A woman’s body undergoes many changes during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (the first trimester). Some changes may be quite obvious, while others are more subtle. Often it is only once the pregnancy is confirmed that signs become clear (for example, feeling unwell or unlike your usual self). Many women don’t even realise they are pregnant until their period is a few weeks late, while others may “know” even before missing a period because they feel different or unusual.
Sometimes, early signs of pregnancy can be confusing. This is because many of the first physical indications (swollen, tender breasts; tiredness; cramping and/or pelvic pain; bloating) can be similar to normal pre-menstrual signs. It can be even more confusing in the early days if there is an “implantation bleed” and/or light bleeds or “spotting” during the first few weeks. These are often mistaken for normal periods.
It is common to be unsure about what is normal during early pregnancy, and anything that feels unfamiliar can often cause concern about your health or the baby’s. Some women also become concerned if they don’t experience any of the “typical” pregnancy signs and symptoms, such as morning sickness and feeling overly tired. The absence of such things can also be normal. Every woman’s body will react differently to being pregnant. For example, some will experience morning sickness but have plenty of energy, while others will have no morning sickness but feel extremely tired.
Being pregnant can be both mentally and physically demanding. Regular exercise can help you cope with these demands and prepare you for labour (Clapp et al, 2002; Berk, 2004; Hatch et al, 1998). Some of the common pregnancy niggles, such as back pain, constipation and fatigue, will be easier to keep at bay, too. Exercise is also great for relieving stress.
Maintaining a healthy level of fitness is all part of staying well during pregnancy and will help to keep control of your weight gain. It can also improve your general mood and self-image, along with aiding the prevention of pregnancy conditions such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. If you have difficulty sleeping at night, you may also find that a workout during the day helps.
The benefits of exercising throughout your pregnancy will continue after your baby is born, making it easier for you to get back into shape (Clapp et al, 2002).
The best types of exercise during pregnancy are those that:
As long as you don’t overdo it, walking, jogging, swimming, water aerobics and cycling on a stationary bike are all considered good, safe forms of exercise. Yoga and Pilates are also very good, but ensure you find a registered, qualified teacher who is experienced in dealing with pregnant women.
Generally speaking, any activity in which you could be thrown off balance or fall over is not recommended. Ball sports are also risky because you may be hit in the stomach. Be guided by your antenatal care provider if you are uncertain.
Even if you already consider that you have a healthy diet, there are some important things to keep in mind now that you are “eating for two”. As most of us already know, fresh is best and including more fruit and vegetables in your diet is one of the best ways to increase your intake of vitamins and minerals.
To meet nutritional requirements, eat healthy, fresh and unprocessed foods, particularly lots of vegetables, along with red and white meat, seafood, dairy products and cereals. If you are a vegetarian, ensure you’re getting enough iron and other nutrients from alternative dietary sources.
Vitamins and minerals essential for you and your baby include:
Some foods should not be eaten during pregnancy as they can potentially cause problems before giving birth and throughout your child’s life. These include:
To learn more, please read our fact sheet: Early pregnancy frequently asked questions.