First Trimester Dos and Don'ts for a Stress-Free Journey

First Trimester Dos and Don'ts

As a time of profound development and rapid changes, the first three months lay the foundation for a healthy pregnancy. It’s during this period that being proactive about your well-being will have a profound effect on your and your baby’s health and comfort. Let’s examine some pregnancy dos and don’ts in the first trimester so you can set yourself up for a more empowered, low-stress pregnancy.

Dos and Don'ts in the First Trimester of Pregnancy

Let’s explore the recommended first trimester dos and don’ts that can significantly contribute to a stress-free and healthy pregnancy experience. From nutritional guidelines to lifestyle adjustments, our aim is to empower pregnant families with the knowledge needed to navigate the first trimester with confidence. 

If you’ve searched for an article to tell you that smoking is not a great choice while pregnant and to microwave your deli meat, this won’t be it. Traditional first trimester dos and don’ts lists are often huge sources of stress and reducing stress is always one of our goals.

Assemble your dream team!

The most important thing you can do to have a healthier pregnancy is to see a doctor or midwife throughout your pregnancy. People who receive regular prenatal medical care have fewer complications and healthier babies. Whether you opt for a Family Physician, an Obstetrician or a Midwife, your prenatal healthcare provider will look for any emerging health complications and be able to treat them in a timely way. 

Not every birth care provider is the same as the next, however. For this reason it’s important to find providers whose values about pregnancy and birth align with your own. If you are hoping for a birth with no interventions and you are birthing in the hospital with an Obstetrician, does that doctor often support low intervention and unmedicated births? Or, do they practice more conservatively and prefer to manage their patient’s births. Alternatively, if you are looking forward to enjoying an epidural for pain management in labor, a home birth only midwife is not going to be able to help you. 

Your ideal pregnancy and birth team doesn’t stop with the medical personnel. Your birthing location is also a very important consideration. The hospital with a high c-section rate may not be the right facility for you if you’re hoping to avoid a surgical birth. A little research in these early weeks of pregnancy can help you have a more fulfilling experience as you move through pregnancy.

  • There are also many other allied health professionals you may wish to consider. 
  • Birth doulas are associated with having fewer interventions at birth. 
  • A prenatal class can give you practical options for coping in labor. 
  • Movement professionals such as BRM®️ Pros with a specialty in pregnancy can provide safe exercise options. 
  • Pelvic floor physiotherapists can help prevent and address pelvic floor injury
  • Prenatal massage therapy can provide great comfort in a changing pregnant body. 

These are just a few examples. Any one or even many of these people, as a part of your pregnancy support team, will help you have a happier, healthier, more connected and satisfying pregnancy and birth.

Release your stress!

Early pregnancy is such a great time to take stock of life and look for places to find and build greater balance and satisfaction. Some stress in our lives is both inevitable and natural. When we feel in balance, our nervous system manages a constant flow of calm and stress inside of us. When the stress piles up, the system can struggle to maintain balance. 

When our nervous system becomes unbalanced with too much stress, our bodies respond. We start to feel things like shortness of breath, racing heart, our brains may go blank and we may need to run for the restroom. We begin to unconsciously hold excess tension in our muscles, our behaviors may change, our posture might shift. The flow of hormones that will help us to birth our babies can be impacted making the balancing of our nervous system a gift with many benefits. 

Stress in life is inevitable. How we handle that stress can be a mirror into the health of our nervous system.  To reduce the negative impacts of stress take a two-sided approach: reduce stress where you can at home, with family and friends, at work or school, and improve the ways you respond to stress. You may need to reduce your workload, set boundaries and expectations, and make adjustments in how you approach problems. These skills may be even more helpful in your life as a parent!

Listen in to our conversation about Stress & trauma during pregnancy with Ja’Neen Jenkins Washington on the Pros Talk Pregnancy Podcast

Balancing your nervous system will help you not only reduce stress by naturally being calming, but will make it easier for you to manage the stress that inevitably comes your way. In birth, the hormones creating the contractions that open the cervix and move the baby can be dampened by high stress. By working towards more emotional balance, you’ll be increasing your body’s ability to work optimally during birth. That could mean fewer interventions.

We recommend 3D Breathing as a great way to reduce stress and balance the nervous system. In 3D Breathing, we focus on filling the lungs in three dimensions. Many of us spend the majority of our days breathing into our upper chest. This type of breathing is associated with anxious feelings. To breathe deeply, we may have been taught to breathe down into our bellies. The drawback of breathing into our bellies is that it places extra pressure on the pelvic floor. 

