13 weeks pregnancy bumnpshot

Things That Surprised Me About Pregnancy | The 1st Trimester

Until the day I found out I was pregnant, almost everything I knew about pregnancy came from soap operas – which, it turns out, are not actually all that accurate: WHO KNEW?

For instance, I’d been led to believe that the first symptom of pregnancy was… fainting. Yup, in Neighbours, if a female character faints, you can guarantee she’s pregnant – to the extent that, if I ever hear of someone fainting in REAL life, I now just immediately assume they’re pregnant. Even if they’re male.

The next symptom, of course, is morning sickness – which, in soap operas, only ever happens once, thus allowing the character to find out about the pregnancy, and then move on to more interesting plot lines. Now, I knew THAT part (the, “it happens once, and then never again,” bit) wasn’t true, and I’d also kind of figured out that some of the other stuff I’d learned about pregnancy from Neighbours probably weren’t all that accurate either. I’m talking about things like:

  • The way soap-opera pregnancies only last 3 months, if that. And if you’re thinking that sounds pretty good, don’t, because…
  • The baby will be at least 6 months old when it’s born. Like, it will practically walk out of the womb and cut its own cord, seriously.
  • Once born, you will not have to see the baby again until it’s old enough to have some interesting plot points. The only exception to this is if the baby is born with a life-threatening disease (which it will be), or manages to swallow poison, or be kidnapped. Which, again, highly likely.

In other words, I was woefully un-prepared for the reality of the 1st trimester: here are some of the things that surprised me…
13 weeks pregnancy bumnpshot

Fluctuating symptoms, which don’t all arrive at once

I’d always assumed that, when someone got pregnant, all of the “typical” pregnancy symptoms would come crashing down on them at once – probably at the moment of conception – and then wouldn’t let up AT ALL for the next 9 months. I guess the biggest surprise of all, then, was the fact that, when you find out you’re pregnant, you’re already around 4 weeks along (I felt really smug about this until I ALSO realised that pregnancy is more like 10 months long, rather than 9 – d’oh!), and, for the first couple of weeks, I didn’t really feel all that different.

When the symptoms do arrive, meanwhile, they’re not the same for all women, or in all pregnancies, and they’re not necessarily all present, all the time. I spent the first few weeks of the 1st trimester obsessing over the fact that my boobs sometimes felt really painful, and sometimes felt OK – any time I wasn’t in absolute agony, I assumed something had gone horribly wrong, and the fact that the women in my Facebook group all kept talking about how they couldn’t even stand to shower because of the pain made me feel even more of a freak. Gradually, though, I realised that symptoms fluctuate, and not everyone gets them – even the dreaded nausea, which was almost constant during weeks 8 and 9 would go through stages where it would almost disappear, and by the end of the 1st trimester, it was down to maybe once a day (and no more vomiting, thank goodness!): phew!

And “cravings”

I’d always assumed that pregnancy cravings were things you wanted to eat ALL the time, but I’ve found that mine change constantly (or, at least, they did in the 1st trimester), and, once I’ve had whatever it is I was craving, the craving disappears. Because of that, I’m not even sure “craving” is the right word for these: I haven’t really had a feeling of, “OMG I MUST HAVE THIS NOW!” but during the 1st trimester, I did sometimes find myself suddenly and inexplicably drawn to certain foods, which I wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about until I finally got whatever it was. So far I’ve “craved”:

  • Kraft Mac’n’Cheese – had to be the cheap, boxed stuff: none of your fancy-pants home-made macaroni for this girl!
  • Bagels with cream cheese. (This one actually DID last quite a while: for a couple of weeks they were the only thing I really wanted to eat…)
  • McDonalds cheeseburgers – the cheap, basic ones, not the Big Mac, or Quarter Pounder or whatever, and not any other brand or variety of burger. Terry did offer to make me a cheeseburger at home, but I was just all, “Why do you hate me? Get me to the drive-through, STAT!”
  • Fried rice: and, again, this had to be the kind you get from a Chinese restaurant, not a home-made version.
  • Fruit Pastilles: I’m still eating these now, actually, and they’re the only sweet thing I can really stomach these days.

Speaking of sweet things…

Everything suddenly tasting far too sweet

I wouldn’t say I had an excessively sweet tooth before I was pregnant (Given the choice, I’d generally go for savoury over sweet, although I do like both…), but I DID love chocolate, and would have a small amount of it most days, normally after dinner. Now, though, while I don’t have an aversion to chocolate, and will occasionally eat it if it’s right in front of me (and assuming I’m not feeling nauseous at the time!), most of the time, it just doesn’t come into my head, or appeal to me at all. It’s the same with anything else sweet – I’ve even struggled with soft drinks, and have been mostly drinking plain water (Which I normally don’t drink at all – I always have to add something to it to make it a bit more interesting) because everything else seems sickly sweet to me, even if I used to love it. I’m secretly hoping this continues once the baby’s here, to be honest – I reckon my diet will probably be a whole lot healthier without the sugar!

