Working Through Your First Trimester

How to Work Through Your First Trimester | CorporetteMomsHow do you work through your first trimester — and keep your nascent pregnancy on the down-low? Trust me, the exhaustion of the first trimester can take you by surprise, so how do you stay productive at the office when all your body wants to do is nap? (Particularly when you’re probably not telling most people!)

When I got pregnant with my first child in late 2010, I was still trying to juggle a full-time job as a lawyer and a nearly full-time second job as proprietor of Corporette. I’d worked long hours in BigLaw and thought I’d seen it all — I had even gotten mono and two bouts of strep throat and barely slowed down. All of this, it turned out, was nothing compared with growing a human being inside of me.

We had a much longer discussion on how to work through your first trimester on Corporette when I announced my pregnancy (including about whether it hurts women to talk about the hardships of pregnancy), but I thought these tips might be helpful to those of you actually trying to work your way through your first trimester:

  • Wean yourself off coffee and Diet Coke way before the first trimester fatigue hits. If you choose to abstain from coffee and artificial sweeteners during pregnancy, you don’t want to be going through caffeine withdrawal at the same time as first trimester fatigue.
  • Stock up on orange juice, and cut your dependency on vitamin supplements. I kept reading that pregnant women should avoid vitamin supplements during this time (beyond your prenatals) and so I have avoided my beloved Emergen-C. Instead I kept buying OJ when I needed a jolt of energy.
  • Take your prenatals at night instead of in the morning. I’ve heard it’s the extra iron in the prenatals that makes you nauseous on an empty stomach — but whatever it was, I wish I’d stumbled on the advice to take them at night instead of in the morning long before I did.
  • Prepare your office for naps. Yes, seriously. Bring in whatever you need to make a comfortable napping environment — pillows, blankets, etc. — because you WILL need naps to make it even to 6pm (let alone 10pm or whatever quitting time is usual for you).
  • Eat frequently, and guzzle water. It took me a few weeks to realize that the nausea was so  much worse if I hadn’t eaten for a few hours — I also would get these whanging headaches if I hadn’t eaten.  Just a few unsalted Saltines and some cheese can help you function normally.

Readers, what tips have you found essential for managing the pregnancy exhaustion?  Do you have any tips for napping at the office?

(Pictured: Shutterstock/Syda Productions.)

What are the best tips for working through your first trimester? It can be tough to deal with exhaustion, morning sickness, and more -- AND keep your pregnancy on the QT.



  1. Avoiding vitamin-induced nausea is critical. I found that taking whole food vitamins was a lot easier on my stomach. The only downside is that because they’re sourced from food, they tend to be bigger and have more pills in the daily recommended dose–my prenatal vitamin is 3 pills, and my vitamin D supplement is 2. Definitely a lot to swallow, but worth it to avoid the queasys!

  2. Heather says:

    I prepped my car for weekday napping – I found an ideal spot to park at a nearby business park that was secluded but not TOO secluded, and kept a blanket or extra jacket in the car. I’d drive around for 10 minutes to heat up the car, then park and put back the seat. I live in Seattle so those in colder climes might not be able to take advantage – but the weather is just moderate enough here to be able to withstand a half-hour nap.

    You really have to listen to your body! I figured out pretty quickly that the reason I was feeling sick in the morning was tied to overheating, so I cooled my showers (slightly) and stopped drying my hair on high heat and that’s all it took to cause my morning nausea to abate. Though I fully realize that everyone is different and what worked for me won’t necessarily work for everyone!

    • Meg Murry says:

      Yeah, I also was a regular for napping in the car, and continued once I went back to work on days when I hadn’t already blown my whole lunch hour with pumping breaks. Once I was out to my coworkers I’d ask them to call me if they didn’t see me back in my office by s certain time – I never needed it, but I was a bit paranoid I’d sleep away the whole afternoon.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hi ladies, I’m in my 7th week of pregnancy. I’m generally feeling good, just tired (even though I am fortunately getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night). I have my first doctor’s appointment next week and at that time I am going to ask her about caffeine. I have been avoiding caffeine entirely. But I really feel like the lack of caffeine is making it hard to stay focused (esp. b/c all I can think about is the baby).

    I have also been avoiding going to social functions because I obviously can’t drink and I know if I don’t drink that someone might suspect.

    Anyone else in a similar situation? Or anyone else been in a similar situation in the past? I can’t keep using the “oh I don’t feel like drinking” excuse forever . . .

