Before I fell pregnant, I figured I knew what to expect. Vomiting, keeping an exciting secret and a little tiredness. Now I’m 12 weeks down the line, I’ve realised that there are so many things we’re not told – and every single woman I’ve spoken to who is either pregnant or has children has experienced something entirely different.
Here are a few of the things I’ve learnt from my first twelve weeks of pregnancy
1. You’re pregnant from the first day of your last period
This blew my mind! Before your first scan at 12 weeks, there’s a lot of guesswork with how pregnant you actually are. As most women struggle to work out exactly when they conceived, the date is usually worked out from the first day of your last period. Which means you’re not really pregnant for the first week or two of your pregnancy. In fact, most women don’t discover they’re pregnant until they’re somewhere between 3-6 weeks. The good news then, is that for some of us, we only experience the worst of the first trimester symptoms for two months.
2. False negatives happen
I took my first positive pregnancy test on a Monday morning at 5am. The Friday before, I’d taken two tests, and both had been negative. False negatives happen. False positives are rare though. The best way to do a test is to do it with your first pee of the day, and it’s easier to pee in a cup and dip, than trying and cross the stream. Just, y’know, wash the cup after. Obviously.
Also, a little side note. If you pee too hard or too much on a pregnancy test (say, if you take a test when you’re desperate for the loo after a long commute…), it won’t work. Um, so I heard.
3. Doctors are unlikely to run a pregnancy test for you
Pregnancy tests now, especially the digital ones, are so high tech that the doctor/midwife will likely just accept that you’re pregnant. This can lead to you spending the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy worrying that there’s nothing there.
4. Early symptoms may not be what you expect
Movies and TV suggests that the first sign of pregnancy is spending every morning hugging the toilet bowl. In fact, my first pregnancy symptom was waking up with back and rib pain every morning for a week. Then my boobs started to ache a bit. Nausea came around week 7, and I thankfully dodged vomiting altogether. I can’t remember when the tiredness kicked in, but it hit hard – like most other pregnant women I know, I was in bed by 8pm. Which wasn’t the worst.
5. Nausea/morning sickness isn’t always in the morning
Sometimes, nausea and morning sickness can kick in mid-morning, whereas some people find they spend their evenings on the porcelain telephone. I personally found I felt rough until about 5pm, when my appetite would start to pick up. Best way I can describe it is mild seasickness, all the time.
6. You can’t eat whatever you want
I adore food – but pregnancy so far has not been a food-filled journey. The first few months are mainly about finding foods you can keep down, which doesn’t make you dry heave. Innocent Smoothies and those little snack packs of fruit have somewhat kept me on the healthy side, but McDonalds and Dominos have enjoyed my custom for the last few months. Generally though, the advice is not to worry about being really healthy during your first trimester – you can do that during your second and third trimesters.
Also, you can’t eat HUGE amounts of food as you’re so bloated. Which brings me to…
7. Got a bump straight away? Say hello to bloat
During pregnancy, your digestive system slows right down. This means you get really bloated (which looks like a bump), can suffer from constipation and rarely feel like eating huge meals as it makes the bloat worse. Drink lots of water and try to throw some fibre in there to keep things going.
8. Smells EVERYWHERE
You get a superhero skill when you’re pregnant. SUPERSMELL. I can get on the tube and smell the cheap cider drank by a dude half way down the carriage 12 hours before. Best way to deal with this is to pop your favourite perfume on your collar or grab some mints. I know others carrying oranges and clementines, and dug their nails into the peels for a quick sniff when they felt ill.
9. Hello car sickness!
I used to get car sick when I was a kid. Feel a little delicate during pregnancy meant long journeys were out, as any long car journey would bring that car sickness right back.
10. Greasy hair
I’m painting a beautiful picture here, aren’t I? You know how they say you’ll have beautiful hair and nails during pregnancy? This is true – from the second trimester. In the first trimester, I had an attack of the greasy roots. The only thing I found that helped was this Lush Montalbano shampoo bar (plus the lemon scent really perked me up in the morning).
11. Cramps aren’t a bad thing (necessarily)
For the first 6 or 7 weeks, I had period-like pregnancy cramps. This is normal, and it’s actually down to things like your womb and uterus growing and the ligaments stretching. Try not to worry too much about them (have a warm, not hot, bath to ease them if they hurt) unless there’s any bleeding.
