I’m nearing the end of my second trimester now, but I wanted to give a quick recap of my first trimester before I forget how extremely hard it was. Time has seemed to both fly and crawl by, and I can’t believe we’re only about 13 weeks from Nora’s due date! Yes, we are having a girl! If you haven’t seen our gender reveal video, check it out here. Genny was bribed to create that video.
During this pregnancy, I faced some new challenges: heartburn, UTI’s, and toddler tantrums. Here’s how I survived everything in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy!
How I found out
“Let’s start at the very beginning, a very nice place to start!” Back in January of this year, it had been three months since my miscarriage. Every month since had brought the discouraging negative pregnancy test. Despite my hopeful optimism, the nervousness always set in before taking a test. I was planning on taking a trip to Pennsylvania with my friend, Jana, at the end of the month, so although I had planned on waiting the recommended week after missing my period to take a test…well, I decided what the heck.
Less than 5 weeks from my last period (my cycles tend to be longer), despite the fact that I had spent all day telling Ryan I was going to wait another week, I suddenly said, “I think I’m going to take a test.” Ryan said, “Do it.”
I was super surprised to see those two solid pink lines!! The last time I saw that, they weren’t so solid, and that ended up going terribly awry. I was excited, but at the same time super nervous. You can read the whole story of my early miscarriage in my post and understand more of why I couldn’t just jump for joy from a positive test.
Any Lab Test Now & HCG Levels
Immediately, I jumped on my phone and found Any Lab Test Now, a testing lab that you could book without having to go through a doctor and receive the results directly within a few days. After having my doctor come in and tell me my pregnancy test was negative after already receiving a positive, I did NOT want to repeat that experience. Call me paranoid or a control freak, but I just wanted to know that things were moving in the right direction before I even contacted my doctor. I’m weird like that.
If you don’t know what HCG is, I’ll explain. HCG is essentially the human growing hormone. It’s what a mama’s body produces when she’s pregnant, and it is the hormone that pregnancy tests detect. Depending on the pregnancy test, you can usually get a positive home test if your HCG levels are between 20-100 mIU/mL (usually about 4 weeks gestation).
To put things in perspective, my HCG levels that were measured about 24 hours after my positive pregnancy test came back as 12 mIU/mL. During a healthy pregnancy, HCG levels will double every two days. So I went in on a Monday and again on a Wednesday, then waited for the results.
The waiting game
The wait for those results was unnerving to say the least. I didn’t receive the first results until I was in Pennsylvania, so I drove Jana crazy the whole time with my nerves. When they finally sent me the email, my heart was beating so hard as I clicked “View Attachment”. Thankfully, my levels were well within the range for being 5 or 6 weeks pregnant! Cue sigh of relief.
Then cue another 48 hours of nervousness as I waited for the second results. These were the ones that really mattered. If they didn’t double, then that would indicate something was probably wrong.
I waited and waited for two whole more days, then finally called the lab because I couldn’t take it anymore. The lab tech said, “Oh, did you want those emailed to you, too? We only sent them to your doctor.” sigh. Yes, please.
After opening that second email, I was again praising the Lord because my levels had more than doubled. It was like my whole body breathed a sigh of relief. Of course I was still nervous, because I’m a generally worrisome person, but the test results were good! I was encouraged.
Overall, this pregnancy has been fantastic in that we have had NO PROBLEMS AT ALL! *hallelujah chorus* Compared to Genny and my October baby, it has been much less stressful, and in some ways I’ve been able to actually enjoy the pregnancy. Even during my sickest days of the first trimester, I could dry heave over the toilet knowing that at least everything looked like my baby was safe and healthy.
On the other hand, although I was going to school, working part time as a music teacher, and doing various odd jobs like babysitting and housesitting when I was pregnant with Genny, this pregnancy still felt harder. Maybe it’s the added responsibility/stress of taking care of a toddler whilst feeling nauseous 24/7. Or maybe my first trimester symptoms actually have been worse than before.
