When I found out I was pregnant last October, I was on the heels of a running kick. A week or so before I got my positive test result, I’d PRed at The Newport Half. Earlier that year, in April, I’d run my first marathon in Boston.
I told myself I’d keep running while pregnant. After all, exercise during pregnancy—assuming your doctor has cleared you for it—is not only healthy but recommended. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that pregnant people log at least 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise each week for a variety of reasons, like because it can help maintain or improve cardiorespiratory fitness.
Then week six came, and nausea like I never knew existed hit me hard. Exercise became difficult, especially running with all of its pounding. I had to give up running during my whole first trimester.
Turning to yoga classes, at-home workout apps, and low-impact spin classes helped me sweat without feeling frustrated (on the days I had the energy to move, that is). But I had to accept that I apparently just wasn’t going to feel great during my first trimester, and I had to make adjustments to try to help myself feel better. It’s something I’m realizing most people who are or have been pregnant have dealt with.
Everyone has their own strategies for making it through. Here, parents-to-be and those who already have kids share seven tips they relied on to get through their first three months of pregnancy, and ob/gyns weigh in on why these suggestions might be able to help you, too.
1. Always be prepared with snacks.
“If I got even momentarily hungry, it was a day-ruiner,” Jackie J., 31, tells SELF. Relatable. To combat this, Jackie followed what she calls the ABE rule: Always Be Eating.
It sounds pretty obvious, but it’s true enough to be worth spelling out: “Frequently eating small amounts helps [keep] most folks from getting too full or too hungry,” Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale University, tells SELF. Both of these sensations can feel even more wildly uncomfortable—and nausea-inducing—than usual when you’re pregnant. If constant grazing helps you avoid these feelings, have at it.
2. Never leave home without antacids.
Constant snacking can come with a catch: dreaded heartburn, which is even more likely when you’re expecting. “In pregnancy, the valve between the stomach and the esophagus relaxes, and [stomach acid] refluxes up into the esophagus,” Dr. Minkin says. Enter symptoms like a burning chest and bitter taste flooding your mouth.
Lauren W., 30, tells SELF that she really relied on antacids (Tums, specifically) to combat these issues during pregnancy. These kinds of meds work to neutralize the stomach acid underlying heartburn, the Mayo Clinic explains.
Antacids often rely on calcium to do their job, so you should make sure you’re not having so many that you’re surpassing the medically established tolerable upper intake level for this nutrient. (That’s basically the highest amount you can have without increasing your risk of side effects.) According to the National Institutes of Health, the tolerable upper intake level of calcium for pregnant people 19 and over is 2,500 milligrams per day. Regularly going beyond that may increase your risk of issues like calcium-based kidney stones—not something you want to deal with ever, but especially not when pregnant.
To further fight heartburn, Dr. Minkin recommends elevating your head while you sleep. “Let gravity be your friend and help keep the acid in the stomach,” she says.
3. Give yourself a break whenever you can.
“I closed my office door and put my head down on the cold desk to wait out the nausea every day,” Jill F., 34, tells SELF. “Fun times!”
Pressing pause to breathe through pregnancy issues like nausea can be helpful if you’re able to swing it. If you can go a step beyond that and pepper short naps throughout your day when it’s feasible for you, even better, Erin Dawson-Chalat, M.D., an ob/gyn at Coastal Women’s Healthcare in Scarborough, Maine, tells SELF.
“Sleep disturbance is common in pregnancy,” Dr. Dawson-Chalat says. The reasons why can range from heartburn to leg cramps to more. Plus, fatigue is common in the first trimester thanks to hormonal shifts and major physical changes, like your heart working harder than usual. Point is, you might feel seriously exhausted when you’re expecting, especially to start. Taking little moments of rest for yourself whenever you can might help.
4. Listen to your body.
“Everyone’s advice about morning sickness was to eat crackers and bread and simple carbs. But carbs made it so much worse for me,” Anna P., 32, tells SELF. “I realized pretty quickly that my body needed a lot more protein, and the fattier, the better. Bacon turned out to be a lifesaver!” Having an egg sandwich with bacon every day helped fight morning sickness like nothing else, Anna says.
Experts don’t fully understand why pregnancy cravings happen and what they might mean. But if one specific food helps you find relief from morning sickness, that’s great, Dr. Minkin says. If your cravings are so intense that you’re concerned about having too much of any one food during your pregnancy, that’s definitely something to discuss with your doctor.
5. Try to find a mantra or mindfulness practice that works for you.
Alexandra V., 30, tells SELF that she experienced a lot of anxious feelings in the first trimester, which is when miscarriage is most common. “Establishing a mindfulness practice in the first trimester was a great way for me to cultivate a meaningful connection and nurture the pregnancy and baby,” she says. “I also found it helpful to have a mantra for when I was feeling particularly anxious, like, ‘My baby is secure, and my body knows what to do.’”
For some people, mindfulness can be helpful in dealing with the new stresses of pregnancy, Dr. Dawson-Chalat says. Even if you’re not big on mindfulness or mantras, she recommends identifying some calming activities you can lean on when feeling anxious, like listening to your favorite piece of music or reading some of your favorite poetry. “This is a practice you can continue with your baby when they are outside of the womb,” she says.
Keep in mind, though, that there’s a difference between typical anxious feelings in pregnancy and having an anxiety disorder that’s really impacting your life. If you think you need to see a mental health professional for anxiety but aren’t sure where to find one, here’s SELF’s guide to finding an affordable therapist.
6. Move in whatever ways are helpful and safe for you.
“Exercise actually helps me overcome the nausea,” Laura T., 31, tells SELF. “I’ve done everything from long walks to lifting at the gym. Maybe it’s just a distraction, but it helps.”
The distraction factor can definitely be beneficial when all you can focus on is first-trimester suckiness. Plus, as we mentioned above, regular exercise during pregnancy can help promote better physical and mental health as long as it’s medically safe for you to do that level of physical activity. “Just remember to cut yourself some slack on days that you don’t feel like you can do your full workout,” Dr. Dawson-Chalat says. “All movement is good, whether it’s walking, swimming, dancing, elliptical, yoga—it all counts.”
7. Talk to your doctor about any medications that can help.
“The first trimester of both of my pregnancies were complete opposites. With my son, I felt so good. With my daughter, it was, unfortunately, a different story,” Sarah M., 33, tells SELF. “I had debilitating nausea and vomiting from four weeks to 20 weeks.” Upon a recommendation from her doctor, Sarah began taking a combination of vitamin B6 and a sleep aid containing the antihistamine doxylamine succinate. It was the only thing that helped, she says.
Dr. Minkin explains that vitamin B6 and doxylamine succinate can be “a winning combination” for assuaging morning sickness. Experts still aren’t totally sure how the combination works, but there’s enough evidence behind it that vitamin B6 and doxylamine succinate are the active ingredients in prescription morning sickness drugs Diclegis and Bonjesta.
As SELF previously reported, these types of medications (including vitamin B6 and doxylamine succinate-containing sleep aids that you combine yourself) shouldn’t be your first defense in addressing pregnancy-induced nausea and vomiting. They can be an option if you’re seriously going through it, though. If your morning sickness is really affecting your life—physically or mentally—consider seeing your ob/gyn to discuss your options.