If you’ve ever spoken to a pregnant woman, you’ve likely heard a lot of woes and discomforts (and rightfully so). As exciting as pregnancy is, there are a lot of symptoms and ailments throughout the course of 9-10 months and most of them are not fun. Below, I pulled a list from mayoclinic about what to expect by trimester, paired it with the symptoms listed in “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” and included anecdotes for how I got through any of the symptoms that I experienced. If I didn’t experience a symptom, I left it blank!
First Trimester Pregnancy Symptoms
This trimester was the most difficult for me, I was hit with almost every symptom and spent 6-8 weeks not feeling like myself. My best overall advice is: know that it does get better. It felt endless at times and I wondered if I would ever feel like myself again, and I definitely do!
- Tender, swollen breasts. This is not a difficult symptom to deal with, just something I noticed. It was my first indication that I should buy a pregnancy test!
- Nausea with or without vomiting. I never vomited, but felt nauseous all day, every day from weeks 6-12. I found that eating bland foods, in small amounts, but often, was what helped me get through this. Unfortunately it took a few weeks of serious struggle for me to get that advice and take it (since the last thing you want to do when you’re nauseous is eat something). I also had to start eating something small first thing in the morning (prior to my workout, which I did not usually do and have since stopped doing). Preggie pop drops (a sour flavored hard candy) were also super helpful throughout the day.
- Increased urination. This was only an irritating factor at night when I would wake up repeatedly to use the bathroom. I didn’t find a solution for this, it just subsided into the second trimester before coming back again in the third!
- Fatigue. Every day from weeks 6-12 felt like a drag to get through. I had to lower my active calorie goal on my apple watch because I found it so hard to get up and move outside of my morning workout! I did find that the more active I was, the better I felt, but again, it took some time to come to this realization. If there’s ever a next time, I will remind myself that getting up to walk does wonders for my energy level and laying on the couch keeps me feeling lethargic.
- Food cravings and aversions. This was the most shocking and challenging symptom for me. I went from prepping salads to bring to work every day to being repulsed by raw veggies. I could also not stomach black coffee, I had to get my caffeine in the form of frappuccinos and lattes. During this time period, I moved into pretty much an all-carb diet, and the best advice I have is to just eat what sounds good. This was extremely frustrating for my husband who likes to plan meals and eat healthy, but you truly have to take it as it is and just eat what you can, when you can.
- Constipation. My usual solutions for constipation would be eating more fiber and drinking coffee to get things moving. With both of those not being an option, this was, again, something I just had to get through. Constipation comes in waves throughout pregnancy as your insides are all shifting around – some people use stool softeners, but I never found it to be so bad that I needed to resort to medication.
Second Trimester Pregnancy Physical Symptoms
The second trimester is known as a bit of a honeymoon phase: most of the first trimester symptoms have passed, and the baby hasn’t grown enough yet for you to be very uncomfortable. I found this to be the easiest trimester where I felt the most like myself.
- Growing belly and breasts. While it took awhile for me to really start showing, I did find that I needed new bras right away and that my old bikini tops needed the padding removed or I looked a little ridiculous! This is one of those symptoms that you know is coming and just have to accept – it is both reassuring (the little one is growing!) and frustrating (I don’t know what to wear). This was the time of pregnancy where I struggled with body image the most, because while my body was changing, I had not yet “popped” so I looked different, but not pregnant. Now that I am in my third trimester it is very obvious there is a baby on board.
- Leg cramps. I didn’t have cramps, per se, but restless leg syndrome kicked in. Yoga, stretching, and epsom salt baths helped alleviate this.
- Vaginal discharge. Again, this is not a symptom you can mitigate, just something you should know is normal!
- Skin changes. I had a slight linea nigra form below my belly button. There is nothing you can “do” about this, but again, know that it is normal and most skin changes are temporary.
- Braxton Hicks contractions.
- Nasal problems.