Going off coffee

If anyone had told me I’d ever go off coffee before I got pregnant, I’d have laughed in their face. I was a complete coffee addict: in fact, it was the one thing I was really worried about having to give up if I did get pregnant, because I just didn’t think I’d be able to do it – I mean, I’m the kind of person who normally can’t even get out of bed in the morning until she’s onto her second cup, so how on earth would I survive on just ONE, which is all the health experts recommend during pregnancy? I was actually so worried about this, that I started drinking decaf a few months ago, to prepare myself, and so I could at least still have the TASTE of coffee, if not the caffeine hit of it. Wouldn’t you know it, though, from pretty much the moment I found out I was pregnant, I haven’t even wanted that, so I haven’t had a drop of coffee in over two months now, and I haven’t missed it at all – which I really, REALLY didn’t expect!

A change in the constitution

One of the ironies of my health anxiety is that despite perpetually thinking that I’m dying, I’m actually one of the healthiest people I know, and I rarely suffer from a lot of the things other people seem to get. (My midwife appointment was actually quicker than it would usually have been, because when she started going through my medical history, I was able to say, “Well, I’m complete basket case, so there’s THAT, but I’m not allergic to anything, I’m not on any medication and I don’t have any health conditions: can I leave now?”) Until I got pregnant, I’d hear people say things like, “Oh, I can’t eat that: it gives me heartburn/indigestion/whatever,” and I honestly didn’t really have much of a concept of what those things even felt like, because, for the most part, I eat things, my body processes them, the end.

Well, I KNOW NOW, is all I’m saying, because from almost the second I found out I was pregnant, my body completely freaked out and forgot everything it ever knew. So now I eat something – anything, really – and my body’s just like, “WHOA, there! I have NO IDEA what I’m supposed to do with this!” So I spend around 90% of my time in a lot of discomfort, and the other 10% grudgingly eating things that I know will cause me a lot of discomfort later. So I guess if I were to sum up the first trimester, I would probably say, “A LOT OF DISCOMFORT. Also: NAUSEA.” I’ve basically spent the last two months trying unsuccessfully to digest my food. That’s my life now. So, if someone asks me to do something now, I have to say, “Sorry, I can’t, I’ll be digesting my dinner that day: and the next, actually.”

The headaches

This one was fairly short-lived – in fact, I’d actually forgotten about it until after this post was published, and am just coming back now to add it in – but from about weeks 7- 9 I had some really incapacitating headaches: to the extent that all I could do was lie in bed trying to block out the light, and feeling really sorry for myself. I do suffer from migraines (although, now I come to think of it, I can’t remember the last time I had one…), but these were totally different (I actually mostly get visual disturbances with my migraines, with the headaches that follow them being not too bad), and, because it was a symptom I hadn’t read about, they really frightened me, and I assumed I must have a brain tumour. (THANKS, HEALTH ANXIETY!) As I said, luckily they were fairly short-lived, which I’m really grateful about, because headaches + nausea was no joke!

Absolute exhaustion

I used to hear people talk about 1st trimester exhaustion a lot, so I wasn’t totally unprepared for this, but, then again, I also frequently see pregnant women training for marathons, raising toddlers and generally going about business as usual, so I kinda thought, well, how bad can it really BE?

Guys, it can be BAD: as in, I don’t even remember the last time I sat through a full TV show without falling asleep, and that’s SO unlike me. I’ve never been the type to nap on the couch, or during the day, and I’m rarely in bed by midnight… until now, when I need a quick nap both before and after my morning shower (which is actually more like an afternoon shower), and it’s taken me about three days to finish this blog post, which I’d normally have pretty much been able to write in my sleep. Now, though, I’m having to write it BETWEEN sleeps, which is a whole new experience for me: I keep hearing about this miraculous surge of energy you’re supposed to get once the 1st trimester is over, but so far I’m still waiting. And hoping. And, well, sleeping, really. Speaking of exhaustion…

Sleeping like the dead, and having dreams like movies

I’m normally a fairly restless sleeper, and will generally wake up at least a couple of times in the night. Not any more, though – I assumed that pregnancy anxiety would keep me awake aaaaalll night long, but ever since I found out, I’ve been asleep pretty much the second my head touches the pillow, and I basically don’t move until morning. My dreams, meanwhile, have been INSANE: knew vivid dreams were one of the pregnancy symptoms a lot of people report, but it’s been like a movie playing in my head every night: normally a really, really strange one…

Constant thirst

I was particularly surprised by the sleep thing, because I’d been led to believe by pretty much everything I’d read that I’d be waking up at least a dozen times every night to use the bathroom. Nuh-uh: my nausea made it really hard for me to stay hydrated, so this was one symptom that totally passed me by. Instead, I got to be tortured by the feeling of being constantly thirsty, but too nauseous to actually drink anything – aaaarrrgh!