    • Katala says:

      Me! I’m only 5 weeks so not feeling so exhausted yet but I know it’s coming. It’s recruiting season so it’s difficult to avoid social events. The last one I attended was cocktails and dinner. During cocktails, i had the bar make me a sparkling water with lime in a cocktail glass. No one knew I didn’t have vodka or gin in there! I had a late call, so ducked out before dinner (the wine would have been interesting..).

      I don’t know what I’ll do on Friday though – I’m going to a birthday party and my friends will definitely be suspicious! It’s not as bad as people at work guessing, but I also won’t have a bartender to sneak me virgin drinks.

      How do people make their office comfortable for naps? I’m in biglaw and do public transit, so no car. I have a wrap in my office but tried laying down on the floor and it was awful. Also tried leaning forward onto my desk but that really hurt my back and neck. Do I bring a full on pad to sleep on the floor??

      • Anonymous says:

        Congratulations!! Is this your first? This is my first. :)

        I think I need to do what you do and “fake drink” instead of saying oh I’m not drinking. I could just order a ginger ale or something like that?

        There’s no way I could take a nap in the office. How would that even work? What if someone calls you or knocks on the door???

      • Could you tell your friends that you’re on antibiotics and can’t drink? Or doing an alcohol fast for a month (or however long you want to say)?

        As for the original Anonymous, talk to your doctor but mine told me it was no issue to have one cup of coffee a day. At the time, the smell of coffee made me violently ill, but I would have iced tea at lunch or (gasp) a Coke Zero in the mornings if I needed it.

        Simply carbs are what got me through first trimester nausea. I kept a box of plain Cheerios at my desk and would have a handfull of those every now and then to keep my stomach at bay. Rice cakes also worked and if I was really motivated, I would put some peanut butter on them. I also ate pretty much all the watermelon in Texas as it was the only thing that didn’t upset my stomach and actually tasted good.

        • Anonymous says:

          Original Anonymous here (and the second Anonymous too :)) I have my first doctor’s appt next week so I am going to talk to her about caffeine and hopefully she will say one cup is ok. I have just been super paranoid about eating and drinking all of the “right” things so I’ve been avoiding anything that’s even remotely suspect. Hopefully my doctor will put my mind at ease a bit more. Surprisingly I’m not nauseous at all, I’m just tired and can’t focus.

          When did you tell your employer that you were pregnant? Also, are you working full time now? I want to ask to work 60% so I am not sure when to approach that subject (when I tell them that I am pregnant or wait until during maternity leave?)

        • Katala says:

          I like the antibiotics idea, though I’m afraid the fast excuse would just induce peer pressure! I think the issue is less what to say and more that I don’t want to lie to my friends. I don’t care about telling white lies to people at work but my friends will know once I announce that I lied. I know they’d understand, I just don’t like the idea, you know?

          I’ve been ravenous for the last week – am I crazy to tell myself it’s ok to eat all I want now (I do a not-very-strict paleo/primal and can’t eat gluten, so everything is pretty healthy) knowing that I’ll likely have trouble keeping things down later? :)

          • The way I saw it was: whatever I can keep down, I eat. And besides that, when else in a woman’s life can she eat whatever she is craving without guilt and without judgment from others?

          • I ate a Paleo diet pre-pregnancy but started eating simple carbs again in my first trimester because that is what my body craved. I gravitated towards comfort foods and hated the thought of meat or salad until about week 15. I didn’t eat many sweets and was still pretty healthy in general, but pregnancy is not a time to restrict your diet (barring allergies, gestational diabetes etc). I’m now nursing and still need the calories, but will get back to my eating habits when they wean (I hope)
            Also, Expecting Better is a great resource to learn more about the rational behind food restrictions so you can make informed choices. I chose to be pretty strict and followed the “rules” closely. However, after avoiding all soft cheeses and deli meats, I was exposed to the listeria peaches in my third tri (no problems) so you can never eliminate all risks.

          • Katala says:

            I agree, not a time to restrict my diet. But I also don’t see a reason to change it until my body tells me to – other than the crazy hunger! Luckily right now I don’t want anything I wouldn’t normally eat but I’m definitely open to eating simple carbs if that’s what I crave/can keep down. I guess I’m more thinking about the amount. Right now I’m eating maybe slightly more than normal but I could keep going and going – I don’t think gaining 20lbs in the first trimester would be very good for me or the baby! I’m sure this is all just my type-A brain wanting to plan everything and my body will tell me what I should (or can!) eat soon enough.

          • Trust your body, and eat when you’re hungry. You likely won’t be desperately hungry your entire pregnancy; it will come and go.
            I felt like all of pregnancy was training for labor and delivery, and trusting that my body knew what it was doing (like when I was binging on beef and kale) was a huge part of that.

