During the first trimester, the changes in your hormones cause various changes to your body.
As well as a missed period, you might have other early symptoms of pregnancy, including breast tenderness. You may also need a larger, more supportive bra. Your nipples and the surrounding area (areola) may become larger and darker. You may need to pass urine more often because your growing womb starts to press on your bladder, and the hormonal changes may make you feel very tired.
Many women feel sick, and some will vomit in early pregnancy. This nausea and vomiting is often called morning sickness although it can happen any time or throughout the day. The cause is unknown, but research suggests it may be related to high levels of pregnancy hormones. There are things you can do to try and reduce the nausea and sickness: get plenty of rest, eat little and often, and avoid smells and tastes that make you nauseous. If you can’t keep food or fluid down, see your GP or maternal and child health nurse.
You may become constipated because the rising hormone levels slow your bowels down. To relieve this, drink plenty of fluids and eat a healthy diet with plenty of fibre. Heartburn is also common. Talk to your pharmacist or GP about what you can do and what’s safe for you to take for relief from heartburn.
Throughout this trimester or as soon as you know that you’re pregnant (and preferably beforehand), you should be taking at least 400 micrograms (0.4mg) folic acid daily. This is the period when your baby’s brain and nervous system are developing and folic acid reduces the chance of the baby being born with a spinal cord problem called a neural tube defect (NTD), such as spina bifida. If you’re at a high risk of having a baby with a NTD, your doctor will prescribe a much higher dose of 5000 micrograms (5mg) folic acid daily.
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can affect the development of your baby’s brain and slow down physical growth. This can result in a low birth weight plus lifelong physical and behavioural problems. It is best to avoid alcohol during pregnancy. This is especially important during the first three months when important organs including the brain are forming. For support and advice on stopping alcohol consumption during pregnancy, speak frankly with your doctor or maternal and child health nurse.