The first trimester can be a tricky time – just as the excitement of being pregnant kicks in, usually so does the nausea and tiredness, leaving you drained and struggling to keep up with life. It is easy to forget that there is actually a very valid reason for how you feel – you are creating a whole new person!
The first trimester is one of the most intense periods of development that we experience – in the first 9 weeks your baby grows from a single cell to a fetus, with kidneys, eyes, ears, arms, hands, a head, mouth, liver, brain, digestive system, a beating heart circulating its own blood, muscles that work…and more! So you deserve to put your feet up!
Although most women are inspired to eat healthily during pregnancy, the first trimester can be a nutritional nightmare – either you feel so sick you struggle to keep anything down other than a few crackers or crisps; or you feel so tired you hit the chocolate and sweets counter at every opportunity; or you feel so hungry that you find yourself shovelling in enough to feed a small family and ordering takeaways daily.
While nutrition is very important during this stage, try to not become stressed about it, just eat as well as you can. Make sure you know what foods you should be avoiding (see NHS advice) and avoid any foods that you are allergic to. You should also be taking some supplements, as per the government guidelines:
400mcg folic acid each day (until you are 12 weeks pregnant)
10mcg of vitamin D each day (for the pregnancy duration and while breastfeeding)
7 top nutritional tips to keep in mind during the first trimester
1. Eat a little and often Keeping yourself topped up with energy may help to keep the tiredness and nausea at bay. Always have some snacks with you like fresh fruit, raw nuts or a smoothie so that if you suddenly need to eat you can.
2. Choose wholegrain carbohydrates like wholegrain bread, brown rice, Ryvita and oatcakes rather than white bread, white rice, cakes and biscuits. Wholegrain carbohydrates are more nutritious – they contain B vitamins, which are needed for energy production, and are an important source of fibre. Fibre is needed to help prevent constipation, which is common in pregnancy.
3. Go colourful The more variety of colour there is in your daily diet, the greater the range of nutrients you will be eating to support you and your baby through the pregnancy. Many nutrients work in synergy so it is a good idea to include as much variety in your diet as you can.
4. Keep balanced Ideally at every meal you should aim to include:
Some protein Protein is needed for building structures so it is very important in pregnancy. Try chicken, fish, meat, milk, yoghurt, cheese, lentils, beans
Some wholegrain carbohydrates An important source of readily available energy for you and your baby. Try wholegrain bread, brown rice, oats, lentils, beans, vegetables
Some healthy fats For energy and general wellbeing. Try olive oil, avocados, olives, oily fish (limited to two portions per week), raw nuts, coconut butter
Some fruit or vegetables For important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
5. Eat some iron-rich foods Many women become iron deficient during pregnancy as needs increase to supply you, your baby and the placenta with healthy red blood cells. Your midwife will check your iron levels. Foods rich in iron include red meat, fish and chicken. Also dried fruits, lentils and beans and you can increase your absorption of iron from these foods by having vitamin C-rich foods alongside them like a glass of fresh orange juice, fresh tomatoes, peppers, kiwi and fresh lemon.
6. Eat some iodine-rich foods Recent research has suggested that many women in the UK are iodine-deficient, putting our babies at risk of mental retardation. Iodine-rich foods include non-organic milk, fish and cheese.
7. Eat some folate-rich foods This is the natural form of folic acid and is needed to prevent neural tube development defects such as spina bifida. Foods rich in folate include spinach, greens, broccoli, beans and lentils.
Perfect meal plans for every day
Here are some examples of how your daily eating might ideally look, whether you are feeling great or battling on with fatigue and/or sickness.
Trouble with nausea? If nausea is a problem, eat a little and often and choose plain, non-spicy, non-fatty foods. Carbohydrates, like pasta, potatoes and bread, may be easier to keep down than protein like chicken and meat. Ginger in most forms can be beneficial and getting someone else to cook for you may help you to maintain your appetite. If it is really bad then speak to your GP or midwife and consider taking a pregnancy safe multivitamin and mineral.
Feeling tired? If tiredness is a problem, again eat a little and often and try to include some protein with every meal, such as chicken, fish, lentils, beans, raw nuts or dairy, to give you some slow-release energy across the day. Keep hydrated and if you can, stay away from the caffeine and sugary snacks, as these may trigger blood sugar imbalances and only make you feel more tired later on.
For more pregnancy-related nutrition recommendations, visit Nourish to Flourish.
Always speak to your GP or midwife if you have any queries or concerns regarding your health and for supplement advice during pregnancy. The recommendations above do not replace professional medical advice. Neither Stephanie Ridley, Nourish to Flourish or Kiddicare accept legal responsibility for any injury or illness sustained while following the advice given.
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