- Things to Do
- See Your Doctor
- Take Prenatal Vitamins
- Stay Active
- Eat Healthy Foods
- Stay Hydrated
- Get a Flu Shot
- Get Plenty of Sleep
- Things Not to Do
- Drink Alcohol
- Smoke or Use Drugs
- Drink Too Much Caffeine
- Eat Dangerous Foods
- Engage in Risk Behavior
- In Summary
The first trimester
The first trimester of your pregnancy is the first twelve weeks that you're pregnant. It's an exciting time, and many mothers — especially first-time mothers — wonder what they should and shouldn't do during this time.
There are some things that it's important to avoid during the first trimester of pregnancy, as well as some things you should make sure to do. Taking these easy steps can help make sure that you and your baby are healthy throughout your pregnancy. Your body and your baby's body are changing quickly, and following some simple tips can help lay a strong foundation for the entirety of your pregnancy.
Things to do during the first trimester
There are some must-do things during the first trimester of pregnancy. Getting prenatal care from a doctor or midwife is important. Making sure that your body is getting all of the vitamins and nutrients that it needs is critical, too.
Keeping yourself healthy, well-rested, and mentally well are all important things to do during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Do: see your doctor
Your body goes through some significant changes over the course of pregnancy. Your body is your baby's first home, so it's important that you take good care of yourself.
When you get a positive pregnancy test, call your doctor to schedule your first prenatal visit. If your doctor is not an OB/GYN, they will likely refer you to one.
Most doctors schedule these first visits around the 8th week of your pregnancy. If you are worried about anything or have underlying conditions that may affect your pregnancy, your doctor might want to see you sooner.
Your first visit will probably last around an hour. Your doctor (or midwife) will ask about your medical history, previous pregnancies, and other conditions you have. The visit will also include a blood test, a physical exam, and possibly a sonogram.
Do: take prenatal vitamins
Prenatal vitamins are not the same as everyday multivitamins. When you are pregnant, your body has different needs as it grows and changes. Your growing baby needs certain vitamins to develop healthily, too.
Prenatal vitamins include important nutrients including all of the calcium, iron, zinc, and folate that you need. Folate is especially important because it helps prevent some common — but potentially very serious birth defects — like anencephaly and spina bifida.
Do: stay active
It’s a good idea to keep up the level of exercise you had before you were pregnant. There are lots of benefits in exercising through your first trimester of pregnancy — and beyond. These include:
Do: eat healthy foods
A healthy diet can provide you and your growing baby with a sound nutritional basis that your pregnancy vitamins can build on. Studies suggest that being exposed to many flavors via a mother's amniotic fluid can set a baby up to be a good eater into early childhood, too.
Some smart, healthy food choices include:
- Vegetables: Choices that are high in vitamin A and potassium include dark, leafy greens, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots.
- Proteins: Great sources of protein include lean beef, pork, lamb, tofu, low-mercury fish like trout and salmon, beans, peas, seeds, and nuts.
- Fruits: With the benefits of hydration, good fiber, and vitamin C, oranges, melons, mangoes, apricots, bananas, and apples are excellent choices. They can also help satisfy a sweet tooth without adding unhealthy sugars or fats.
- Dairy: Eating small portions of cheese, drinking reduced-fat milk, and yogurt products provide calcium, potassium, and vitamins.
- Whole Grains: High in both iron and folic acid, as well as healthy fiber, whole grains are an important part of your pregnancy diet.
Do: stay hydrated
Hydration, while it’s important for non-pregnant people as well, is critical when you’re in the first trimester of pregnancy. Staying hydrated during these first weeks can help you prevent many unpleasant symptoms, including dizziness, kidney stones, constipation, headaches, and even preterm labor.
How much water should you drink during the first trimester of pregnancy? Doctors recommend drinking between 8-12 cups of water each day.
If you’re having a hard time getting that much plain water down, consider choices like sparkling water, juices, soups, herbal teas, and many kinds of fruit and vegetables. It’s important to avoid drinks with high levels of caffeine or lots of sugar.
If you're experiencing morning sickness — a common symptom of the first trimester — you may lose liquids if you vomit. If possible, replace this lost fluid by drinking more water or herbal tea. If you are struggling to keep any fluids down for an extended period of time, contact your doctor.
Do: get a flu shot
The CDC recommends that all pregnant people get a flu shot — not a nasal spray version of the vaccine. Influenza can be harmful to a developing baby and can have serious impacts on a mother's heart and lungs during pregnancy. Getting a flu shot is safe during pregnancy and is an easy way to protect yourself and your baby.
Do: get plenty of sleep
Though you may not see your belly growing just yet, your body is making major changes to develop the system to grow your baby. Many people feel particularly exhausted during the first trimester of pregnancy. It's important to get as much high-quality sleep at night as you can — aim for 8-9 hours.