Unfortunately, I am not one of those lucky, lucky women who does not experience any nausea during early pregnancy. It started early with me too, about 5 -6 weeks. Maybe it was nerves, or maybe the progesterone was starting to get to me, but I even was experiencing a bit of nausea during my time in Pennsylvania when I was only 5 weeks along.
Some people recommend taking Unisom to combat morning sickness, but I chose not to for a couple of reasons. First of all, it would make me drowsy, and I already was tired all the time. Secondly, I avoid taking antihistamines whenever possible because the more often you take them the more your body comes to rely on them. Again, I’m weird like this. Additionally, even the pros will caution you when taking any kind of medication during the first trimester because this is when your baby is developing his/her vital organs. While it would probably have been safe, I just didn’t want to go there.
There are some natural alternatives to medication to combat morning sickness, but everything is relative when it comes to pregnancy. What worked for me may not work for you and vice versa. Read my post here on surviving the first trimester.
What worked the best for me was simply making sure I had something in my stomach all the time. This required having small meals throughout the day. What I could stomach also changed throughout the day, making that difficult, but I definitely noticed a huge difference when I would eat all day as opposed to trying to wait for 3 square meals.
Fatigue + Brain Fog
The tiredness is strong with this one. From early on in the pregnancy, I found myself wanting to stay in bed until 11 or 12 every morning. On days when it was really bad, I would just let Genny watch YouTube videos on my iPad while I drifted in and out of sleep. She also got really good at bringing me water and comforting me when I had to run to the toilet and lose what was left of my last meal. Genny’s generally a pretty good sleeper, and she’s even good to play in her crib for a little bit after waking up in the morning, giving me some extra shut eye time. I haven’t felt guilty about sleeping in whenever I can because I know once Nora arrives, my sleeping days will be gone, and I’ll forever be a mombie.
Pregnancy brain is a real thing, too. I notice a huge difference in my ability to…well, think when I’m sitting around feeling bad versus moving around and eating healthy.
Don’t misunderstand me, I have not been eating the 100% whole foods diet that I would have liked to stick to this pregnancy. Those first few months, I would go back and forth between wanting burgers, greek salads, Freebird’s nachos, and salami. Anything I could stomach, I would try to get my hands on. I also consumed more than a few milkshakes during that time. No regrets.
The most important thing is really making sure you eat something, unless of course you have a dietary restriction or a history of diabetes.
I have to say, nausea alone is a paaaain to deal with. But nausea + heartburn is just ridiculous. Why must we endure this? The heartburn feeds the nausea which creates more heartburn. I got off easy when I was pregnant with Genny in this regard because I didn’t have heartburn at all. My friends would complain about it, and I sympathized but couldn’t really sympathize, you know? Well, karma caught up with me.
Heartburn + Nausea Remedy: 1tsp baking soda with 8 oz water OR chew 1 tsp of fennel seeds
What typically works with me to fight off heartburn, and even nausea, is 1) chewing on fennel seeds (strange, but super effective) or 2) drinking 1 tsp baking soda dissolved in about 8 oz of water. Neither of these options I could even think about without my stomach churning, so I didn’t even attempt them. Even so, give it a shot if you can!
I did not even know this was a thing, but apparently having excess saliva is a common early pregnancy symptom. They say it is worsened when you have not been eating enough or when you haven’t been drinking enough water, but I found it to be a problem all the time. Every morning I woke up with this huge drool stain on my pillow.
Drinking water did help some, but unfortunately this unflattering problem can also worsen heartburn. It’s a vicious cycle.
Dry skin + Ance
Pregnancy acne is pretty common, and there’s not much you can do for it except to try and eat a clean diet and keep your face as clean as possible. I used a touch of Just Nutritive’s Anti-Bacterial Body Clear Treatment on bad pimples because that stuff works so well for me. Unlike most anti-acne treatments, it does not contain salicylic acid, which is not recommended for use during pregnancy, but it does contain some essential oils that are not recommended for use during the first trimester, so I used it sparingly.