The benefit of 3D Breathing is that it helps to calm our nervous system, it reduces excess pressure on the pelvic floor, and it increases the mobility of our ribs. That last one may not seem like a big deal now when your baby is the size of a lima bean –it’s always the size of a food, isn’t it?– but when your baby and uterus grow up into the bottom of the lungs you’ll be thankful for the increased rib mobility!

Here is a short video demonstrating how to breathe in 3 dimensions.

The emerging science of epigenetics – how non-genetic factors can affect inherited traits –  shows that you can positively influence your baby’s brain by limiting your stress and working on balancing your nervous system. So, go ahead and breathe fully into your lungs, feel yourself become calmer as your hormones naturally balance and your body. You’ll be nourishing yourself and your baby and their developing nervous system.

Listen to your body!

You’ve probably heard that phrase many times. Not everyone feels confident that they can hear what their body is saying. The good news is that it’s a skill you can learn and get better at with practice. 

When we talk about listening to your body, we are describing a process of becoming mindful about what sensations you are experiencing within your body. Those sensations happen for a reason and cluing in to them can lead you to identifying why they are happening. 

Let’s start with a simple exercise: 

Think about where you are right now. Are you at rest? Standing? In a chair? Laying in bed? Sitting beside a stranger on the commuter train? 

Feel where your body touches the world. Maybe your bottom is on the sofa. Or are your feet on the floor? Is your shoulder leaning against something? 

What does that point of connection feel like? Soft? Hard? Painful? Ticklish? 

Now let’s listen a little deeper. As you take a breath in, can you feel the lungs as they inflate? Can you feel the subtle movement of your diaphragm as it responds to your lungs inflating? Can you feel the pelvic floor stretch ever so slightly? Sit a little longer breathing and visualize the lungs, the diaphragm, the pelvic floor all moving slowly, expanding and flexing gently as you breathe in and out. 

Developing this internal awareness can be a powerful tool. When you notice your guts feel a little queasy after a visit from your boss, you can start to recognize that perhaps you are feeling stress. Noticing that stress can alert you to take a few breaths and balance your nervous system. It can alert you to the need to address issues that are triggering stressful feelings. 

You’ll also get better at feeling when certain movements don’t feel right for you. This can be very helpful when you do any exercise. Small signs may show you that the workouts you were used to before pregnancy may now place strain on the body. 

Nourish yourself!

On any list of first trimester dos and don’ts is the advice to take a good prenatal vitamin. It will guarantee you get certain nutrients that may be less common in your diet. To make sure you get a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, focus on improving the foods you eat every day. While we don’t believe there are bad foods, evidence shows people see health improvements when they focus on eating more fresh foods.

first trimester dos and don’ts in diet

Think about what you eat during an average day and see where you can make small improvements. Protein, iron and calcium are the building blocks of a growing baby; how can you get enough every day?

Another key component of nourishing our bodies is hydration. Let’s face it: most of us are dehydrated. When you’re pregnant, your body needs extra fluids. Make sure you get plenty of water. Some people find water harder to drink than soda and juice. If that’s you, too, you can try adding lots of ice, water flavor drops or indulge in a new, fun water bottle!

What if you’ve been experiencing nausea or vomiting in your first trimester? This common early pregnancy symptom can make being pregnant miserable. Because an empty stomach can trigger nausea, eat small meals frequently – about every 2 to 3 hours. The smell of food can also be a big nausea trigger. Cold food tends to smell less, so you may wish to eat cold meals. If you can, have a partner make your meals to reduce the chance of smelling the food.

Keeping crackers next to your bed is a common recommendation for folks with pregnancy induced nausea. Immediately after waking, munch on a couple of crackers to get something into your stomach. High protein foods can also help reduce nausea and vomiting. You can prepare some bland protein such as chicken breasts that you can store in the fridge and consume cold. And, if you’ve been throwing up, drink more water than you think you need. Hydration can sometimes reduce nausea on its own, but will also replace fluids lost from being sick.

Rest more!

Let’s face it: you probably haven’t been getting enough rest for years!  You’re a busy person and the world is full of excitement and that usually means skimping on sleep. The first trimester is notorious for incredible fatigue and it often surprises pregnant families how intense the fatigue can be. After all: you are literally building a human at a pace of millions of cells a day. That takes a lot of energy. 

Of the many gifts we recommend you give yourself, naps is one of them, as is enough sleep at night. And, now that you’ve been practicing listening to your body, you’ll hear more clearly when it tells you it is tired. When you are tired, stop and rest. Aim to get seven or more hours of sleep each night.  

Move your body!

