The nausea. The fatigue. The mood swings. The pregnancy brain. I know – sometimes it feel like you won’t survive the first trimester.
I’m pregnant with my third child. I get it – the first trimester is rough. Growing another human being is hard work.
Since I’ve now completed the first trimester a few times, I developed some strategies that work. Here are the tips that helped me to survive the first trimester. (Scroll down or just grab the printable checklist now!)
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Manage the Nausea in the First Trimester
One of the hardest parts about being pregnant is managing the nausea. This time, since I had more experience. I was more prepared – and thank goodness. This third pregnancy definitely had the worst morning sickness of my three.
Here are some non-traditional and traditional ways you can deal nausea in the first trimester.
1. Outsource food prep
Consider what food prep you can outsource. You won’t feel like cooking a bunch of chicken thighs in the crockpot – so can you purchase already-prepared chicken?
We bought already-prepared foods from the grocery store deli or produce section. We got rotisserie chicken and mashed and roasted potatoes from the Whole Foods deli when I felt like I could eat that.
We bought already prepared fruits and vegetables for the children so there would be no extra smells for me. Sure it costs extra, but we have to be reasonable about what we’re capable of.
2. Use grocery pick up and delivery
If you can avoid it, don’t go into the grocery stores.
I used grocery pick up every week. I set up a basic weekly menu plan that my husband and kids would eat and saved it as favorites in my Fred Meyer grocery app (Kroger affiliated store). So if I felt really crummy, I could just select those favorites and place an order in under 5 minutes.
When I brought the groceries home, I’d focus on putting away the perishable foods first.
You can also use Target Drive Up for non-perishable food items plus get other essentials at the same time. I HEART Target pick up.
3. Manage the nauseous feeling
Try different strategies to cope with your nausea. In my first pregnancy, Sea Bands saved my life. While they don’t work for everyone, I’m grateful I tried them. I sent my husband to Rite Aid at 8pm on weekend, and boy, did they help me!
Lay’s Potato chips and lemonade saved my life in this third pregnancy. I actually ordered this case of individual packages to keep in the car and to limit my portions. I got lemonade from the grocery store and would water it down to make sure I drank enough fluids.
4. Plan Your Snacks
You’ve probably heard this advice before but one of the best ways to beat morning sickness is to eat frequently. Take some time to brainstorm 3-5 snacks that don’t make you feel nauseous right now. Seriously write them down in your phone or on a notepad or on the printable First Trimester Survival checklist right now.
When I was at home, I’d turn to gluten free waffles with turkey bacon or grilled chicken strips with steamed carrots. I found that eating protein really helped me. We have peanut and tree nut allergies and dairy intolerance in this family, but consider those protein sources for you.
Managing the Fatigue in the First Trimester
The first trimester fatigue is just relentless, am I right?! Besides having mono when I taught 2nd grade, I’ve never felt so tired!
I went to the doctor to discuss the fatigue when I was only 4 weeks pregnant. I have chronically low iron and ferritin and an autoimmune disease that causes fatigue. While I did need IV iron, the doctor did gently tell me, “this is pregnancy.”
5. Take naps
You have heard this advice already but I am giving you permission, too. Nap!
If you work, see if there is a place you can nap in the office. When I taught, I’d just shut my classroom door during recess and sleep with my head on my desk for 10 minutes. I told the teachers in the classrooms next to me.
If you are a stay-at-home-parent, nap whenever you can. Or at least just lay on the couch when your kids play.
6. Lower your standards
First trimester is the time for survival. Lower your standards for how tidy the house will be. Lower your standards for how productive you’ll be with work.
Reading nightly with the kids? Let that go if you need to.
Gardening? If that’s not your jam, let it go.
Cleaning out the garage? Sister, this is not the time for that!
7. Get a better laundry system
Buy extra Room Essentials laundry baskets at Target (similar to ones picture)– that’s what I did.
I would wash and dry the clothes. Then often I wouldn’t fold them or put away. Or if I had enough energy, I would fold a little laundry.
In this picture above, the light green basket holds my 3 year old son’s clothes. I sorted out a stack of t-shirt and a stack of pants and folded them. This way, I also would not waste a trip upstairs when I was too tired.
These laundry baskets nest so when you’re in a season of motherhood where you don’t need four laundry baskets, they don’t take up much room.
If the wrinkles on your kids’ clothes bother you, you have two choices: 1) lower your standard for this season, or 2) take the clothes out of the dryer immediately and lay them flat in the basket.
8. Do two minute tasks
I would get to the point where the housework would just overwhelm me. So I developed a list of two-minute tasks for myself.