For my patchy dry skin, I started using Derma-E Nourishing Rose Cleansing Oil and an essential oil concoction from my mama that’s meant for sunburns (see recipe below).
During my first trimester, my weight gain was all over the place. It dropped a couple pounds some weeks because I was so nauseous and wasn’t eating much of anything. I mentioned this to my doctor, and she said she wasn’t concerned at all. It’s fairly common for early pregnancy. She said I would probably make up for it, and I sure have! By 17 weeks I was up over 7 pounds, and now I’m up way more than that!
If you lose 1-2% of your body weight in a week due to extreme morning sickness, then you probably have hyperemsis gravidarum. If this is the case, definitely talk to your doctor about it as this condition may require you to get on IV fluids or bedrest in some cases.
Urinary Tract Infections
This was a journey in and of itself. I’d never had a UTI in my life before January of this year. I started feeling symptoms a couple days after the 1st of the year, but I wanted to try and treat it naturally before I went to get antibiotics. Most people have described UTI’s to me as being excruciatingly painful, and while I was in some slight pain it was mostly just discomfort. So I figured if it was a UTI, it couldn’t be too bad.
Three weeks later… yes, I waited three weeks. Do not do what I did, people. Learn from my mistakes.
D-mannose, Garlic, and Cranberry
It wasn’t as though I was just ignoring it, I was taking all the recommended supplements, drinking a ton of water, and even avoiding all sugar (including naturally occurring). When you have a typical UTI, everyone recommends cranberry juice. Well the reason cranberry juice can work is twofold: first, it contains a sugar called D-mannose which has a congealing effect when combined with the E. coli that has infected your urinary tract. This makes it easier for the bacteria to be flushed from your system. I was taking D-mannose 3-5 times a day and also taking garlic pills (the natural antibiotic) and turmeric pills (an immune booster and anti-inflammatory agent). Nothing was working.
Home UTI Tests and Leucocytes
Finally, Ryan found some home UTI tests on Amazon and ordered me some, but by that point I was getting concerned that my UTI was going to turn (or already had turned) into a kidney infection. So I finally went to an HEB Redi Clinic and had my urine analyzed. Oh shocker, it was positive for high levels of leucocytes (white blood cells present when there is an infection in the body). They prescribed me an antibiotic that was safe for pregnancy, since at that point I wasn’t sure if I was pregnant but wanted to play it safe. So I took the antibiotic. My first antibiotic of the UTI fiasco.
I took my 5 day antibiotic like a good girl, but after it was over my symptoms started getting worse again. I went to my functional chiropractor, and he gave me some supplements (extra strong garlic and cranberry pills) saying usually symptoms subside within about 3 days. I gave those supplements a try as well, continuing to take the D-mannose as well. Oh, and I also went to Pennsylvania.
As soon as we got on the plane for PA, I started feeling pain and discomfort again. The whole trip I was pretty much suffering, which coupled with my pregnancy test result waiting game made me a terrific traveling partner for Jana, bless her heart. During the trip, I took Azo’s pain medicine, and it helped some, but I was still extremely uncomfortable. Pretty sure it became a kidney infection too because I was having a lot of back pain too. Instead of going to another clinic there in Pennsylvania, I decided to go to my OB as soon as I got home.
Frustrating Doctor’s Appointments
That appointment didn’t exactly go smoothly either. My doctor came in, greeted me, then told me my urine sample was negative for a UTI. I nearly cried. Have you ever had a doctor tell you that despite how you feel you have nothing wrong with you? It’s BS, and it makes me really made. But usually instead of getting mad, I just cry.
