First Trimester of Pregnancy: The Most Common Pains and Complaints
Uwe Porters - Mid-wife / Pregnancy & Postpartum Expert
Pregnancy comes with all sorts of new sensations in your body. Some, like feeling your baby move for the first time, can be magical and exciting. Others like nausea, stomach pain, cramps and/or back pain, are decidedly less fun.
Stomach pain and cramps are very common in pregnancy and it’s usually nothing to worry about. But sometimes, your body might be trying to tell you something and pain that is very intense or does not go away could be a sign of something more serious.
In this post, we’ll tell you about the different types of pain or discomfort you might experience during pregnancy, what’s normal and what warrants a check-in with your doctor or midwife.
Nausea and vomiting are very common in early pregnancy. It can affect you at any time of the day or night, or you may feel sick all day long. Nausea is not just unpleasant, it can also mess with your overall quality of life. Many people have morning sickness, especially during the first three months of pregnancy.
How to decrease nausea during pregnancy?
To get rid of nausea, you have some options. First of all, avoid foods and smells that make you feel sick. Try to get 3-4 small meals (breakfast, lunch dinner and two snacks) on a daily basis. Make sure you’re drinking enough water—at least 2 liters per day—as dehydration can aggravate nausea. Drink some herbal teas that are pregnancy-safe such as ginger, peppermint, raspberry leaf, or peach leaf, which promote movement through your gastrointestinal tract.
Studies have shown that B6 can improve nausea and B12 can reduce the frequency of vomiting. Talk to your doctor before adding any vitamins to your daily routine. If you take a multivitamin, never take them on an empty stomach, but always with a meal. Taking a multivitamin on an empty stomach can make you feel sick, even if you’re not pregnant! You can also try to book an appointment with a physiotherapist or acupuncturist to help to reduce nausea during pregnancy. And most importantly, rest as much as you need because tiredness can make nausea even worse. Don’t forget: you are making a mini human after all!
Back pain in early pregnancy is very common. Lots of women complain about back aches, especially in the early stages. So what’s happening here? And do you need to be concerned? When you’re pregnant, the ligaments in your body naturally start to soften and stretch. This is your body’s way to prepare to grow a tiny human and for labour. It’s highly effective but it can put strain on the joints of your lower back and pelvis. The result? Back pain.
You may also hear the term “round ligament pain” in pregnancy. Round ligament pain is a sharp pain or jabbing feeling usually in your lower belly or groin area on one or both sides. It’s uncomfortable, but it is one of the most common complaints during pregnancy.
How to ease back pain in pregnancy
Pregnancy back pain can really put a damper on your life. When your back hurts, almost nothing feels comfortable or enjoyable and even every day activities can be exhausting. To help ease your back pain, here are a few tips:
- When you lift something up from the floor, bend your knees and keep your back straight (or ask for help!)
- Avoid lifting anything too heavy. We know it might feel lame to ask for help with things you could previously lift, but don’t be a hero. Take care of yourself and your growing baby
- Move your feet when you turn to avoid twisting your spine too much
- Avoid heels and opt for trainers or flat shoes instead
- When carrying shopping, carry two smaller bags instead of one massive one
- Use maternity pillows when sleeping
- Try having a massage or warm bath (but not too hot as this can potentially be dangerous for your baby if you overheat)
If you’re really struggling, talk to your midwife about other pain relief techniques and options.
Stomach pain and cramps
Stomach pain and cramping in early pregnancy can set off alarm bells for even the calmest mum-to-be, especially if you’ve experienced a miscarriage in the past. But try not to panic. Stomach cramps and pain are really common and usually, they are nothing to worry about.
During the first 12 weeks, you’re likely to experience some pain as your uterus expands. Your ligaments are also stretching and hormones are hard at work. All these things can cause some pain and cramping. This pain might feel like a side “stitch” or even mild period pain. If the pain goes away when you change position, rest, go for a poo or pass wind, then it’s probably nothing to worry about.