And that was my 1st trimester. Now let’s see how the 2nd goes…


P.S. I write a weekly diary which goes out every Friday to my subscribers. Sign up below to get on the list...

I also write books
  • The Other Emma


    When I was pregnant on both of mine all I wanted was salads and burgers (had to be the home made ones) and now the two of them love salads and will happily eat raw veg as a snack! But yeah, I never had the “I have to eat a very specific thing RIGHT NOW” I would just think about a certain thing alot but then would be grand once I had it. I did have bouts of “I have to eat something right now” but it didn’t matter what it was as long as it was food.

    Also, I used to find eating mints kept the nausea at bay. I couldn’t stand ginger or ginger nuts, don’t like them at the best of times anyway!

    July 3, 2017
  • Chiarina


    Carvings can be funny sometimes.. while I got almost no cravings in my second pregnancy, my first one had diffrent cravings each trimester. The first one, all I wanted was green apples and grilled chicken. The second, rice with saffron. The third fries and chocolate (that was NOT good for my weight gain…)
    Thank you for sharing, these posts make me feel even more than before like we are friends…

    July 3, 2017
  • I didn’t find out I was pregnant with Elodie until 13 weeks in – I was training for a marathon so put the tiredness down to that, the lightheaded episode during a 20 miler down to needing to refuel… I even went to the Dr to check my blood sugar and he didn’t ask or test if I was PG! I’ve got PCOS so although I’d been off the pill for 18 months it just didn’t occur to me as I was training so hard at the time. It was much sooner with Felix as I felt the “let down” sensation as if I was preparing to breastfeed one afternoon and immedately thought, hey up. Turns out I’d just run Amsterdam Marathon with him on board 🙂 Bodies are so weird aren’t they! Hope you are feeling well this week x

    July 3, 2017
  • Yep, you pretty much nailed it. That first trimester exhaustion was something else – I was coming home from work and napping so I had enough energy to make dinner, and then still going to bed early. Everyone told me that second trimester would be much better, and when I was nauseous and kind of bummed out and exhausted I just didn’t believe them – but it was definitely true for me and hopefully will be for you, too. I felt like I would feel sick forever, but it really did ease up at about 14 weeks and the ‘middle bit’ was basically like being my normal self but with a bit of a bump. The worst part of it was finding something to wear as I was too big for my regular clothes, but not big enough for maternity wear, yet!

    July 3, 2017
  • For me the 1st Trimester was the toughest – what surprised me the most was how out of breath I would get just going about my daily life! I had morning sickness about 5 or 6 times during the first 8 – 12 weeks and it would come on so suddenly which I also found surprising. Hopefully you’ll have a smoother 2nd Trimester; that was my favourite time, now I look like a weeble given I’ve only got 3 weeks to go!

    Hannah x

    July 3, 2017
  • mandi


    I was the same with coffee (and pre-panicking about it haha), and just wanting to fall asleep all the time. <3 🙂

    July 3, 2017
  • As someone who hasn’t had children yet, it’s always fascinating to hear about pregnancy experiences x


    July 3, 2017
  • May


    One interesting thing I learnt is that pregnancy cravings are usually directly related to the baby’s needs/desires. So if you’re craving orange baby needs vitamin C,
    if you’re craving crisps baby needs sodium, etc. They’re usually oddly specific and complex cravings though because developping humans need a lot of different things and hormones like getting in the way.

    July 3, 2017
  • Luc


    Ha! I think a dislike of sweet foods means a boy 🙂 It might be an old wives tale, but it was totally true for me.

    July 3, 2017
  • Myra Boyle


    With my first pregnancy I craved fresh pineapple, which in those days was hard to find and cost a fortune. I used to buy one from the fishmonger (don’t ask) and eat it all myself. My lips were chapped with the acid. And in my second pregnancy it was a much cheaper craving – a piece on jam (jam sandwich). One time we were going to a posh dinner and I had to have my piece on jam before I went.
    The second trimester was the best for me too, felt and looked great. I hope it’s the same for you too Amber.