- Dental issues.
- Urinary tract infections.
Third Trimester Pregnancy Physical Symptoms
The third trimester has felt very similar to the second, except with more aggressive fetal movement (Stella loves to dance around when I try to sleep) and difficulty sleeping (likely due to said dance moves, and an increased level of anxiety knowing the baby is COMING SOON!).
- Difficulty sleeping. As stated above, this has happened on and off in the third trimester due to frequent urination, nerves about the baby coming, restless leg syndrome, and fetal movement making it hard to relax. I’ve found that the less I think about it, the easier it is to sleep. I’ve also used epsom salt baths, stretching and meditation before bed. I have a pregnancy pillow and find that sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t. If all else fails, I’ve tried the occasional unisom sleep tab (since it is safe for pregnancy).
- Frequent urination. Due to baby’s position, there’s a frequent feeling of NEEDING to urinate, not actually frequent urination. When the feeling hits, I think about how much water I’ve drank recently and when the last time was that I used the restroom. If I haven’t drank much and it hasn’t been long, it’s likely just baby’s position and I won’t feel any relief from a trip to the restroom, so I wait it out. Not sure if that’s the best advice, but the difficulty of even a bathroom trip cannot be underestimated at this stage, so the less useless trips I take the better!
- Backaches. I had sciatica come on early in my third trimester, and it was so sharp that I sought chiropractic care. Within a week of the prescribed exercises and regular adjustments, the pain had subsided! I continued to see the chiropractor with less frequency for the rest of my pregnancy, and I can’t recommend it enough. It made a big difference in my level of comfort and is partially what allowed me to remain active throughout my pregnancy.
- Shortness of breath. Even with my activity levels, I find myself getting out of breath doing everyday tasks (likely because baby is putting pressure on my lungs). There’s nothing you can really “do” about this, but it is funny to be asked “are you feeling any shortness of breath?” when you try to go out in public during the COVID-19 pandemic. I want to respond “yes, of course I am look at the child I’m carrying!” but know that isn’t the answer they’re looking for, so I say no and move along.
- Heartburn. I have only had a couple bouts of heartburn and find it pops up when I haven’t eaten for a long period of time. I ordered these papaya enzymes from amazon and found that they work well for the mild heartburn I experience.
- Protruding navel. My innie has started to become a partial outie – again, nothing I can “do” about it but it is funny to see and experience.
- Braxton Hicks contractions.
- Spider veins, varicose veins and hemorrhoids.
- Achiness in the lower abdomen or along the sides.
- Occasional lightheadedness/dizziness
- Mild swelling of the ankles and feet.
- Itchy belly.
Easing Pregnancy Symptoms
While I’ve addressed specific pregnancy symptoms and how I found relief when I could, there are a few things that helped me feel better all-around during pregnancy.
- Staying active. Going on walks, maintaining my morning workout routine, and doing yoga all helped improve my energy levels and overall comfort.
- Seeing a chiropractor. Regular adjustments helped me feel refreshed and reduced any little aches and pains that could crop up as my body grew.
- Epsom salt baths. These helped me relax, reduce aches and pains, and fall asleep easier.
- Prioritizing fruits + veggies. I have tried to keep my eating during pregnancy fairly similar to how I ate prior to pregnancy. Most of the same principles apply: fruits and veggies priority, and healthy fats are encouraged. If you feel overwhelmed about how to eat to best take care of baby, I suggest reading “Real Food For Pregnancy“.
- Meditation/yoga/journaling. I used meditation, yoga and journaling to take care of my mental health during pregnancy. Stress hormones pass to baby through the placenta, so stress management is extra important. I also found that getting out in nature and doing affirmations were helpful.
Above all else, remember that pregnancy is temporary, everyone’s journey is unique, and everything is what you make of it. Doing the little things to take care of your health and your mindset can go a long way.
How was your pregnancy? Did you experience any of these symptoms? How did you find relief?