Toward the end of your pregnancy, you may also feel period-like cramps too. Again, this is very likely nothing to worry about but if you are worried, trust your gut. Call your midwife and talk about your concerns. Anxiety in pregnancy is not helpful at all and speaking to a professional can often provide you with some much-needed reassurance. Do not - we repeat - DO NOT Google your symptoms. It’s a minefield of misinformation out there and it can send you into a tailspin.
How long do they last?
Pregnancy cramps are common during the first and second trimester. You’re not likely to have cramps constantly, but they do come and go as your body is going through some pretty major changes! These pregnancy cramps can feel very similar to menstrual cramps. Normal early pregnancy cramps can last for a few minutes or up to a few hours. They usually start to go away if you change position so try not to sit for long periods of time.
There’s also another pain known as “lightning crotch.” Great name, right? It’s an appropriate term as it refers to quick, intense pain in your vagina. It might sound scary but it’s really more surprising than anything! Many people experience lightning crotch with absolutely no harm to their pregnancies. Though it can be hard not to yelp in pain when it happens! Just hope you’re not in an important work meeting if it happens!
As long as the pain you feel isn’t severe or accompanied by bleeding, there’s likely no cause for immediate concern.
How to find relief
Is there any relief from pregnancy cramps and pain? Are you destined to be moaning your way through all three trimesters? No. There are some simple things you can do to find relief from normal pregnancy cramping.
Sometimes the solution is as simple as getting up or changing position, drinking some water or resting a bit if you’ve been on the move for too long. Your body is smart, and it could be trying to tell you something!
Sometimes, cramping can also be a sign that you’re too stressed. Take a few minutes for yourself to relax. Grab a herbal tea, do a meditation or read a book. You could also have a shower, go on a short walk or watch something funny on TV.
In the evenings, you can wind down with a warm bath. If you have pain in a specific area, a hot water bottle can also be your best friend.
Staying well-hydrated can also help, so always have a water bottle on hand when you go out.
When to call your midwife
While pregnancy cramping and pain are often nothing to worry about, don’t ignore it either. Pay attention to your body and call your midwife immediately if your stomach pain accompanies any of the following symptoms:
- Regular cramping or tightening
- Weird looking vaginal discharge
- Pain or burning when you pee
Also, if your pain is severe or it does not go away after you’ve rested for 30-60 minutes, call your midwife or go into your maternity ward to be checked out. Don’t ever feel like you’re being a nuisance or that you’re wasting a doctor’s time. Your health and the health of your baby is the top priority. Reassurance can put your mind at ease and alleviate stress and early detection of any problems can, in some instances, be life-saving.
Anxiety in pregnancy is very common. Every little pain or weird feeling can be a source for worry, especially if it’s your first pregnancy and you don’t know what to expect or what is considered “normal.” If you feel anxious and you’re not sure who to talk to, get in touch with your midwife and ask for more support. And, remember: you can talk to us too. We are here to help you.
Natural support for a healthy early pregnancy
It can sometimes feel like there isn’t much you can do when pregnant other than wait. But there are some proven things you can do that can help you feel in control and help you care for yourself and your growing baby.
Taking a natural supplement to support your health and the healthy development of your baby is a Guud thing to do, right from the start.
Add a multivitamin with folic acid (especially during the first trimester). When the baby is developing in early during pregnancy, folic acid helps form the neural tube. Folic acid is very important because it can help prevent some major birth defects of the baby's brain (anencephaly) and spine (spina bifida). The neural tube forms the early brain and spine.
Look for supplements or a multivitamin that contains iron. Iron contributes to the normal formation of red blood cells and hemoglobin, and a pregnant woman has about 45 percent more blood.
It is also important to get enough magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral that plays an important role in immune, muscle and nerve function.
Finally, look for supplements that contain DHA (omega-3). These healthy fats are important for the development of the heart and brain of your baby and also support your mood and mind.
Expecting a baby this year? Feeling anxious? We understand. We’ve been there. If you have questions about what supplements can help you take care of yourself and your baby, talk to our team of experts. We’re midwives (and mothers too!) and we get it.