Yoga in the First Trimester

I can’t quite believe I’m well into the third trimester already for baby #2! It got me reflecting on the beginning of this pregnancy and, although it’s not quite a distant memory yet (!), I’m definitely in a better place than I was. Here I’m sharing some of my first trimester experiences from this pregnancy and my previous one, and some of the things that helped get me through it – hoping it offers some support for others going through it.

My experience

Both my pregnancies have been very similar – all day sickness and nausea that started at around 5/6 weeks, and lasted until around 20 weeks. Yep, not fun! I still get strong waves of sickness now, but these are short lived and I find I can take steps to prevent them (tiredness and de-hydration and blood sugar levels dropping are triggers). I know a few people who have suffered with severe sickness for their entire pregnancy, so I count myself lucky here. I completely empathise with those that have struggled to that severity and made it through, it’s so easy for others to belittle the experience and write it off as a waiting game until they feel better again – but when you’re in it, it’s a whole other experience and feels so intense and never ending. Please do seek further support if you are struggling with the symptoms, physically or emotionally (https://www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk/)

Everyone’s experience is different and personal to them, and for me – the constant nausea and extreme tiredness really got to me (especially with a toddler to look after too this time!) and I found myself in tears most days, desperately wanting to close my eyes and make it stop. It would be from the moment I woke, and got progressively worse through the day (one reason they really need to stop calling it ‘morning’ sickness, I actually found I could just about function in the morning). In the early days, I couldn’t move from the nausea, I then found that I could make it until lunchtime, and progressively this time pushed back later and later until I finally could stop relying on the entire afternoons of Peppa Pig re-runs to entertain my toddler, while I lay lifeless on the sofa lifeless (#ohthemumguilt).

For me, the usual ‘ginger’ and other similar suggestions got me (very un-yogic-ly) wanting to punch the person that advised it. For the first few weeks ALL food, smells, tastes were off the table (no pun intended) I got by on nibbles of toast. Everything smelt bad – foods that I used to love, my husband’s aftershave, my toddler (!), EVERYTHING. If anyone was cooking in the house, I had to leave all the doors and windows open, sit outside and I even held my breath to cook for my toddler. I won’t even mention how I managed changing my toddler’s nappies!

How Yoga helped me

Postures

  • Ladies are welcome in my pregnancy classes from 14 weeks onwards, I wouldn’t suggest much physical practice to someone in the first trimester, especially beginners. For me, other than teaching, I couldn’t face much other movement anyway. I found left side laying most comfortable (as this took pressure off my stomach) or supported child’s pose (image below), whilst gently rolling my head side to side to soothe my forehead. This posture also really helped with the exhaustion, most days movement felt too much and I just needed the safety of stillness.

Breathing and meditation

  • I found that deep breaths helped to release the tension in my tummy and diaphragm, created from feeling ill all the time. When I was feeling strong waves of sickness, focusing on deepening my breath really helped me remain calm until it passed. Anytime I felt myself becoming frustrated or wanting to push feelings away, I came back to my breath and closed my eyes.

Remembering that everything is temporary

  • This is my second pregnancy, so I was holding onto the fact that first time round, this did pass around half way through. In the midst of the sickness, it honestly felt like I’d never want food or would enjoy food again! Holding onto the fact that this feeling would pass eventually, and would soon be a distant memory, would help get me through each day. In yoga we talk a lot about being ‘in the moment’ and being ‘present’, but when the present feels utter crap, you don’t want to be there or focus on that. Focusing on my breathing (breathe in, breathe out) and closing my eyes to take myself away from the moment actually helped more.

Other things that helped me…

Distractions

  • I found that when I was busier and distracted, this helped me survive more of the day less consumed by the sickness. However, it would come at a price sometimes if I overdid it, and ended up overtired (it’s a fine balance!) When I found a good balance of keeping somewhat distracted, but resting in between when I could, I was able to manage the symptoms better.

Pressure point wrist bands

  • I found these useful in my first pregnancy, and used them straight away in this pregnancy, however I did notice that the effects would ware off after some time (and I had little hole shapes in my wrist from the constant wearing!) – when I took them off for a few hours and put them back on, they were more effective. Not to mention that it gave the game away to several people that spotted me wearing them quite early on – lots of keen eyes!

Eating when I could

  • What I could tolerate eating definitely changed every couple of weeks, and sometimes I would suddenly just think of something to try that seemed appealing at the time – I went with it and just took each day as it came.

Worrying less about what I ate

  • I had the same ‘cravings’ as last pregnancy right before the full-on sickness hit (and I couldn’t stand eating anything) – and that was banana milk and salt and vinegar Snackajacks! Last pregnancy I was worried about baby getting what they needed when I was eating such crap, but this time it was all about survival, and if I could only stomach Wotsits – I would solely eat Wotsits that day, or for that week, no guilt.

Eating regularly

  • I would keep a little doggy bag of snacks and foods that I could manage (mainly Pom bear crisps and marmite sandwiches in the later days) and take this with me out and about. A few bites or a quarter sandwich every couple of hours kept my blood sugar levels more stable and helped for when it came to the evening. I often was beyond tired and beyond wanting to eat by evening, so would just focus on eating little things throughout the day instead.

Eating weird things

  • Around 14 weeks I started to fancy pickle as well as marmite. Considering these are pretty strong flavours, I didn’t understand it, but went with it. I guess it was the salt that I needed. Nevertheless, I am now left with a HUGE jar of pickle in the fridge that I now look at in disgust (anyone want it?!). But at the time, it worked.

Keeping hydrated

  • In my first pregnancy I found I couldn’t even stomach water, but squash worked. This pregnancy, it’s like my body remembered the squash, and like a bad hangover memory, I couldn’t face it again. I eventually found apple juice mixed with water worked (my poor teeth, I could only drink this for weeks!), and then elderflower cordial to keep me hydrated.

Sleep

  • I just slept when I could. In the half hour before teaching my class after hubby was home from work. In my toddler’s (very short) nap time. As soon as my toddler was down for the night, I was in bed too. The more sleep I had, the better I felt. If I couldn’t sleep, I rested – finding inventive ways to keep my toddler amused while I could lay next to her. She also got very good at knowing when mummy ‘felt poorly’ and I found she would stroke my head and happily sit and watch Peppa Pig or play with her toys next to me.

Whatever your experience, do what you can to get through – know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and at some point (even though it really doesn’t feel like it at the time), you will feel more like yourself again. Focus on getting through each day, doing what you can and leaving the rest. If it does feel like it’s getting on top of you, seek help – from your midwife or GP. Just because it’s an expected part of pregnancy doesn’t mean you have to struggle on your own.