Nutrition In Pregnancy: The First Trimester

Thoughts, feelings and mealtimes of a first time Mum-to-be that’s been plagued by over a decade of disordered eating. A three part series, one for each trimester. Starting with the first… Starch, citrus and a dry Christmas! 

Nutrition in Pregnancy Collage

The pregnancy test was only ever a precautionary one. I was self-appointed ‘Head of Christmas Catering’ and as such had placed the booze order too. I love Christmas, especially for all the sitting around sipping from what feel like never ending glasses of fizz, sharing stories that might never have otherwise been told.

I didn’t ever ‘know’. You know, apparently you just ‘know’. But I didn’t. That said, a couple of weeks beforehand I had thought that wedding anniversary night could be ‘the one’ and I’d retained enough of my biology before I dropped it at GCSE to understand the ins and outs (not a euphemism) of conception.

So I took The Precautionary Pregnancy Test. And so it confirmed none of that Prosecco would be for me!

It was nothing like the movies. Here Andy describes the moment we found out pretty accurately – it’s conveniently in italics so you can skip back down to carry on with the nutrition bit if you’d rather but it’s a good read:

“I’ll never forget the first time I learned that I was going to become a Dad. It was a flurry of tears, kisses, hugs, smiles and exclamations. What followed was a beautiful day where me and my wife tried to adjust to the news.

At least that’s what I wish I could say. The movies have a lot to answer for, and not just for the career of Adam Sandler. These sort of seminal, life-defining moments are portrayed to be amazing. In truth, the day we found out that we were going to be parents was very different.

It was the day before Christmas Eve, and I’d flown through the front door 45 minutes before we needed to be in the car on our way to a family getaway in West Wales. In that time I had to shower, finish packing and complete a real life version of Tetris to get all of our stuff in the car. As Ruth shouted at me to “Come upstairs and look at this” I was fully expecting another lesson in how to pack clothes more efficiently for travel (I’d love to pretend that has never happened!). Instead she thrust a pregnancy kit in my hand – thankfully not by the wee covered end – and I confirmed that yes, that was definitely a cross. As she threw her arms around me and we both looked at it again, I found myself being asked to confirm what I could see on another 17 occasions. I was wondering if it was one of those magic-eye things and I would gradually see a unicorn or something as a reward for my persistent gazing. No unicorns, just a positive confirmation.

“Can you just go out and get another kit, the electronic one, those are more accurate.”

15 minutes before departure, with none of my tasks complete, I walked back into the front door with a super posh kit and a scarring experience with the world’s busiest Morrisons. I had even had chance to demonstrate just why I was going to be the most embarrassing Dad in years to come. As the woman on the self service checkouts had to come and free the pregnancy kit from its theft proof prison I couldn’t resist pointing at my belly and saying “I think it’s just Christmas excess but I needed to be sure.” She didn’t laugh. I did. My unborn child shed a single tear.

Test two was also positive. How much more positive can you be? Don’t we now need a doctor to do an official test? Ruth, who is in pretty much all aspects of being a grown up much more worldy than me, confirmed that they just take our word for it now. So, at a time when I should be cartwheeling around the house, telling my wife how much I love her and generally going weak at the knees, I was questioning the potential for tax payers money being wasted due to people mistakenly thinking they were pregnant. That practicality will come in handy further down the line I reckon.

Excitement was on hold until we got out of the door and were in the car. We’d already warned our travelling companions that we were running late for our M4 meet. One thing that this two hour drive provided was the chance to discuss all things pregnancy. For someone who already knew way more about cervical mucus than I wanted I had a long way to go to comprehend the finer aspects of what my wife was due to go through for the next eight and a bit months.

And this is where it all began to sink in a bit. The excitement, the fear, the unknown. The chance for two people to treasure a little secret that only they knew and that, God willing, everyone else would find out about in due course.

It was the start of a journey, in more ways than one.”

So there I am in the car frantically Googling NHS resources and sending an email laced with delight and terror to my nutritional therapist, Glen Matten.

His response was rapid (thank goodness) and full of excitement and reassurance. We arranged a proper Skype catch up after the holiday and he reiterated I wasn’t to feel too terrified but instead enjoy every moment, even the earliest ones, of this pregnancy.

I didn’t feel nauseous at this point just particularly miffed that none of the charcuterie or champagne would be coming my way. No thanks to NHS caffeine guidelines I calculated how many Lindt chocolate Santas would be too many and, looking back, was far more cautious that Christmas than I probably needed to be having not quite got a handle on the whole pasteurised versus non pasteurised thing.

The nausea kicked in just as we were heading to my in laws in between Christmas and New Year, as did the tiredness and longing for a 9pm bedtime. Nothing particularly turned my stomach although I remember one supper where I easily ate half a kilo of boiled new potatoes. The desperation for starch had begun.

Obviously the nausea intensified just in time for my return to work in the New Year *sigh* but thankfully was at a peak during the evenings and I managed not to raise any suspicion, frequently referring to carrying some extra Christmas indulgence pounds! A somewhat devastating blow was the smell of freshly brewed coffee that left me fleeing the kitchen in a flash and gone was the morning ritual of sitting for half an hour before the daily grind with a mug of the beautiful strong black stuff.

I still managed to eat pretty well in those very early weeks with oat cakes and rye bread toast being staple nausea saviours – until week 8-9. After that, nothing other than stodge and grease would suffice. There was one day when all my meals were sausage sandwiches on white tin loaf.  The bread I’d made myself and dug out of the freezer, but still… I only just about managed to restrict myself to one portion of fish and chips a week.

I tried, I promise. I was so disappointed in myself that I vowed to get a handle on things and one breakfast roasted up a medley of vegetables and scrambled some eggs. Gagging my way through the first three mouthfuls I decided that probably wasn’t the healthiest or most mindful approaches to eating and reverted back to the starchy saviours. And citrus. There wasn’t enough lime in fizzy or lemon in hot water in the world to quench the nausea of this first trimester!

The best bit about this first trimester was learning and appreciating first hand, as a nutritional therapist in training, what other women go through. I remember I scoffed at the first of my close school friends who became pregnant and proclaimed she just “couldn’t face vegetables”. Oh, come on. Pull yourself together and stop making excuses, I so unhelpfully thought! Stop blaming the baby, get a grip. So mean of me. So I promise, if you come into my consultation room two years from now I’ll be far more sympathetic. Sorry (two years too late!) Sophie…

The worst bit of the first trimester was definitely grappling with what being pregnant would mean in terms of weight gain, body changes and hopefully not undoing so much of the work I’d done around what has felt like a lifetime of disordered eating. We don’t keep scales in the house and the only time I’ve been weighed this pregnancy was at my first scan. The ‘damage’ was no different to what it would ordinarily be post Christmas and I took comfort from that. I was so scared stepping on those scales, not necessarily about the number that would stare back at me but what it could potentially signify. Weighing scales terrify me. Summer 2000 I easily weighed myself seven plus times a day. Such a haunting, although thankfully increasingly distant memory.

As my favourite high waisted skinny jeans got tighter I was far less bothered than I’d feared. Annoyingly maternity clothes were still too big and some mornings it was a really puffy, tired, far rounder, face staring back at me in the mirror. Despite one family member that told me, whilst I wore a new, size up Breton, “you’ve got to be careful with stripes” and another “it’s only really your thighs where you’ve put on weight, you don’t look pregnant anywhere else” I still managed to feel pretty chipper. There’s a lot to be said for the comfort from carbs…

How did you fare in your first trimester of pregnancy? 

**This series will continue next week with nutrition in the second trimester.**