First Trimester Symptoms (And How To Ease Them)

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Breast tenderness, morning sickness, fatigue, frequent urination, acne and emotional ups and downs are among the common symptoms of the first trimester of pregnancy, those first six to 14 weeks.

In fact, breast tenderness is typically one of the first pregnancy symptoms, says Dr. Jason Rubin, a family medical practitioner at Snoqualmie Valley Hospital in Washington. “Increased hormones in your bloodstream, estrogen and progesterone, send a signal for your breasts to begin swelling and growing as your body begins preparing for nursing,” he says. “Blood flow increases and the milk ducts mature.” Other breast symptoms may include the areola darkening in color, and the veins becoming more pronounced, Dr. Rubin says. “All women are familiar with the nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, otherwise known as ‘morning sickness,’‘’ Dr. Rubin says. “It tends to occur early in the day, but it can happen anytime as well.”

Fluctuating hormone levels are the culprit, as they stimulate the nausea centers of the brain. Another overwhelming symptom is fatigue, again due to rising pregnancy hormone levels and rapidly dividing cells in the developing embryo, says Dr. Shelley Binkley, an OB/GYN practicing in Glenwood Springs, Colo., and author of DIY Baby: Your Essential Pregnancy Handbook (iUniverse, 2008). “These hormones peak at 12 weeks gestation and then drop off,” she says. “The fatigue usually improves at 14 to 16 weeks gestation when the hormone levels come back down.” As hormones fluctuate during those first weeks, expect an emotional rollercoaster ride, Dr. Binkley says.

In addition, many newly pregnant women feel an increased need to urinate frequently. “About 10 to 20 percent of pregnant women complain of increased frequency of urinary urge,” she says. “This is due in part to the enlarging uterus pressing on the bladder.”

Acne is yet another common symptom of the first trimester. “Approximately one-third of women will experience an increase in facial acne lesions, which are also caused by fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone,” Dr. Rubin says.

During both of her pregnancies, Dr. Rubin’s wife, Annette, faced uncomfortable symptoms. Twenty-four-hour nausea, involving “aroma-sensitivities,” and pregnancy-onset acne sum up her first trimester experience. “With my first pregnancy, the vomiting was much more severe,” says Annette Rubin, who found bad odors often triggered vomiting. “I often wondered whether or not I would survive. I would often think – and occasionally complain aloud – ‘I am so sick and tired of being sick and tired!’‘’