Birth workers have a saying: “motion is lotion”. It means that in pregnancy and birth, movement as a practice and movement as a coping technique helps the pregnant body and baby birth better. Moving your body in pregnancy can bring an incredible host of benefits: 

  • Promotes better sleep.
  • Supports blood sugar management.
  • Reduces stress.
  • Improves mood.
  • Limits excess weight gain.
  • Contributes to fewer c-sections.
  • Babies show improved health markers

All of these are impressive, but you may be wondering how you get these benefits. There are, after all, a lot of ways to exercise your body. We recommend approaching exercise in a mindful way. Instead of simply hitting the treadmill or lifting weights, focus on a movement plan that is designed for pregnancy. In exercise science, we call this “the law of specificity”.

Your growing baby may be quite tiny in the first trimester, but very quickly the weight of your baby, your uterus, the placenta and all of the extra fluids in your body can start to put a lot of pressure on the pelvic floor. I’m sure you’re familiar with all kinds of jokes about how mothers can’t sneeze or laugh too hard without peeing themselves. Unfortunately, that can happen when we don’t know how to protect our pelvic floor or increase its strength and flexibility. 

A program designed for pregnant bodies like Body Ready Prenatal  takes all of these things into account. Additionally, a good pregnancy movement program will prepare the body for birth. It will seek to create balance, strength, flexibility and mobility across the entire body. This more holistic approach means that long after the first trimester, when your body is ready to birth, it will be in the optimal state to help you in your goal to have a smoother labor with fewer interventions.

If you regularly exercise; keep it up! Assess whether your current exercise practice serves the unique needs of your pregnant body. If you are an athlete, consider connecting with a movement professional who specializes in pregnancy movement such as a Certified BRM®️ Pro to see if your movement plan could use some adjustments.

If you are new to exercise, start slow and build up your intensity over time. Start off with a great all around exercise like walking. You can do this on a treadmill or simply start exploring your neighborhood. Look for a pregnancy focused movement program to guide you as you build strength and endurance, create greater flexibility and mobility, and prepare your body for birth.

Final thoughts on dos and don’ts in the first trimester

We can tell you all kinds of first trimester dos and don’ts but the most helpful of all is to take the time to assess what in your life is serving you and what you can release. This is the perfect time to evaluate your diet, how much rest you’re getting each day, your exercise habits, the stressors in your life, and decide how you might want to improve them in small but meaningful ways. The habits you begin in the first trimester will pay off as your baby grows.

Frequently Asked Questions

We can tell you all kinds of first trimester dos and don’ts but the most helpful of all is to take the time to assess what in your life is serving you and what you can release. This is the perfect time to evaluate your diet, how much rest you’re getting each day, your exercise habits, the stressors in your life, and decide how you might want to improve them in small but meaningful ways. The habits you begin in the first trimester will pay off as your baby grows.

By the time I get home from work I'm so exhausted and it's so late that making food from scratch is hard. Is eating frozen foods really bad for me?

We believe there are no bad foods. And many prepared frozen foods are highly nutritious. We love our air fryer for helping make fast and nutritious meals. You may be surprised to discover that nourishing meals like grain bowls can be made from a handful or two of veggies, chicken tenders and beans that can all be cooked in the air fryer in the same amount of time a freezer meal can be cooked in the oven – prep included! There are a lot of strategies for sneaking great food into every day to increase the quality of the foods you are eating.

I've been doing a functional movement program at my gym for the last six months. Should I stop?

It’s helpful to evaluate your movement practice by asking yourself a few questions. Does my exercise program adjust for being pregnant? Does my movement program address my whole body? Is this program designed not only with the pregnant body in mind, but help me prepare for a smoother birth and a better postpartum recovery? BRM® offers exercise programs that offer different levels of intensity and is designed specifically for the pregnant body.

How can I protect my baby if I start every night sleeping on my side and wake up on my back?

Your body has many ways to let you know you need to move into a different position. If you do roll flat onto your back, your body will give you signs if you experience supine hypotensive syndrome such as lightheadedness and nausea. This will signal your body to roll to your side. If you are a lifelong back sleeper, you may wish to also use a pillow behind your back to reduce the weight that may press on the main vessel that delivers oxygen and nutrients to your organs.

How much water should I drink everyday during pregnancy?

While each person has unique needs based on their size and activity levels, you should consume approximately 8-12 cups daily while pregnant. That’s 64 to 96 ounces or 2 to 3 liters of water, milk, juice, tea, etc, in combination.

What is the best exercise to do in pregnancy?

The best type of exercise to do in pregnancy is the one you will actually do. Look for exercise programs that are fun and make your body feel good while you do them. Whether that is walking every day, taking a prenatal yoga class or swimming, if you are able to exercise regularly, you will be nourishing your body and your baby.

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