Someone recently asked me, “What was the worst trimester in pregnancy for you?“.
I was seeing the 6 week pregnant patient because of her nausea complaint. She also noted how tired she has been. I chuckled at that one because sometimes I can’t help myself, and I told her, “it’s only going to get worse“.
You may call me a pessimist, but I prefer the term realist. The young woman saw the humor and laughed as well. So I continued to tell her my opinion on which trimester I felt was the hardest.
All of them, I said. They all have their challenges, and everyone has a slightly different experience. Even each pregnancy you have may be different. Pregnancy is full of challenges.
Each trimester is a beautiful struggle.
First Trimester: Weeks 4-12
If you are wondering why the first trimester starts at week 4, it is because that is when you can find out if you are pregnant. The hormones have finally built up enough to be detected. The gestational calendar technically starts on the first day of your last period, before you are even pregnant.
So what are some of the challenges you may experience during the first trimester?
We all have heard of that one, right? But let me tell you something you may not know. To call it morning sickness is grossly misleading.
You can be sick in the morning, sure. But you can also be sick in the afternoon, evening, or middle of the night. “Morning sickness” as they call it is not picky to time of day.
If you are lucky like me you may experience 24-hour nausea. My morning sickness never went away. I felt sick- All. Day. Long. It was not pleasant. I woke up every morning feeling like I had the worst hangover, and was praying I would vomit to make it go away, but I never did. Just relentless, nausea.
You may not realize that cramping during pregnancy can be totally normal. Many people, including myself, assume that cramping equals something bad. It is really easy to get yourself worked up over every little thing. Don’t hesitate to call your OBGYN if are concerned, that’s what they are there for. Especially if your cramping is sudden, severe and accompanied by vaginal bleeding.
Every day. I had headaches every day. It didn’t matter how much water I would drink. It was dreadful. Not to mention the limitations you have on what you can take for them. You can take regular Tylenol, but I was even hesitant to do that just because of my hormonal state of mind and not wanting to expose my baby to “anything like that”.
I’m not moving from this couch all day long- kind of tired. The- I feel like I have been up all night and ran a marathon the day before- kind of tired. The fatigue you may experience during your first trimester can be overwhelming and you may feel guilty when you are not able to get things done, but rest assured dear mama. This exhaustion won’t plague you forever. You are doing important work. Your growing baby needs your energy to thrive.
Second Trimester: Weeks 13-27
Did you know many people refer to this stage of pregnancy as the honeymoon phase? The implication is that this is the time when your symptoms you experienced in the first trimester subside and you feel great! I cannot wait for the second trimester, I thought. Then it came. And so did a whole new set of challenges.
Pregnancy hormones are no joke. You know those annoying acne breakouts you dealt with in your younger years? Well, welcome them back, and they come back with a vengeance.
My problem was not on my face though, but on my upper back. You must use caution with what you put on your skin too. You do not want to use any acne products that may be harmful to your fetus. Your skin absorbs what you put on it!
Again, your skin during pregnancy is going to do really strange things. I have always had sensitive skin, but when I was pregnant my sensitive skin was on a whole new level. I developed a contact dermatitis on my hands and soles of my feet. Don’t ask me exactly what caused it because I don’t know. I just attribute it to being pregnant.
My hands and feet were so itchy, I had trouble sleeping. I just wanted to scratch, scratch, scratch. It is safe to use hydrocortisone cream if this happens to you. Speak to your pharmacist with help on which product to use. I just used an over the counter 1% hydrocortisone cream. It helped, a little. But this rash was relentless at times.
Abdominal skin begins to stretch
Being my first pregnancy I had a toned mid section. I did not really know how my body planned to accommodate a growing a baby. But your body will make it work. And you will feel it!
When my stomach started to get bigger and my skin started to stretch, it was super uncomfortable. It felt like it was ripping, especially around my belly button. The skin in this area became irritated just like my hands and feet were.
I had been using a belly butter cream all along “to prevent stretch marks” (let me tell you now- it didn’t), and I still developed this itchy, irritated skin rash. It was dreadful. Everything irritated it. My shirt touching it, irritated it. I applied hydrocortisone cream and even Benadryl cream, to no avail. After a few weeks, a friend of mine actually gave me a gift of this organic product that was a God send.
If you would like more information on that product, let me know!
I always had good posture. I paid attention when sitting and standing to ensure this. Having a good strong core is the key to helping with your posture and subsequently supporting your back.
When you are pregnant your center of gravity is going to get thrown off. This means that your usual posture and strong core are going to be altered. I had a significant problem with my sciatic nerve on my right side.
The sciatic nerve is in your back and runs through your butt down your leg. You have one on each side. The symptoms are severe pain in your lower back/buttocks that radiates into your leg. The pain gets worse when you try to bear weight on that side. Typical treatment for severe cases would be steroids, but that would not be advisable in pregnancy. So what can you do?
-Warm compress or heating pad (20 minute maximum at a time)
-Avoid heavy lifting
Third Trimester: Weeks 28- 40+
This one is easy.
This is the time when your belly starts to get so big that literally everything becomes a chore. Oh you wanted to tie your shoes? Good luck. Oh you just peed for the 5th time today and it’s only 10am. Let’s make it 6. How is that whole breathing thing working out for you, now that your lungs are being smooshed by your enormous uterus? Did you intend on getting comfortable in bed? Oops, you dropped something on the floor- might as well just forget it existed.
The list could go on and on.
So this is why I say every trimester is hard.
There is nothing easy about being pregnant. I’m not saying this to scare you. I don’t want you to think I am being negative either. I am simply being real with what pregnancy is like.
Growing a life inside you is beautiful.
It is a miracle. It is the greatest gift you can receive. But the physical act of being pregnant- is less than glorious.
You’ll get through it though, mama.
Because all babies eventually come out. These 9 months are long, but hindsight they are gone in the blink of an eye. I’m not going to tell you to enjoy every minute, because I know plenty well I certainly did not. But relish in the moment of having your baby inside you. There is no greater reason to have swollen ankles or acne like its 1999 again. Half of these problems you may go through, you will probably even forget about and be ready to go through it all again!
Stay strong, mama!