Setting aside time to nap or rest during the afternoon can be helpful, too.
Things not to do during your first trimester
While many recommendations for overall health are the same during your first trimester of pregnancy — healthy diet, plenty of water, exercise, and sleep — there are some important things to avoid during your first trimester. It's critical to stay away from some foods, drinks, activities, and lifestyle choices during early pregnancy.
Remember these recommendations to help your pregnancy progress smoothly and keep you and your baby safe and healthy.
Don't: drink alcohol
During these early weeks of your pregnancy, your baby is developing in many important ways, including a significant amount of brain growth. Alcohol can cause serious damage to a baby's brain as it begins to develop. Especially during the first trimester, there is no known amount of alcohol that is considered safe — experts recommend steering clear entirely to prevent Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
Possible symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome include:
- Abnormality in some facial features
- Below-average head size
- Low body weight at birth
- Poor memory
- Poor coordination and movement
- Attention span challenges
- Learning disabilities
- Poor judgment or reasoning skills
- Difficulty sleeping
- Hearing or vision problems
- Organ problems impacting the heart or kidneys
Don't: smoke or use drugs
Smoking at any time during your pregnancy puts you at an elevated risk for miscarriage as well as puts your baby at an increased risk of birth defects, premature birth, low birth weight, infant death, and learning disabilities. Smoking after your baby is born is considered one of the most significant risk factors for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Other controlled substances and drugs are equally dangerous. Even some kinds of prescription medications can cause serious harm to your baby during the first trimester. Experts recommend avoiding all opioids and street drugs during pregnancy. If you’re not certain about using a particular medication, check with your doctor or pharmacist to ensure that it is approved for safe use during pregnancy.
Don't: drink (too much) caffeine
While some pregnancy experts suggest cutting caffeine out of your diet entirely, many providers agree that small amounts are likely safe during the first trimester. Consuming caffeine, found in coffee, tea, chocolate, and energy drinks, has a diuretic effect, meaning it causes you to urinate more. This can lead to dehydration. Caffeine can also increase your heart rate and blood pressure, both of which can potentially be dangerous to you and your developing baby when you’re pregnant.
Experts do agree that the less caffeine you consume, the safer you are. Aiming for a daily intake no greater than 150 mg (which is about one cup of brewed coffee or three cups of green or black tea) is considered to be reasonably safe.
Don't: eat dangerous foods
There are some foods that you should avoid during pregnancy, including during the first trimester. Experts indicate that it is best to avoid:
Don't: engage in risky behavior
If you ever have questions about whether an activity is safe or not during your first trimester, it’s best to contact your doctor.
Some behaviors that are considered risky during pregnancy (including during the first trimester) include:
- Attempting to lose weight or dieting. Your developing baby needs plenty of calories to grow properly.
- Using saunas or soaking in hot tubs. Your baby could have birth defects or you could suffer a miscarriage if your body temperature gets too high.
- Cleaning the cat's litter box. Toxoplasmosis is a parasite that can be transmitted via cat feces and can be dangerous during pregnancy. (Don't worry — holding and petting your feline friend is perfectly safe.)
- Getting piercings or tattoos. These activities come with a high risk of infection (including Hepatitis B or HIV), and that could harm your baby's development and health.
- Playing contact sports or engaging in rough activities. Sports that put you at an elevated risk of overheating or getting hurt should be avoided. (Examples: gymnastics, surfing, off-road cycling, skiing, "hot yoga," martial arts, hockey, horseback riding, boxing, basketball, soccer, etc.)
The first trimester of pregnancy is an exciting time and often comes with lots of questions about how you should care for yourself and your growing baby. Generally speaking, focus on taking good care of your changing body. Eat healthy foods, stay active, drink plenty of water, and get as much rest as you need.
If you stay away from alcohol, smoking, drugs, and risky activities, you'll set yourself up for a healthy pregnancy and thriving baby. Don't hesitate to ask your doctor any questions you have about what you should or shouldn't do while you're pregnant.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Exercise During Pregnancy."
American Pregnancy Association: "Tattoos During Pregnancy."
American Pregnancy Association: "Caffeine During Pregnancy."
Sanford Health: "Do's and don'ts during the first trimester of pregnancy."
Lamaze International: "Rules to Follow and Which to Bend."
Catholic Health: "When to See an OB/GYN or Midwife."
Penn Medicine: Lancaster General Health: "Everything You Need to Know About Prenatal Vitamins."
Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Nutrition During Pregnancy."
KidsHealth: "Severe Morning Sickness (Hyperemesis Gravidarum)."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Flu Vaccine Safety and Pregnancy."
American Academy of Family Physicians: "Sleep and Pregnancy."
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