When I’d feel well enough, I’d do a task like load all the dirty dishes into the dishwasher. Or I would fold a small stack of five or six items of laundry. Sometimes I felt well enough to do a bit more housework, but I never expected it of myself.
9. Eliminate errands
Unless your weekly trip to Target is a source of joy, just don’t do it. Save your energy for other tasks that are driving you crazy and use the time to nap.
I used Target Drive Up. I’d add all the non-perishables and household items into my cart and then pick up when I was already out and about. This had the added benefit of keeping me in budget because I wasn’t tossing extra stuff into my cart.
Managing Your Emotions in the First Trimester
First trimester mood swings are the real deal. We’re adjusting mentally to a new season, and a HUGE change for our families. Then for high-achievers, it can also be hard to accept the new limitations.
10. Deal with your emotions
The first trimester can be fully of anxiety. Not only are we exhausted physically, but there are worries over the baby’s development and how the change will impact your family.
I found practicing mindfulness to be really helpful (and it’s science-based to work!). Refocus your mind on what you are currently doing at the moment.
I bought this book Expecting Mindfully to center myself during this pregnancy. It’s practical and compassionate!
Also, as a two-time survivor of postpartum depression, I want you to know depression and anxiety can strike at any time during or after pregnancy. Please don’t suffer needlessly – reach out to your doctor or midwife.
I know you are so tired you can’t even think about working out, but exercise is a great way to deal with the emotions. I recommend walking.
Even ten minutes will regulate moods better while giving you some added strength for dealing with all the physical changes to pregnancy.
12. Reach out to friends
Complaining via text message saved my life. My friends, my sisters and my cousin would commiserate when I felt sick. Their empathy helped me make it through some hard days.
Coping the first trimester when you have older kids
Do you have older kids at home? It’s so much harder when you have other people you need to care for.
This time around, I had two kids: my six-year old who has special needs and my three-year old son. It was summer vacation and I had the best of intentions about playdates and parks and splash pads and screen-free fun.
Well, she was home from school all day and he was potty training and I was sick. I had to let that go (see lower your standards!)
12. All the screens
We embraced all the screens! I got my daughter a subscription to ABC Mouse.
She read so many ebooks and practiced math and phonics on ABC Mouse this summer. It did prevent the summer slide.
We already had PBS Kids on Amazon Prime. So I figured six weeks of endless screen time wouldn’t kill them. And guess what, we’re past that time and back down to our reasonable 1 hour of screen time a day with little difficulty.
The AAP has good recommendations for screen time and I totally agree. However, remember the 80s? When we had no cable and watched The Price is Right and People’s Court followed by soap operas or the noon movie of the day?
I’m okay. You’re kids will be okay.
13. Follow routines
We already had solid morning and bedtime routines so we stuck to it. If you don’t, get the printable morning and bedtime routines and get your kids to be more independent. You’ll save yourself needless nagging and energy and they will build skills.
My children would both have 30 minutes of play time in their rooms so I could take a nap of shower.
14. Lunch boxes
My husband would pack the children their lunches the night before. Then it was a meal I wouldn’t have to prepare for them. They would get them out of the fridge and eat their lunches with very little assistance needed from me.
If you’re a single parent or your spouse isn’t able to provide this support, think if you can prep lunch stuff when you’re feeling okay so you don’t have to deal with it on a daily basis.
Recapping Surviving the First Trimester
Here’s the summary for those of you too exhausted to read it all:
- Outsource food prep so you don’t have to deal with the smells.
- Use grocery pick up and delivery to avoid the store and food smells.
- Manage the nauseous feeling with Sea Bands, Preggy Pops, or chips.
- Plan the snacks you can take with you to eat every two hours.
- Take naps to deal with the fatigue
- Lower your standard for yourself. Then lower them some more. Your house will be messier than usual.
- Find a better laundry system – my tip is buy more baskets!
- Try completing two-minutes housework tasks.
- Eliminate errands – now is the time to try Amazon Prime or Target Drive Up.
- Manage your emotions – don’t try to ignore them.
- Exercise – even 10 minutes of walking is a mood booster.
- Reach out to empathetic friends.
- Let your older kids have more screen time than usual.
- Teach them routines for independence (so you have to do less for them!)
- Pack their lunches the night before so you don’t have to feed them that meal.
Girl, I know it’s awful and a blessing wrapped into several hard weeks. But you can take some action now.
Print the checklist for First Trimester Survival and brainstorm how you can manage the first trimester. Then choose something you can do right now to feel better.
And when you’re feeling just awful, remember: You will survive the first trimester.