Surviving the 1st Trimester: Common Ailments and How to Cope



Many women who choose to become surrogates have easy pregnancies with few side effects. While you may have experienced a few common first trimester ailments in your own pregnancies, chances are, they were minor and not disruptive to your life. However, as we know, every pregnancy is different. Here’s a look at the most common of first trimester woes, and how to cope with them.

Morning Sickness

Why it happens: Perhaps the most fabled side effect of pregnancy is morning sickness. The unexplainable and often sudden onset of nausea and vomiting can make you feel miserable. This is typically the result of a change in your body’s hormone balance. While it typically clears up on its own by the second trimester, there are a few things you can do to help improve this side-effect of pregnancy.

How to Cope: Mostly, listen to your body. Stay well hydrated and get enough rest, but also learn to avoid certain foods or scents that trigger your nausea. Keeping some food in your stomach and avoiding taking your prenatal vitamin on an empty stomach can also help. There are also over-the-counter remedies that can help and, in extreme cases, your doctor can prescribe medications to help.


Why it happens: Even though you’re more likely to show that baby bump earlier in the pregnancy with each subsequent gestation, chances are you’re probably experiencing some bloating if it’s still the first trimester. Your body is simply retaining fluids as it prepares to grow a life.

How to Cope: Up your water intake significantly. Aim for at least two liters per day. You can also help relieve bloating by decreasing your sodium and caffeine intake.

Digestive Issues

Why it happens: Expect some gas, constipation, and incontinence in the first trimester. This can cause a lot of women to feel completely out of control of their own bodies. The causes can be varied based on the symptom. Generally, constipation and gas are caused by a lack of fiber in your diet, and incontinence is the result of weak pelvic floor muscles.

How to Cope: Increase your fiber and water intake. You can work on increasing the strength of your pelvic floor with some simple exercises. You can also consider approved over-the-counter medications if necessary.


Why it happens: From uncomfortable to unbearable, the intensity of pregnancy heartburn can vary. Indigestion in the first trimester is usually thanks to your changing hormones. Later in pregnancy, it can be the result of a growing uterus pressing on your digestive organs.

How to Cope: While eating certain foods can trigger more intense heartburn, you may find that you experience pain in your chest no matter what you eat. It can help to increase your fluid intake and try to use pillows to prop your upper body more upright to sleep. There are a variety of pregnancy-safe over-the-counter medications available to help with heartburn. If these don’t help, your doctor may be able to prescribe you something as well.


Why it happens: You can feel lightheaded or faint due to sudden drops in your blood pressure.

How to Cope: Avoid fast, sudden movements. When you get up from sitting or lying, do it slowly and with purpose. Avoid letting your stomach get empty, and be careful not to overheat.

Back Pain

Why it happens: Adding a baby bump can mess with your posture, and this can cause strain on your lower back. While back pain is more likely to occur later in pregnancy, it can begin as early as the first trimester.

How to Cope: First of all, take it easy on yourself. Avoid standing too long, lifting heavy weights, or wearing high heels. Additionally, focus on sitting, standing, and walking with correct posture. If your back still hurts, consider heating pads, cold compresses, and pre-natal massage. Some women say sleeping on their left side with a pillow between their legs can improve back pain, too.

Sleep Pattern Interruptions

Why it happens: Feeling exhausted all the time? It’s normal. Can’t get to sleep no matter what you try? That’s also normal. Your body may be feeling exhausted due to hormonal changes and the sheer amount of energy it takes to create a tiny human. Conversely, sleeplessness can also occur as a result of those hormones or discomfort due to the pregnancy.

How to Cope: Start by making yourself a priority. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it and block off enough time to ensure you get proper amounts of rest and sleep. If you’re struggling to fall or stay asleep, decrease caffeine before bed, and try a warm cup of milk or tea and some meditation before you sleep.

Kim Bergman, PhD, a licensed psychologist of 26 years, has specialized in the area of gay and lesbian parenting, parenting by choice and third party assisted reproduction for over two decades. Dr. Bergman has created a comprehensive psychological screening, support and monitoring process for intended parents, surrogates and donors. She is the co-owner of Growing Generations and is a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American Psychological Association, the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, the Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapy Association, and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. She is on the national Emeritus board of the Family Equality Council. Dr. Bergman writes, teaches and speaks extensively on parenting by choice. Along with co-authors, she published “Gay Men Who Become Fathers via Surrogacy: The Transition to Parenthood” (Journal of GLBT Family Studies, April 2010). Dr. Bergman’s is the author of the book, Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction (Conari Press 2019) as well as the children's book You Began as a Wish (Independent Press 2019). Dr. Bergman created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 35 years. She has two adult daughters.