How do you think a yogi experiences the first trimester in pregnancy? Before experiencing pregnancy myself, I thought that having a regular yoga practice and a healthy diet would make that dreaded first trimester easier. I hadn’t thought about it too much really as this pregnancy came as a (welcomed) surprise. I had assumed that I would experience fewer of the many symptoms common in this trimester. Well, how wrong could I be!
It turns out that how we will move through the first trimester in pregnancy really is something we can’t predict. It really seems like pot luck as to which, if any, and the intensity of experiences that a women can go through. Having a nutritious diet, regular exercise routine and stress management tools are great to support healthy conception and pregnancy. Unfortunately, many of the discomforts are part of a normal pregnancy and cannot be avoided, however healthy our lifestyle.
Hormonal changes in pregnancy
A women’s body goes through huge hormonal shifts during pregnancy. Firstly we start to produce a new hormone HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin). This is what is detected by pregnancy tests and the amount we produce doubles every 2-3 days in early pregnancy! We also see increases in progesterone, to levels higher than in a typical menstrual cycle. This results in a general slowing down of our bodily functions and can hugely affect our energy, mood and digestion.
Ladies, many of you understand the powerful effects of progesterone during the pre-menstrual phase! Some women seem to be naturally more sensitive to the effects of these hormonal “chemical messengers”. After speaking to many female friends and family members about their own experiences with pregnancy, I really don’t see any patterns. Many women experience only mild symptoms and some none at all. I’ve even heard that women with multiple children experience pregnancy different each time.
In this post I will give an overview of my own experience of the first trimester in pregnancy. I know I’ve really enjoyed reading other women’s experiences. It’s helped me a lot to not worry that something is wrong. I’ll also share how some the different elements of the yoga practice have been supportive in maintaining my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health during this challenging time. I’ll be diving deeper into some of these topics in the next few posts so stay tuned if you’re interested!
First trimester in pregnancy symptoms
I don’t really like to use the word “symptom” because it makes it sound like pregnancy is a disease. or that something is wrong But truthfully, in the early stages of the first trimester in pregnancy it can feel like being ill rather than that there is new life developing inside of you. Especially until you have that first scan when you actually see the baby, it can be difficult to accept that it is real. Even after that I felt like my body had been invaded and was amazed that this tiny bean was causing so much havoc!
I definitely was more focused on how I was feeling myself during the first trimester. It was simply a matter of getting through each day. Finding ways of coping with the different symptoms, trying to stay afloat of my responsibilities and taking care of myself as best as I could during this time. I found out I was pregnant at around the 4 week mark and pretty much from then I started to notice changes:
The first thing I felt was being more tired than usual. Although at the time though I put this down to the cold weather. I travelled back to the UK to visit family for the Christmas holidays and during this time I had much less motivation for partying than usual! We spent the New Year in Paris and I felt like I was dragging myself around trying to make the most of it. I was even stuck in bed for few days because I caught a bad cold and was completely wiped out.
I started to feel a bit nauseous too but at this point it was very mild. Because of this I had hope that I was one of the lucky ones who wouldn’t experience morning sickness. On the other hand, instead I had awful constipation and bloating that made me look 4 moths pregnant already! I tried adding more fibre, drinking more water.. all the usual tips but nothing worked. This was definitely one of the most frustrating experiences in the beginning.
Once we were back in Athens and to our normal routines, I really started to notice that my appetite had changed. I couldn’t stomach a lot of foods I normally love, especially most vegetables and any meat except chicken. I went through phases of strong cravings for specific foods which lasted a few days. First for salty crisps and cheese, then granola, then fruit (my cupboard is full of half finished things now). Overall I wanted to eat any easily digested carbs and also any food that wasn’t cooked by me!
Smells started to get intense and to bother me a lot. My morning walking commute became a nightmare because of the cars exhaust fumes and cigarette smell, perfume from someone sat next to me on the bus. I couldn’t stand even my own boyfriends shower gel. I also felt nauseous all the time, as if I was stuck on a boat in bad conditions. My previous ideas of “morning sickness” were blasted apart as this lasted all day long. Anything could set me off retching – it was a struggle!
