Professor Hannah Dahlen (Midwife and midwifery scholar, University of Western Sydney): Early pregnancy is quite a dramatic time for many women; the body changes quite significantly. Some of the most common changes are nausea, so some women can feel sick a lot of the day. While we call it morning sickness, it often lasts much longer than that. Some women can feel incredibly tired and the tiredness comes on very, very suddenly. Breast changes occur, breasts can feel larger and much more tender, and of course there’s all those mixed up emotions around being excited and anxious, and some women may not have been prepared to be pregnant and they’re now confronting the fact that their lives will change forever.
Sevim (mother of Ada, 4 years, and Kaan, 9 months): For the first 3 months it’s very busy with physical changes.
Skye (mother of Mary, 7 months): I think my tastes changed a lot. Interestingly enough, I first realised I was pregnant, I just had a really metallic, bitter taste in my mouth.
Tenisha (mother of Ray, 18 months): The first real physical changes for me were feet swelling and, in the mornings, my hands were really swollen. I actually didn’t have a lot of weight gain; I actually had a lot of weight loss. With him, in the first trimester, I was really thin. Morning sickness, afternoon sickness, midday sickness, night sickness; I was just sick all the time.
Skye: I think for me it was important what kind of support would be out there for me, so whether I wanted to go public or private, like that’s important for a lot of people. So for me, a big leap was booking all the appointments at hospital. Like you don’t really know, when it all happens, what to do.
Professor Hannah Dahlen: The most important thing for parents to do is to get a provider who they get to know and they trust and have access to. So whether that’s your midwife or your GP or your obstetrician, make sure you find someone who will be your anchor point.
Tenisha: My first thought was to go seek help, go see a doctor.
Professor Hannah Dahlen: It’s really important that mums and dads both keep very fit and healthy, so in the first [trimester] what’s important is obviously the big things: don’t smoke, don’t drink, eat healthily, a good balanced diet, regular exercise and of course you need to – if you’re not an Olympic athlete, don’t go out and become one during pregnancy, but a gentle walk. You know, 2 or 3 times a week try and get some exercise. We do know that putting on a lot of weight during pregnancy can lead to complications; it’s also harder to lose after you’ve had the baby.
Emotional and thinking changes
Skye: Some of the emotional changes that I noticed in early pregnancy were mood swings; so you get … probably a bit more moody than normal because of the influx of hormones.
Sevim: You’re very fragile. You get offended with, you know, a slight something, and you are so teary.
Ellen (mother of Austin, 11 months): It became a bit overwhelming with all the nausea and vomiting, so that was not very fun; it caused a lot of stress and anxiety, I guess, as well. When you have little bleeds in the first trimester or things that are seen to be normal are still very scary.
Tenisha: It’s just all the hormones in your body, and I think also your mind is trying to comprehend that you’re making a person.
Professor Hannah Dahlen: So the first trimester can bring all sorts of conflicting emotions. The number one things the first trimester brings, though, is ‘is this baby going to survive?’ and ‘will I miscarry?’ So it’s really until after women get to about 12 weeks, that tends to be one of the number one things that they think about.
Sevim: I took a lot on my husband, I remember, because we don’t have any family here so he was the only person around me that I could get it all out.
Tenisha: We were both going through a lot of changes; we were starting a family together, it was a massive thing for the both of us and I think emotionally for both of us it was quite a challenging time.
Finikias (father of Austin, 11 months): You have all these thoughts about ‘am I going to be a good parent; am I going to be able to provide for this child financially, emotionally, physically?’ so it was very exciting but also, at the same time, a bit scary.
Professor Hannah Dahlen: It’s normal for mothers and fathers to go through periods of feeling really positive and a little bit down. But if you’re not dragging yourself out of a dark period over a period of a week or so and it feels like it’s getting worse and you’re having those negative thoughts, please seek help.
Skye: I spoke to a lot of the midwives about the emotions that I was feeling. I found that they were fantastic; they were very, very good. I didn’t have my husband there. I thought that that was, again, a time that we could have ‘me time’ so I could go in there and just let out everything and they’d laugh, so it was very good. If you’ve got a good relationship with your doctor you can definitely go and speak to your GP. It’s probably worthwhile talking to first-time mums, but another good option these days is there’s a lot of groups on Facebook, so you can talk about your thoughts and feelings online.
Finikias: You probably felt it more than I did. I did not feel much different. I didn’t feel like a father, I didn’t. I wasn’t there yet.
Professor Hannah Dahlen: Generally in the first trimester there’s that realisation you’re pregnant and what does this mean for your life, what does this mean for you as a couple when it’s just been the 2 of you, especially if it’s your first baby. If it’s not your first baby you’re starting to think ‘well how is this going to impact on the other child that’s here? I’ve loved this child so completely, am I going to have the capacity to love another child?’ So they’re all really normal thoughts.