Welcome to pregnancy! Get ready to go on the journey of a lifetime. You’re probably feeling a lot of emotions right now and even though you don’t look pregnant you might definitely be feeling it due to the rush of pregnancy hormones that have entered your body. Take a deep breath, and let’s dive into a step by step guide to your pregnancy journey.

What happens in the first trimester?

The first trimester of your pregnancy is the time for basic cell differentiation. A lot of amazing things occur during this period. Your baby is busy making limbs, organs, and other body systems. By week 6 of your pregnancy, your baby already has arms and legs and will develop fingers and toes around the 10th week. Baby’s skin is formed from week 5 through week 8 and hair and nails start to form around week 11. Week 8 is an important week of your pregnancy as many big highlights take place during this week such as: baby’s intestines develop, touch receptors form on his/her face, retina starts to develop in baby’s eyes, he/she will develop taste buds and baby’s brain will start signaling his/her body to wiggle its still forming limbs. Around week 9 to 10 you’ll be able to hear your baby’s heartbeat during ultrasound.

Symptoms and changes during the first trimester

Early symptoms during your first trimester may include morning sickness, bloating, aversions to certain foods or smells, experiencing mood swings, fatigue or tenderness in breasts. However, every pregnancy is unique as every woman is different so just because your mother, sister, or friend experienced certain symptoms more than the others does not mean you will too. Some may experience extreme morning sickness while others might spend the whole nine months without feeling any nausea at all. It is perfectly normal to not feel any symptoms in early pregnancy, though it is important to discuss these things with your doctor so that you know what is considered normal and what is a cause for concern for your particular pregnancy.

How much do I need to eat in the first trimester?

Contrary to popular belief, the notion that pregnancy means you should start ‘eating for two’ is actually not that accurate. While it is good to be cautious about what you’re putting in your body now that your body is housing another being, you don’t necessarily need to consume that many extra calories especially in the first trimester. So, if you’re experiencing morning sickness, fatigue or food aversions, you shouldn’t worry too much about having to eat for two. Some women even lose weight in the first trimester because they are unable to pig out due to their symptoms. Eating smaller meals frequently is better if you’re experiencing constant morning sickness.

Calories required during first trimester

The recommended daily caloric intake for an average woman is 2000 calories per day. However, this may vary depending on whether or not you are under or overweight. During the first trimester, you probably won’t need any extra calories as your fetus requires very little at that stage. But it is extremely important to focus on eating nutritious foods that help you stay healthy and support your baby’s development

Nutrients required during the first trimester

Just because you may not need a lot of extra calories does not mean you don’t need to eat at all if you don’t feel like it. What you do eat or are able to eat should contain enough nutrients so that your body is able to provide sufficiently for you and the baby.

Folic acid: One of the most essential nutrients needed in the first trimester is folic acid. This nutrient helps prevent neural tube defects and almost all doctors prescribe a folic acid tablet to be taken in the first trimester of your pregnancy. Aside from the tablet, you can make sure to eat foods that are rich in folic acid like green leafy vegetables, nuts, strawberries, oranges, etc.

Calcium: Your baby’s bones and teeth need all the calcium it can get. Most babies leech off of their mothers’ calcium present in their bodies so it is important that you have at least 3 to 4 servings of dairy foods to help store as much calcium in your body as possible to help both you and the baby. Yogurt, cheese, and of course milk are great sources of calcium.

Iron/Protein: Eggs, chicken, beef, etc. are good sources of iron and protein which is needed for muscle development by you and the baby. However, it might not be possible to fulfill the daily iron intake of your body solely through foods which is why it is important for pregnant women to take their multivitamins (prescribed by your doctor) in the first trimester.

Foods you should definitely eat during first trimester

Meat: white or red meats provide you with the protein and iron that you and your baby require in the first trimester

Eggs: eggs are mostly fat and protein with very little carbohydrates in them. They can help maintain your blood sugar levels and decrease your risk of developing gestational diabetes.

Yogurt: a great source of calcium and an easy snack (add fruits or dry nuts in it for a special kick!) especially if you aren’t a fan of drinking milk. Yogurt can help support your baby’s developing bones.

Ginger: experiencing severe nausea? Have some ginger tea to keep that morning sickness at bay.

Spinach: bursting with folate, spinach is one of the best foods to have during your first trimester by preventing defects of the brain and spine in your baby.

Foods to avoid during first trimester

Undercooked or raw Eggs: I know how us Pakistanis are a fan of that fry anda but eating an undercooked egg can be harmful for you and your baby. This is because raw or undercooked eggs can be contaminated by a bacteria known as salmonella. This bacterium can cause an infection in the mother and lead to premature or stillbirth.

Caffeine: babies don’t have the enzymes that are needed to metabolize caffeine in the womb or even after they’re born. However, your body can easily absorb caffeine and pass it onto your baby through the placenta. Since, babies are unable to metabolize the caffeine, high levels of it can develop in their system and adversely affect their growth.

Processed foods: cake, biscuits, cereals, packet noodles, white bread, chips, frozen meats like nuggets or sausages etc. are all examples of processed foods that are extremely harmful for you during the first trimester as they are high in calories but low in nutrients.

Fasting during your first trimester

Fasting during the month of Ramadan is compulsory for Muslims. However, Allah has exempted pregnant women or mothers who are breastfeeding from fasting. Some women might still be tempted to fast during Ramadan. According to a study done by Mubeen, et al (2012), 87.5% pregnant women fasted during Ramadan despite overall decrease in their health. Even though we mentioned that you do not need extra calories during the first trimester, fasting can adversely affect your health and can be harmful for you and your baby.

Snacking: even if you aren’t taking full meals due to nausea in the first trimester, it is extremely important to keep snacking throughout the day to keep you and your baby healthy. Snacking can mean having smaller but nutritious meals and you can’t do that if you’re fasting.

Staying hydrated: if you’re fasting, you won’t be able to drink water which is extremely important to form the amniotic fluid your baby is in. It also helps produce red blood cells, and carry nutrients throughout your body while flushing out the toxins.

The Takeaway It is essential to eat well rather than eat more in your first trimester. Eat foods that keep you healthy and help your baby develop. The second trimester is just around the corner so for now stay focused on keeping hydrated and eating what you like and don’t forget to snack to keep morning sickness at bay.