      • Sarabeth says:

        I am no longer pregnant, but still keep a pillow, blanket, and camping pad in my office for the occasional nap! I use a Z-lite foam pad, the whole kit fits in a file cabinet drawer. I am lucky that my door locks and my office has no window to the hallway. Plus my job is one where I am not expected to be in my office all the time, so people do not expect to be able to stop by unannounced anyway. If someone knocks I will get up and answer the door, but it doesn’t happen a lot.

    • Congratulations! I’m 11 weeks and have been for “drinks” with friends and no one has called me out – so, haven’t had to use any excuses. Do what you need to do. I think you might be surprised to find out that other people really might not care whether you are drinking – I was.

      I really recommend the book Expecting Better by Emily Oster for information on the particular risks associated with caffeine, alcohol, etc.

  4. Katala says:

    Congratulations to you too!! Yes, my first. Scary-exciting, right?!

    I think ginger ale would work great. Pretty much anything that gets mixed with alcohol should do it, right? I’m thinking of trying club soda with cranberry juice too.

    Yeah office nap logistics are tough. My door locks, so I might turn off the lights and lock it – hopefully no one would knock because they think I’m not there (which isn’t great either though)? I hadn’t thought about calls, maybe I would forward everything to my secretary or turn off the ringer.. I’m often at meetings during the day so I don’t think it would be too strange to be unavailable for an hour. Maybe I should put an appointment in my outlook calendar so it shows me as busy…

    ETA: oops, this was meant to reply to Anonymous above!

  5. Anon A says:

    Hi everyone……my firm is in the process of moving to a new space next spring. The new space is designed such that all of the doors/walls for every office is 100% see through glass, so there won’t be any privacy. I am due with my first kid in the spring so by the time I come back from maternity leave, we’ll be in the new office space. I am extremely concerned about pumping. I think my firm is still working out the kinks but I have heard that there’s going to be a “privacy room” that you have to sign up for to use a slot for 30 minutes. Is this realistic if you are at work and pumping? I’ve never had a child before but I just can’t imagine that schlepping all of the breast pumping equipment plus your laptop and whatever work you’re working on to a separate room that you have to sign up for in advance is really realistic. Thoughts?

    • That sounds really annoying and like a drain on your productivity. I spend 90 minutes a day pumping at my desk, and it would really cut into my productive time to have to use a different room. Can you make the case that the glass should at least be frosted?

      • Anon A says:

        I’m personally not on the new space committee, but we have one female associate who is on that committee and who, coincidentally, happens to be very pregnant. She has really tried to make a case for the need of privacy, but apparently the people on the committee (who otherwise consist of men and a female partner who does not have children) have told her that it will look better aesthetically to have all clear glass and not frosted glass, and then said something along the lines of, well the secretaries can deal with it so you can too. I’ve been really livid about the whole thing and I know a lot of other associates, both male and female, feel the same way. I guess I’m just hoping that there might be some workaround, like maybe they will allow me to install curtains or something.

        • I work in a very small office and my walls are almost entirely glass. We do not have a separate space to pump (excluding the bathroom, but in my state we actually have laws against requiring women to pump in the bathroom). I’m either going to do some sort of decorative screen or just go to Home Depot and get the paper shades and put those up for the duration. Not pretty but I don’t really care.

    • Meg Murry says:

      We had such a room at my last job, which was necessary since we were pretty much all in cubes or shared offices except for the very top managers. When there were only 1-2 people that needed it, it was fine, but when we got to 3-4 nursing moms we had to go to HR to discuss ground rules. Our rules turned into: room is booked through the calendaring software, and only nursing moms could book. Nursing moms setup recurring appointments for the space. Non nursing moms could only sign up for the space through HR on the day of and only if it wasn’t otherwise booked (for instance, if someone had a migraine and wanted to be able to go to a quiet dark place for 30 minutes before trying to drive home).
      We also had a cabinet in the room where we could drop off our pumps in the morning, and a fridge to store milk in.
      It was a bit of a productivity drain-none of us bothered to drag laptops there (although I sometimes checked email on my phone). Usually I used it as my spread out lunch break, or occasionally I would take paper documents to edit by hand (because I like paper in editing for some things). It also was the gateway to my this s!te addiction.

      Overall, will it work? Maybe, if you have a predictable schedule or one you can plan out far in advance and the ability to be prioritized over other people. But will it be a bigger pain that having an office where you can just close the door? Absolutely.