12. In summary on the symptoms front, pregnancy is like being hungover and having hardcore PMT for two months
It’s not the end of the world, and a Berocca and keeping distracted can make a world of difference. The times I tended to feel a bit down or struggled were when I didn’t make time to go for a walk or leave the house for a few days. That said…
13. “You’re pregnant, not ill” will enrage you in early pregnancy
Look, if you weren’t pregnant, you’d probably have called in sick some days. But as you’re pregnant, the mindset is ‘suck it up’. Which is fine, but it’s still a punch in the gut when someone tells you you’re pregnant, not ill. The second trimester is when you’re supposed to get your boost of energy, and then you feel a little more normal (aside from the growing bump).
14. Too few symptoms is as worrying as too many
I spent most of the first trimester waiting for the full morning sickness vomming to begin. In fact, I panicked when I didn’t get it, as I kept seeing people saying that bad morning sickness meant everything was going well. Everyone has different symptoms, so please don’t panic.
15. Avoid colds like the plague
There are a few things you can’t consume during pregnancy, and this covers ALL COLD MEDICINES. You’re basically limited to paracetamol and lemon and honey. Some throat sweets are ok but you need to double check (check with your midwife, NOT the forums). A cold floored me for a week in the 12th week of my pregnancy.
16. B Bumps are a thing if you’re plus size
I had no idea what a B bump was before pregnancy. Essentially, if you’re plus size (and at a size 16, I fall into that), you may get a B bump. Instead of this perfectly round bump you see everywhere, you get a bump shaped like a B. As an Apple shape, I suspect I might get a B bump. It’s one of those weird taboos, as there is some unnecessary shame attached to the B bump, perhaps attached to fat shaming. Additionally, some plus sized women don’t feel they look pregnant in the traditional way.
17. The forums can be terrifying
I spent quite a bit of time in pregnancy forums when I first found out, especially late at night when I was getting up to go to the loo every few hours. When you can’t tell anyone else but your partner, it can help you feel less alone. If you’re the least bit nervous, the forums can be equal parts reassuring and upsetting. It didn’t feel like a day went by that you’d see several posts from women who had sadly lost their babies. Advice in general could be dubious too, and the judgements could be HARSH. Try not to get too involved in forums, as they can set off a panic.
18. Rate of miscarriages and missed miscarriages
In the forums, you’ll read a lot about miscarriages and missed miscarriages. It’s hard to say for sure how many people have miscarriages as some can be so early on that people don’t know – and others aren’t reported. According to Tommys, it is estimated that a miscarriage occurs in 15-20% of recognised pregnancies, with 85% of spontaneous miscarriages occurring in the first trimester (weeks 1 to 12). Missed miscarriages are miscarriages that you don’t know about (and your body hasn’t recognised) until you have a scan. Figures range on missed miscarriages, but generally it’s very low – around 1% of all pregnancies.
Getting through the first 12 weeks can feel like the world’s worst assault course, especially when you read the forums. It’s important to recognise that miscarriages are not uncommon – but also that the stats are on your side.
19. Pregnancy enhances your relationships
If you’re in a happy and healthy relationship, pregnancy tends to enhance that, bringing you closer together and seeing a whole new side to each other. One of my favourite things about pregnancy is seeing this whole new caring side of Pete. It’s also worth remembering that pregnancy and expecting a baby can be difficult for the dad too. They’re supporting you through the process, but not feeling any of the physical effects which can make it harder to understand. If your relationship is on shaky grounds when you fall pregnant, it will only highlight the flaws and make it harder.
It also can have a wonderful impact on your other relationships too. My mum and I are even closer now, and I’ve grown closer to friends who have really been there.
20) Telling everyone is the BEST THING EVER
I am totally crap at keeping secrets. I hate it, actually – I find it really hard to lie. Telling our friends and family, and then everyone else, was a huge relief and really lovely. It’s so exciting to see everyone’s reactions, and makes it all feel more real.
Finally, pregnancy trousers are the best thing ever and I never want to stop wearing them.
What pregnancy symptoms or situations surprised you in the first twelve weeks?
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