then admitted to the hospital for three days, worked on recovery for about a week, and THEN – the pneumonia came back!
I have had the flu many times before in my life. I have never struggled recovering like I did here, and I have NEVER been so sick in my life. The entire sickness period lasted almost my entire first trimester. Invest in a stockpile of germex. Take it everywhere. Get your flu shot. Stay away from sniffly friends, family and co-workers. Don’t let them tell you “I’m fine, it’s just allergies.” Up your vitamin C. Don’t feel weird for wearing a medical mask on public transportation. Be selfish and protect yourself, and baby!
Early-detection pregnancy tests
When you’re actively trying to conceive, you want to know ASAP if it worked this cycle or not. I bought a few rounds of the early-detection pregnancy tests that claim to tell you 6 days before your missed period. None of them worked. I even tested the day before my missed period and they were negative. So – I went to a Halloween party and had a couple glasses of wine. Then my period never showed up! Turns out I was pregnant, but I had to wait for a couple days after my missed period for the positive results. If your early detection test is negative – wait and try again!
The first few appointments I had with my OB – I felt like a total idiot. My first appointment, they did a full gyno exam and I was not aware that would be happening. That bothered me. I hate going to the gyno and need to mentally prepare for it, so when I walked in and they told me to strip it down – I was pissed! So, expect that! Also, nobody told me I need to show up to each OB appointment with a full bladder, because they test urine every time. (This might not be true for all doctors, but mine does). Also, when I had my early ultrasound at 8-9 weeks, I brought my husband. We were so anxious to see baby was okay since I had been so ill. I pictured the ultrasound as a usual tummy ultrasound. NOPE. Matt got to sit in the room while I had a vaginal ultrasound, which neither one of us expected! I feel like all of this is so routine for OB doctors that they forget to inform you what to expect at your appointments, so don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re like me and need to know what you’re walking into at all times.
Morning Sickness: When will it end?
When you first find out you’re pregnant, one of the first things many of us do is start ordering books, researching blogs, following podcasts, etc. All the reading and information out there says that your morning sickness will end by the second trimester. I was surprised to hear from so many women in my life that that wasn’t true. Many women have morning sickness well into the second trimester, or even throughout their entire pregnancy! Luckily, I was the rule and not the exception. I had morning sickness conveniently (or maybe inconveniently?) at the same time I was extremely ill, so I got it all over with at once! By about week 10 my morning sickness was calming down. By the second trimester, it was gone. Just know, every pregnancy is unique and you may experience ongoing morning sickness. So, I recommend finding out what works for you – whether it be ginger tea, nausea candies, sea-sickness wristbands, munching on crackers in bed before you get up in the morning, etc.
A lot of medicine is actually safe for pregnancy
Like many women, as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I tried to jump off all my meds right away. I always thought that you should avoid taking any medicine while pregnant because, well, it’s just better that way. I went off my anxiety meds and stopped taking my daily Zyrtec and occasional Benadryl. I was totally on-board with this whole “natural pregnancy” train. Well, I quickly got over that when I landed in the hospital and got loaded up with antibiotics, Tylenol, Benadryl (because I was allergic to the antibiotics), etc. Throughout my time in the hospital and my ongoing care, I’ve learned that it’s actually okay to take certain medicines when you’re pregnant and baby will be just fine. Typically, all OB doctors have their “safe list” and will give you one at your first OB appointment. Getting over my fear of taking medicine while pregnant has helped a lot during this pregnancy. I still try to limit any medicine intake, even though the medicine I’m using is safe. But let my traumatic hospital stay help you – you’re not a bad mom-to-be if you pop some Tylenol or a Benadryl here and there.
Like the medicine situation above, I started tapering my caffeine intake when we decided to start TTC. Law school really put me into a bad relationship with caffeine – I was drinking probably 50-60 ounces a day on average. When I found out I was pregnant, I was down to about two drinks a day. I cut it out completely at this point and SUFFERED. I had a two-week withdrawal period where I was having daily migraines and could not keep my eyes open at my desk. I always just thought you can’t have caffeine when pregnant. Apparently, that is not true, and I really wish I had known that before I killed myself for two weeks! My OB actually told me, without me asking, that caffeine is okay as long as you’re not over-doing it. My further research has revealed that you should stay under 200 mg caffeine per day. So now, I get creative but still keep my intake low. For example, this morning I stopped at Casey’s and filled my coffee cup 2/3 decaf and topped it off with dark roast (lowest caffeine content). long story short – caffeine and coffee is actually okay (as long as your doctor says so for your specific pregnancy) – so don’t let anyone mom-shame you for needing a little boost!
The Great Pineapple Debate
Google will be your best – and worst – friend during the first trimester, and really, your entire pregnancy. I found myself constantly googling if everything was safe (and still do now that I’m in the second trimester!). There’s just so much to know, and it can feel overwhelming. What cheese is safe? Is it safe to go bowling? Is it safe to eat this? What about this? What about this?
One of my first cravings was for pineapple. One day, after stuffing my face with a ton of pineapple, I suddenly got the google urge and of course, a bunch of scary stories popped up claiming that pineapple can cause miscarriage. I researched this endlessly, because obviously I thought I had just done something terrible. Turns out, there are a lot of old wives tales that say pineapple isn’t safe, but there is no medical evidence to support that fact. I also heard Laura from the Big Fat Positive Podcast discuss this – she said she found that you’d have to eat like 7 pineapples in one sitting for anything to happen. The concern comes from a certain enzyme found primarily in the core of the pineapple which you don’t eat anyway. The enzyme, bromelain, is thought to contribute to cervical ripening, BUT, there is no evidence that supports the notion that pineapple is dangerous during pregnancy. As always, confirm with your own doctor.
What did you learn in your first trimester? Let me know below!