    • Anonymous says:

      Another issue I see is if all of you are signed up to pump around the same time, and one of your schedules gets shifted by a call that runs over or something, how will that affect your spot. I had extreme supply problems and each pumping session I missed resulted in a marked and irreparable decrease in supply (in retrospect, I should have given up and switched to formula). Plus I had to pump every 2 hours, so delays were also problematic. If I were in your situation, I would have had to be prepared to pump in my office if I couldn’t use the designated room when I was scheduled to pump.

      To reduce the amount of stuff you need to schlep, you might want to ask them to install a computer in the privacy room.

      Also, my firm recently remodeled to have all glass. After it was done, a lot of the partners hated the lack of privacy, so they ended up frosting the windows about 3 months after the remodel was done. So there’s hope.

      • Anon A says:

        Yes, that timing issue is one I’ve thought about as well. I mean, we’re attorneys with crazy and unpredictable schedules, I can definitely see myself running late to one of my privacy room slotted times. Sigh. I guess I’ll just have to see how other people in my situation deal with it, but I’m certainly not opposed to talking to HR and trying to get some sort of curtains or something installed in my office if it comes down to it.

        Good idea about the computers in the privacy room!

        Since you now have frosted glass, is it frosted enough so that you would be comfortable pumping? Or is it still slightly transparent?

        • Meg Murry says:

          Is HR in the loop now? I’d run this past them NOW in case they aren’t aware of the all glass everywhere plan, or the fact that there is a good chance you will all want to pump at the exact same times. We had to have a sit down with our HR and explain that having access to the room 3x a day each wasn’t enough – we needed it at certain time, so no one needed it at 8 am or 4 pm, but we all wanted 10-11 and 1-2.
          At a company I visited their lactation rooms were more like a department store fitting room or a locker room with changing cubbies – an outer room with lockers to leave stuff in, and then stalls with outlets and privacy curtains. It was less private to be able to hear your neighbor pump, but had less scheduling issues.

        • Anonymous says:

          Our doors are sliding doors with no locks, so even with the frosting I never felt comfortable pumping in my office. If my door had a lock, I would have done it in a heartbeat since I have two 23-inch monitors between me and the windows. So I used the pumping room, which was fine since I was the only one pumping at the time. With a laptop in there, I found that I could be pretty productive.

    • oil in houston says:

      we’re all on open space so what we have here is a room in the basement for pumping, no choice really

  6. Carrie M says:

    I agree with Kat’s recs for lots of water and constant snacking. Both helped me ward off nausea. I found that what made me feel nauseated changed over time – some days, it was a texture issue for me (I didn’t eat meat for a while because I hated chewing it, couldn’t stomach yogurt for weeks), and some days things just tasted off. I lost my taste for coffee very early on. I agree on reducing your caffeine intake before you’re even pregnant, if you drink a lot of it.

    I found it really hard to stay focused at work in the beginning – not because I was tired, but because my mind was constantly racing about the human growing inside of me. I was constantly looking things up online (what to expect, mayo clinic, etc.), looking at maternity clothes, reading thismainsite’s archives, sample baby registries on pinterest, etc. I finally had to restrict my internet usage at work to a mid-morning break and a mid-afternoon break. I also started printing stuff off to read during my commute and eventually, after I had told my office, reading actual books during my commute instead of relying on the internets.

    On the snacking / eating whatever you want: I definitely didn’t restrict myself, but I tried not to go toooo crazy. We only need a few hundred extra calories a day (is it 200 or 300? I can’t even remember now), and then in the third tri I think protein becomes even more important. That said, I definitely ate an entire box of girl scout cookies in a 24 hour period when I was 36 weeks and pretty much ate dessert every time I ate dinner in a restaurant:)

    I napped in my office – some times just leaning back in my chair with my feet up on a box, other times with my head on a pashmina arranged on my desk so that it was somewhat pillow like. Neither were great options, but they usually did the trick. I also walked around my office a lot when I needed an energy boost – and outside was even better when I could swing that.

    I commute by bus and train, and that didn’t really bother me early on. But in my third trimester, I often got lightheaded. So be prepared – carry some water and a snack with you! I was so much happier breaking the metro rules and eating/drinking on the train than being the passenger who faints and puts an entire train out of service.

  7. Katala says:

    Thank you all so much for the great tips! It’s really helpful to hear about experiences from women whose lifestyles are closer to mine. Sometimes I feel like the books are so generic and much of the advice doesn’t really apply or I don’t yet get how to modify it to the crazy lawyer/professional schedule.

    Lots to think about – I’m bookmarking this thread to refer to in the coming months.

  8. In my first trimester. I just said screw it and allowed myself a cup of coffee a day. If I didn’t have one, I think my kid would be annoyed with me (loving coffee is a huge family trait).

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