UT Health Austin ob-gyn answers the most commonly searched questions about the first trimester of pregnancy

Currently expecting or planning to start a family soon? With each pregnancy comes many questions and concerns, especially for those of us who are first-time moms. Don’t rely on the internet to answer your questions!

In this first installment of a four-part video series, Denise Johnson, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Women’s Health, a clinical partnership between Ascension Seton and UT Health Austin, answers the most commonly searched questions about the first trimester of pregnancy.

How does the baby develop over the course of the first trimester?

“Over the course of the first trimester,” explains Dr. Johnson, “the baby’s going to develop from just a few cells to about the size of a lemon. During that time, all of the organ systems start to develop. We think, most importantly, about the brain and nervous system, but then all of the other organ systems, such as the intestines and the heart, start to develop in the first trimester.”

Are there any foods I should avoid during the first trimester?

“You want to make sure to avoid any raw or uncooked foods, so no sushi or deli meats” shares Dr. Johnson. “Also avoid any fish that has high levels of mercury, so your big fish, such as mackerel or sword fish. Items like that are the most common things that we want to avoid.”

Can I take pain relievers during the first trimester?

“You can take certain pain relievers,” says Dr. Johnson. “We recommend acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Just plain Tylenol, not Tylenol cold and flu, or things like that that have additional components. You want to avoid Advil and Aleve that contain ibuprofen or Naproxen.”

How much weight should I gain throughout my pregnancy?

“In terms of weight gain, it’s really going to depend on what your initial weight is at the beginning of the pregnancy,” explains Dr. Johnson. “We can recommend a range from 11 to 30 pounds over the course of the pregnancy. Most of that is going to be in the second and third trimester. The first trimester you’d really only expect to gain about one to five pounds. Not quite eating for two just yet.”

What precautions should I take during the first trimester?

“Overall, you are going to continue to live your daily life,” says Dr. Johnson. “We are going to recommend that you stop any alcohol use, tobacco use, and drug use. Stay away from hot tubs and saunas. If you have a cat at home, make sure that you’re not the one cleaning the litter.”

What are the most common symptoms experienced during the first trimester?

“The top three most common symptoms are really nausea and vomiting, breast tenderness, and significant fatigue,” shares Dr. Johnson. “The good thing is that a lot of these will get better after the first trimester. A lot of the changes in pregnancy have to do with significant hormone changes as we support the pregnancy and the placenta. As your body works to support that, then you notice these changes in symptoms, such as nausea and fatigue.”

What are some tips to help improve nausea and vomiting in the first trimester?

“First, you can start with just small meals throughout the day, and sometimes people find that ginger tea can help” says Dr. Johnson. “We also just don’t want you to suffer in silence. There are a couple of vitamins and medications that we can offer, so definitely let your ob-gyn know what you’re experiencing so they can help you.”

What if I have spotting during the first trimester?

“Spotting is a very common symptom that is often normal, but can be serious,” explains Dr. Johnson. “You definitely want to contact your ob-gyn, so they can talk you through your symptoms.”

Is it normal to experience cramps during the first trimester?

“Cramping, if it’s off and on, can be normal in the first trimester,” reveals Dr. Johnson, “but if you’re having severe, persistent cramping, especially if it’s associated with vaginal bleeding, you definitely should contact your ob-gyn, and they can help you figure out if they need to see you or take care of you.”

What are the early signs of a miscarriage?

“Early signs of a miscarriage can be persistent cramping, not the every now and then cramping, but cramping that really isn’t going away, and then heavy bleeding,” shares Dr. Johnson. “So, bleeding that’s looking more like a period and not just a few spots. Those can be some important early signs to discuss with your ob-gyn.”

Is it safe to exercise during the first trimester?

“Yes, it is safe to exercise,” says Dr. Johnson. “We actually want you to exercise. I usually tell my patients, ‘If you were not running a marathon before your pregnancy, this is not the time to train for a marathon’. But we do recommend the routine 150 minutes, over the course of a week, of moderate exercise. You want to avoid contact sports, so anything that would cause direct hits or trauma to the abdomen. But other than that, you can continue your routine exercises.”

Is sex safe in pregnancy?

“Yes, it is safe to have sex in pregnancy as long as you feel comfortable,” shares Dr. Johnson. “And of course, always contact your ob-gyn if there are any particular conditions that might make it unsafe, but overall it’s safe in routine pregnancy.”

How soon do I need to schedule a prenatal screening?

“You can contact our office as soon as you find out that you’re pregnant,” says Dr. Johnson. “We will actually set you up with one of our nurses to help figure out your history and get you set up with your initial medications. And then, you’ll see one of the providers later on in the first trimester.”

Please remember to contact your ob-gyn with any questions you have related to your pregnancy to ensure you receive answers specific to you.

Explore answers to the most commonly searched questions about the second trimester of pregnancy.

Coming Soon: Stay tuned for answers to the most commonly searched questions about the third and “fourth” trimesters of pregnancy.

Follow us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel to be the first to know when the next installment drops and for additional information about staying healthy.

For more information about Women’s Health or to schedule an appointment, visit here.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here