The first trimester of pregnancy, which begins on the day of conception and ends with week 12, is crucial and challenging. You will gain weight, feel sluggish, experience morning sickness along with other symptoms. During this stage, the fetus grows quickly and several vital organs including the nervous system, spine, and digestive tract start to develop. The fetus also attains a human form by the end of the trimester.
To ensure healthy fetal development during this sensitive phase, you need to adopt a healthy diet and lifestyle. In this MomJunction post, we list down the essential precautions you need to take to stay healthy during the first three months of pregnancy.
Best Precautions To Take During The First Trimester Of Pregnancy
Follow these precautions in the first trimester to avoid several pregnancy complications.
1. Stay hydrated
You will need more fluids during pregnancy as the blood volume increases to support the oxygen and nutrient requirements of the fetus. The sudden changes in the body will increase the demand for fluid intake. You should consider having lots of water, fresh juices, and smoothies to remain hydrated at this time (1).
2. Take prenatal vitamins
Take prenatal vitamins as suggested by your doctor. The early pregnancy period is crucial for both the mother and the fetus. It is essential that you take supplements for folic acid, which is essential to prevent birth defects (2), and iron that prevents pregnancy anemia.
3. Quit smoking
If you are a habitual smoker, now is the time to quit. Smoking increases the risk of several complications such as low immunity, low-birth weight, premature labor, miscarriage, and ectopic pregnancy (3). There is also a risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) with second-hand smoking. Therefore, say no to tobacco and avoid passive smoking for a healthy pregnancy (4).
4. Quit alcohol and cut down caffeine
Like tobacco, alcohol and caffeine also put the mother and the fetus at risk. Alcohol is known to cause learning disabilities and affect the cognitive functioning of the fetus. Too much caffeine is associated with premature labor and congenital disabilities (3). Limit colas, sodas, chocolates, green and black tea as they contain excess caffeine.
5. Watch your food
Make healthy food choices and follow a balanced diet. Keeping your dietary habits in check also helps you manage your weight effectively (5).
Include more nuts and seeds to increase your intake of omega-3s, which are required for the development of brain, eyes, and nerves of your baby.
Consume egg yolk, milk, tuna, salmon, and fish liver oil that are rich in vitamin D. Also, get more sunlight exposure.
Increase your calcium intake by including broccoli, spinach, and tofu besides dairy products to your diet.
Include all food groups; talk to your doctor about calorie intake and plan your diet accordingly.
Avoid processed foods as they contain traces of sodium nitrates that affect fetal development
Avoid preservatives and foods with synthetic colors
Wash fruits and vegetables to remove the pesticide residue or stick to organic sources.
6. Fish and seafood
Although fish and seafood are healthy sources of proteins and fats, some varieties contain high mercury levels that are dangerous for the fetus. Mercury is associated with brain damage and developmental delays in the baby. Therefore, you should consume fish with caution and also take your doctor’s advice before including it in your diet.
Limit tuna, avoid king mackerel, swordfish, and tilefish.
Avoid fish caught from unknown sources
Avoid dishes like sushi that have raw fish
Avoid fish and seafood that are not tested by the local food safety department
7. Do not miss prenatal OB/GYN visits
Schedule a prenatal appointment soon after your pregnancy is confirmed. It is important to see a qualified gynecologist or obstetrician. Your doctor might ask about your medical history to understand your health condition better and prescribe medications accordingly. Communicate with your doctor honestly and regularly and consult them whenever you experience any pain or discomfort (7).
8. Manage your weight
Maintain a healthy lifestyle and have a healthy BMI before trying to get pregnant. Being obese increases risks during pregnancy. Also, gaining too much weight suddenly, especially during the first trimester and commencing weeks, is harmful. Check with a dietitian or a nutritionist for a healthy diet plan (8).
Mild and moderate exercises help you stay active and keep your metabolism high. You should avoid heavy and strenuous activities such as back-bends, stretches, and advanced abdominal moves.
Also, avoid exercises that need you to lie on the back, put pressure on the abdomen and those that lead to overheating and dehydration. Consult your doctor before planning to take up yoga, meditation or breathing exercises, or enroll in prenatal workout classes (9).
10. Herbs and medications
Certain herbal supplements and medications are harmful during pregnancy. Never continue old prescriptions or pills you think are good. They may be harmful and lead to issues such as miscarriage, premature labor, and painful contractions. Always consult your doctor before taking any medication to keep yourself and the baby safe (10).
11. Avoid hot tubs and sauna baths
Staying in high temperatures for prolonged periods will increase the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) in the fetus. Hot tubs and saunas cause you to remain in temperatures higher than the basal body temperature. So avoid them and use heat compresses wrapped in a cloth to relieve joint pains and backaches.
12. Avoid strong smells
Some pregnant women might experience a heightened sense of smell, especially in the first trimester. This could, therefore, aggravate symptoms such as morning sickness and nausea. Stay away from scents or smells that could trigger nausea or vomiting.
13. Limit exposure to pets
If you have pets at home, limit contact with them as they carry harmful parasites such as Toxoplasma gondii, which is detrimental to the baby’s development. It can affect the brain causing reduced growth and eye defects in the fetus. Animal dander is also known to cause allergic reactions (13).
14. Get tested for STDs (sexually transmitted diseases)
Pregnant women need to get screened for STDs and HIV in the early pregnancy stage. These infections will have a significant impact on the pregnancy, your health and your baby’s health too. Therefore, you should use contraceptives to avoid the risk of disease (14).
Is Air Travel Safe In The First Trimester?
Yes, it is usually safe to fly during the first trimester, but you should be aware that the likeliness of miscarriage is highest during the first trimester. Also, flying for more than four hours raises the risk of thrombosis (blood clots). Taking right precautions such as proper hydration, wearing comfortable clothing, calf exercises and walking around the airplane (if possible) helps make the journey safer (15).
Following the above precautions will help you pass through the first trimester without any health problems. Do not panic in case of any unusual symptoms. Go to the doctor instead. Remember that your fears and negative thoughts could also affect your baby’s development. Stay happy, avoid stress, eat healthily and take proper care for safeguarding yourself and your baby.