Fortunately for me I was saved this embarrassment because she told me she was going to go back and scan the sample herself. Now on week 8 or so of this hellish UTI journey, I waited for her to come back dreading what would happen if she said I was fine and probably just had to pee a lot because I’m pregnant. Instead, she came back and said she has detected some blood and trace amounts of leucocytes in my urine. It wasn’t a lot, not enough to match how I was feeling, but it was enough to merit another antibiotic.
Three weeks later, I went back to see her with more pain. This time my test really was negative for the bacteria that causes a UTI, but at the same time I had high levels of Strep B. So my lovely doctor, who I actually really do love but didn’t so much that week, made me suffer through another week of UTI symptoms until my routine OB appointment. That day, I came in there ready with my list of all the miserable UTI symptoms I had been experiencing, but she didn’t even test me. She just asked if I was still in pain and then prescribed me a different antibiotic. She also told me my Strep B levels were the only thing coming up high on my urine samples.
This is when I started doing a little digging, and finally the world began to make sense again. I found that Strep B can cause UTI’s! Group B strep is a bacteria found in about 25% of healthy pregnant women. When I was pregnant with Genny, I had it as well, but I never experienced any symptoms from it and just had to have an IV antibiotic during labor. However, upon learning more about it I found that in rare cases adults can develop UTI’s due to the bacteria. Who knew.
My sister in law suggested Jarro Formulas: Jarro Dophilus EPS probiotic. Her midwife had recommended it to her, and it got her to be Strep B negative with her last pregnancy. Ever since that last bout of antibiotics, I’ve been taking the probiotic, and so far no UTI’s!
First Trimester Recommendations
One of the first things to start when you find out you’re pregnant is to take some prenatal vitamins. These aren’t really for the baby, they’re mostly for you because your body will prioritize your baby and give every good thing to him/her. Leaving you lacking at times.
During the first trimester I took Garden of Life Organic Prenatal Multi vitamins (you can get a month’s supply for less than $20 with Amazon’s Subscribe & Save) because they, in my opinion, taste kind of like gummy candy. Of course, they are plant-based and do have a bit of a “plant-based taste”, but I still take them because they contain folate rather than folic acid and because of their plant-based composition makes the nutrients easier to metabolize. Doctors recommend taking 600 mcg/day of folate or folic acid (the synthetic substitute for folate) is recommended to support spinal and brain development for baby.
Once I can stomach them, I switch to Garden of Life’s Raw Prenatal vitamins because, while they taste waaaaay worse than the gummies, they contain 800 mcg of folate and are a bit cheaper. With Subscribe & Save, you can get a two month’s supply for under $35.
Dehydration can increase Braxton Hicks, the “practice” contractions your uterus starts performing around 16 weeks of pregnancy. With Genny, I started feeling them at about 40 weeks, but this time around I noticed them at 16 weeks. Over exerting myself or not drinking enough water made a huge difference in how I felt overall during the first trimester.
I wanted Milton’s gluten free crackers, gummy bears, and Applegate salami. At some points I wanted Panera bread’s greek salad or Chickfila’s cobb salad with NO EGGS! As I said before, unless you have a medical condition that requires you to watch your diet more closely, the most important thing is that you are eating food. I don’t believe in that crap about losing weight during your first trimester like I’ve heard some midwives or doctors have said. In the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, it’s all about surviving and not losing your mind!
Find your people
This is a time when you really need a lot of support. Whether you’re a first time mom, seven time mom, married, or single, you need to have a community of people that you can call on if you’re having a really bad day.
If you don’t have anyone around, contact your local MOPS (Moms of Preschoolers) group! You can search for groups here.
So there it is! My not so brief first trimester recap, along with all the struggles and victories I’ve experienced. I’m so grateful everything has been looking healthy with baby Nora so far and that she has been measuring right on schedule! Stay tuned for more updates and my second trimester recap! To watch the video version of this post, click here.
What was the hardest thing you dealt with during the first trimester? Share with me by commenting below!
Love, Emily XOXO