    July 3, 2017
  • Mary


    I love this post and completely agree and sympathise with all of it, ha! I’ve been following your blog for almost 2 years now – I was drawn to the retro style fashion as I am also a Scottish Lindy Bop/Collectif lover but then got completely sucked in with your brilliant posts about everything!! And at now 16 weeks pregnant myself, I can completely relate to the random and completely fickle “cravings”! At the moment it’s cherry tomatoes and strawberries with everything (thankfully not at the same time) and milk is about the only liquid I can deal with. And I’m so glad to learn about the breathlessness! I totally thought I was just permanently exhausted due to living in a top floor flat and climbing ALL the stairs every day so good to know it’s not just that, ha! I’m so delighted for you and Terry and really looking forward to following along with this next crazy part of your journey 🙂 xxx

    July 3, 2017
  • I’d been told that most food cravings mean one is low on iron and taking supplements can help that. Not sure if that is entirely true. I tended to crave carb-heavy breakfast items (doughnuts, pancakes) a lot, which sucked because I’m diabetic and can’t have much in the way of carbs. Materni-Tea also helped me with nausea a lot.

    July 3, 2017
  • Marilyn


    Thank you so much for a really lovely (and informative) laugh. At least, that’s what I hope you intended. I don’t want to say much about pregnancy really except just to say that I was surprised when I, previously a real coffee guzzler, went right off the stuff throughout mine. It was probably for the best.

    July 3, 2017
  • Cathie


    So nice to see that lovely baby bump. xx

    July 4, 2017
  • Aversion is real! I was a coffee lover and my aversion to coffee was the telltale sign that something was up. Like, would gag just at the smell of it and I could smell it from the opposite end of the house. I got all the symptoms crashing down at once – within two weeks of having sex haha. It was exactly like the movies for me! Also, that magical burst of energy you get? Yeah, I think I had it for one week in my second trimester and then I went straight back to exhaustion. I hope things are different for you though!

    July 4, 2017
  • I am in same position like you and It suprised me too!

    July 4, 2017
  • WeeBurd


    Arrrggghh, the sore boobies! ? I swear any time I get any boob pain whatsoever, I get paranoid that I might be up the duff- it was my first symptom both pregnancies, and I still remember it vividly. Not fun ?.

    My main cravings? Beefy HulaHoops, chips and Chinese gravy (with lashings of salt & vinegar), Marmite on toast and dairy milk. Not very healthy, but funnily enough both girls have grown up with a love of Marmite. ?

    July 4, 2017
  • So like my own first trimester, except I was lucky with the sickness and didn’t suffer too badly. Second trimester made up for that with daily horrendous headaches (until I discovered acupuncture – gone in 2 days and kept away by weekly treatments. I know you don’t like needles but many practitioners can also do acupressure which doesn’t involve them so if the headaches come back I highly recommend it).
    However, as a usually savoury person without much of a sweet tooth, pregnancy has turned me the opposite way…cant get enough of the sugar now, it’s awful!! I have also been eating healthily so baby gets everything it needs, but I am pretty sure daily cake/choc is not essential ?. Old wives tales say it means it’s a girl…guess I will find out if there’s any truth in that in a few days!!! ?
    Best of luck with the second trimester, for most people it is the easiest one, here’s hoping it will be for you too. Xx

    July 4, 2017
  • Bagels and cream cheese were my LIFELINE during weeks 6-9. I ate at least one a day. The craving has since disappeared, though. So weird!

    July 4, 2017
  • I’m currently 17 weeks pregnant and still have crazy exhaustion! Hopefully in your case it will go away but I’ve pretty much given up hope LOL. I agree that sweet foods definitely taste much sweeter for some reason. I was the same way you are with coffee for tea and I couldn’t even touch a mug of tea if I wanted to. For some reason the need for tea has completely subsided… so weird!

    I love reading about your experiences with pregnancy – as I had no idea what to expect either and didn’t even find out until I was five weeks pregnant. 🙂

    July 4, 2017
  • Katt


    I am currently struggling through my first trimester (11w2d) and felt like I needed to hear other people struggling (no offence!) then came across your blog. Up until 6 weeks I was absolutely fine that it seemed weird to be telling myself I was pregnant when I felt no different. Then from 6 weeks onwards I’ve been nauseous. I had about a week that I didn’t feel nauseous but then was still actually being sick. Then the last week just gagging over everything and nothing then eventually being sick.
    Nearly everything gives me heartburn which makes me feel sick and usually eventually leads to me being sick. That plus being tired all the time leaves me incapable of doing anything… the housework is completely getting on top of me (hubby tried but he doesn’t have the tidy thing about him…) and then the overwhelming anxiety of ‘oh my god if I can’t cope now, how am I ever going to cope’. Everyone keeps telling me it gets better but so far I’m struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
    I work full time as a nanny. I have one boy that I look after who is nearly 4. Thankfully he is now back in nursery which gives me a bit more downtime and I try and avoid people as much as possible. I could go on and on I really could.
    I haven’t finished reading the rest of your pregnancy diary yet. I think that will be today’s mission. Then I may also start your blog. Pregnancy wise, so far, you seem like my kind of person!

    September 8, 2019