At the time of writing, I, Sara, am in my second trimester, just halfway through my pregnancy (the photo was taken a number of weeks ago), and I have been fortunate to feel very well this trimester. In the first trimester, however, the body was in a completely new state with so many changes. Nausea, indescribable hunger and new level fatigue made up most of the first trimester for me. The first 12 weeks were also characterized by a slow wait for the first ultrasound and there was a fragility in that the body was in a completely new stage physically and mentally.
Something that I reacted to in the first trimester was the narrow and outdated styluses I encountered when pregnant, which I will highlight in this post. We have probably all heard of "mom shaming" - being met with pointers about what is "right and wrong" in how you are as a mother and different "requirements" about what you should and shouldn't do. But I wasn't prepared for mom shaming to start already during pregnancy.
Tips on how much to eat when pregnant
In the first trimester, I was hungry in a way I had never experienced before. At the same time as I was hungrier than ever before, I read in a pregnancy app and on various midwifery forums that the body in this phase should not need more energy than usual, apart from an extra fruit (!) a day. Reading it gave me a lump in my stomach. Am I the only one who feels this way? The thought of trying to eat so little when the body was screaming for food was completely unreasonable.
I have no background of eating disorders or going on different diets, yet feelings of questioning about my body were raised. Even though I knew in my heart that my body's signals are the only thing that matters, it provoked me that it is written like this when so many women already struggle with body ideals and the relationship to food and body. It is of course important to inform that you do not need to "eat for two", for example, and that there can be health risks with, for example, being very overweight. But where was nuance that does not trigger shame or questioning of the body?
An aspect that could rather be worth highlighting is why it is important to give the body nutritious food it benefits from, which can, for example, build hormones and support our blood sugar regulation. When the body signals a craving for something, it can also often reflect a lack. For example, I had seen through a nutritional test that I had low values of iron and vitamin B. During the first trimester, I felt a great need for meat (attracted to things like hamburgers, reindeer stew and minced meat sauce), which was not so strange considering that the body wanted to increase those levels. Often the body signals a craving for things it may lack.
Questioning the body's changes and what is "normal" during pregnancy
During the first trimester, I also experienced early on that my stomach grew a lot, which I assumed was normal and that it is certainly different from person to person. However, it was turned upside down when I only read in the app at the end of the first trimester/beginning of others that "now many people may find that they need to start buying maternity clothes" - something I experienced many weeks before when all my pants were too tight . Again, questioning thoughts about my body were raised. Thoughts were raised that I didn't pay much attention to until I read this on a forum written by experts. Again, I missed simple nuance. You are in a fragile and vulnerable place where you already feel a lot of responsibility and worry. We don't need more feelings of questioning the body.
When I was in the middle of the enormous hunger and my "unusually" fast-growing stomach, I talked on the phone with a close friend. She had experienced the same thing and advised me to trust my body's signals. Everyone grows differently and at different rates. She had also experienced the extreme hunger that for her went away when she got into the second trimester, something that turned out to be true for me as well but that is certainly different from person to person. Although my instinct was to listen to my body, which I did, it was reassuring to hear recognition from a friend who had experienced the same things. Therefore, I am passing it on to those of you who need to hear it. Dare to trust your body's signals and don't compare yourself to others.
The body is wise
To me, it feels natural that the body wants to secure extra energy during the first sensitive weeks of fetal development. If something should happen later in the pregnancy that means you cannot get enough energy, it is a smart method to secure as much energy as possible, as early as possible.
I highlighted these experiences on Womensync's instagram and then it became clear how many people recognized themselves and experienced exactly the same thing. A woman wrote an example that is completely in line with the above theory. She had experienced the immense hunger in the first trimester but later in the pregnancy suffered from nausea and could not retain any food in her body and therefore lost a lot of weight. Then the saved energy came in handy to be able to continue close to the baby in the belly and the pregnancy could proceed without problems.
That so many women recognize themselves makes it even weirder that the guidelines are so non-inclusive. If so many people experience this, why isn't it mentioned? Why aren't tips and recommendations written tailored to that?
The beauty of this is that when we share our individual journeys, we can see that we are never alone. That's one of the finest strengths of Womensync, shared experiences. That pregnancy would also be an area within women's health with outdated and non-inclusive communication is perhaps not so surprising when it concerns women's health in general. By continuing to share experiences and talk to each other, we can break outdated ideals and normalize and broaden the dialogue about what is "normal" or desirable.
The further into pregnancy I get and the more women I talk to, the more respect and trust I gain in the female body and what it can achieve. Every pregnancy is unique and so is the body. It knows what it's doing <3