Despite feeling constantly nauseous, up until week 10 I wasn’t actually sick at all. Then the headache phase began. I started having daily headaches that built up to full blown migraines and vomiting, sometimes several times a day. This would last for about 5 days then I’d get a few days relief and it would start again. I was waking up in the morning and going to bed at night with a headache. Sometimes I would wake up during the night and not be able to fall asleep again because I was so uncomfortable.
I’d heard mixed messages about whether it was safe to take painkillers during the first trimester of pregnancy. So I limited them as much as possible and mostly I just lay still with the lights down and wait for it to ease. I started to feel quite down during this time because I was missing out on many things, cancelling plans and having to take time off work and my studies. I was exhausted, in pain and still constipated and it really started to bother me. When could I except that pregnancy glow to arrive again??
My yoga practice in the first trimester in pregnancy
So with all of this going on, naturally my yoga practice changed a lot. Overall though, I’d say my personal practice became much more consistent. I stopped all group classes around week 10 because it didn’t feel right to hold space when I had so much going on. But as I had let go of other commitments, this left more space for a daily yoga practice. I relied on the many elements of the yoga practice during this time. It really was my rock!
Fortunately, I had already been studying pre and post-natal yoga with Ana Davis of Bliss Baby Yoga, where I also trained in fertility yoga. So I had a good idea of how to adapt my practice to this new state of being. But it was still a huge learning process to feel into this new body which was changing subtly week by week. I also started a weekly home practice following the Kukoon Yoga online program which has been amazing so far.
Asana and pranayama in the first trimester in pregnancy
The biggest change was to S L O W D O W N. Not that my physical practice was the most intense or advanced before by any means. But still, there was a dialing back and simplifying of the asana and pranayama practice. I avoided deep twists and backbends, working the abs and of course lying on my belly. Lots of restorative yoga and yoga nidra was beautiful to help my body relax and conserve energy. This was especially needed after nights of poor sleep!
On days when I had the energy, kept up with a gentle vinyasa style practice. Standing poses are great to build strength and stamina in the lower body, ready to carry that rapidly growing baby bump! Lots of the practices from fertility yoga are great for pregnancy too. The feminine elements of hip opening and releasing, connection to the womb and the root and stretching the side body have all felt great during this time.
For pranayama I mainly focused on slow mindful breath using the three-part breath technique. I also started to explore different breathwork tools for birth preparation. Early I know, but these were also useful to cope with the discomforts of some of the first trimester in pregnancy symptoms. My boyfriend definitely thought I’d gone mad as most of the techniques involve being pretty vocal! With names like horse lips, waterfall breath and the MOAN you probably get the idea..
Yama and niyama in the first trimester in pregnancy
The first two of the 8 limbs of the yoga path were something that helped me on and off the mat. So much so that I actually want to dedicate a whole post to how these elements of yoga philosophy can be supportive in the first trimester in pregnancy. One that stands out the most though is the idea of ahimsa, translated as non-harm or compassion. Also isvara pranidhana, which can be understood as dedication to a higher power but I usually understand as “surrender to the flow of life”.
I came back to these two ideas many times during the first trimester. It was a struggle not to keep pushing myself to keep up with what I did before. To accept that I needed to release some things and shift my priorities for a while. But I knew that fighting what is would only cause harm in the long run. Showing compassion to myself when I was struggling or felt like I was letting others down was a big help. I kept reminding myself that this would pass and to try to lean into it as much as possible.
How am I feeling now?
I am now right about the 16 week mark which is crazy to me. I can’t believe the first trimester in pregnancy is over. It’s already been nearly 4 months of growing this little one who is now the size of a large orange! I’ve been using the Pregnancy+ app for weekly updates about how it is developing and it’s so amazing to know that’s all happening beyond my control or awareness. I can’t wait to feel the first kicks and soon to know the gender of our little one.
It helps that I’ve been feeling much better the last couple of weeks. The nausea has completely disappeared and my energy levels are rising again. The headaches still come and go but they are less intense and not every single day so it feels more manageable. I’m not yet back to my usual routine and still missing out on social activities but I’ve come to terms with it. I’m just over the moon to at least feel like myself for some hours of the day again.
Overall I feel more able to relax and enjoy the experience of pregnancy. The first trimester can definitely be a challenge. I certainly have even more respect for all the women who have been through this to give us the gift of life today!
Over to you…
If you would like to work with me 1-2-1 to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We will create a plan tailored to your individual needs and vision for your health. I will then be there for support, guidance and accountability as you work towards your goals!
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