Friday, September 24, 2010

Surviving the first trimester

It wasn't long after getting those three positive home pregnancy tests (yes, three. I'm thorough.) that I found myself rushing to the bathroom and kneeling in what would become a very, very familiar pose, one I like to call, "First Trimester, in Repose."

Or, more accurately, "It's OK, I Didn't Want Those Crackers Anyway."

Yes, morning sickness. According to the American Pregnancy Association, 70 to 80 percent of pregnant women will suffer some morning sickness. For a lucky one percent of us, we'll experience something far more extensive - hyperemisis gravidarum, which is Latin for, "pregnant woman who barfs way too much."

I'll be honest - my morning sickness was more of an all-day sickness. I landed in the ER once, dehydrated, weepy and tired from not keeping anything down. But the good news is that for many women, morning sickness - whatever the stripe - tends to dissipate around the 12th week, right in time for the second trimester - I'm nearing that mark, and have already noticed a marked improvement in my energy level, and in my nausea.

But until that magical second trimester, there are things women can do to manage the problem. For me, eating small meals and snacks constantly kept vomiting at bay. It didn't always make me less nauseous, but having food on my stomach made it bearable. In the morning, drinking some ginger tea or ginger ale and eating some saltines or dry toast helped. And don't feel like you must manage this on your own. Talk to your doctor - mine gave me some ideas to try first, and when those didn't quite do the trick, we opted to manage it with medication.

But there are times when you just can't whip out a half a sandwich or a container of yogurt. I carried sour candy, which helped, as did always having mint gum in my purse. But still, when you're throwing up as much as I was, you can have a fair amount of social anxiety about going out. It's understandable - I worried I wouldn't be able to make it to the bathroom in time if I did need to divest myself of my stomach contents.

But your friends, family and partner can help with that. I've already abandoned my poor husband in restaurants twice when the smells became overwhelming. Make sure that when you go out, you're seated near a restroom or the door. If you're going to a movie, make sure you have the aisle seat. And remember, if you exit the stall to find a horrified fellow bathroom user on the other side of the door, that look of horror dissipates when you tell them you're in your first trimester. Trust me.

If you're going through morning sickness right now, it probably seems like that 12 week mark is impossibly far away. But I promise - for most of us, it will get better - and then you get a baby!

Beth Erickson is a Dallas writer, 10 weeks pregnant, and the wife of Texas Health Resources web editor Tom Erickson.

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