What to Expect: First Trimester of a Vegan Pregnancy

Okay ladies… Let’s get real here. The first trimester of pregnancy can be rough. For some, it means hugging the toilet until you feel some sense of relief and for others, like myself, it means finding yourself glued to the couch or bed unable to get up for hours on end. There are so many guides out there to help you understand what’s happening to your body, but nothing can truly help you prepare for it…just like parenthood in general! Our bodies are all so unique, so it’s hard to say what you will or won’t experience during these beautiful & strange times throughout this 9 month journey.

Like most first-time moms, I searched online for a comprehensive list of must-haves during your first trimester and what to expect. I was immediately hit with a plethora of knowledge from wise mamas everywhere. Some products seemed like they would be extremely helpful while others just seemed like frivolous purchases. Other pieces of advice seemed to go back and forth depending on which medical site you referenced. All I wanted to know was what I truly needed and everything seemed too general while not offering much help or advice when it came to a vegan pregnancy.

I’ve always been one to do my own research, so I took it for what it was and discovered some great products & tips to help me adjust to all of the changes in my body. I can say with full confidence (and after talking with healthcare providers) that it is totally possible to have a safe, healthy pregnancy through a vegan lifestyle. I was unknowingly preparing myself with the proper diet & exercise beforehand, creating an environment that made me “very fertile” according to the first doctor I visited. Through my vegan diet and a few adjustments to my exercise routine & caloric intake, I gained weight at a healthy rate and was able to get the proper nutrition I needed despite feeling like a “mom-bie” some days due to morning sickness & fatigue. Looking back, the first trimester wasn’t so bad afterall. I hope this guide can help you, a friend, or family member who’s expecting navigate trimester one!

The Basics of the First Trimester

The first trimester of pregnancy lasts from week 1 until the end of week 13. This doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but you’ll be a little over 3 months pregnant by the end of it and plenty of changes are happening in your body to help you prepare to carry the load of your little bundle of joy to come. I personally experienced frequent bouts of nausea, fatigue, breast tenderness & serious food aversions the most. However, some ladies will experience vomiting, spotting (likely implantation bleeding), constipation, milky white discharge (called leukorrhea), metallic taste in the mouth and mood swings. As weird as all of these symptoms sound, they are perfectly normal and typically don’t mean anything but a sign that your body is adjusting unless they are severe.

Fun fact: morning sickness doesn’t just happen in the morning (mine came on nightly)!

All of these changes amount to quite a bit of growth for your little baby…or “Lil’ Sprout” as we like to call ours. At 3 weeks, your baby will be the size of a vanilla bean seed. At 4 weeks, your placenta will start to form. By 6 weeks, you’ll have a little sweet pea sized (0.2-2.5 in) babe whose face is starting to form. Around 8 weeks, he or she will be the size of a raspberry weighing measuring half an inch and by 11 weeks, baby will weighing nearly a quarter of an ounce (close to the size of a strawberry). By week 13, your bundle of joy will be starting to form their vocal chords resembling the size of a lemon or peach and weighing nearly a full ounce!

Products That Helped Me During
My First Trimester

It can be difficult to find products that are recommended, safe, and vegan…but it doesn’t have to be! Here’s my personal list of things that helped me during my first trimester (and beyond!). It features everything from nausea relief, cures for restless leg & circulation issues, pelvic pressure and even some comfy maternity pants to try all under $30. It also covers how to handle the sleeping situation without intruding on your partner in bed with gigantic pillows, saving you from the difficult choice of who you should be cuddling with. This is not a sponsored post, but you can find ways to purchase these items by clicking the corresponding images. Enjoy!

Preggie Pop Drops Plus ($5.80)

These drops are a lifesaver!! They have natural ingredients to give you relief from that dreaded morning sickness with a little dose of B6 to help give you the boost you need. I used these whenever I was feeling a bout of nausea come on from food or smells and they were especially helpful for morning walks with the dogs when the cold air on my face literally made me feel like running to the bathroom. A bonus for me was that I had a sweets craving during my first trimester so the sour raspberry & lemon were just enough to satisfy my taste buds!

Angelhood Women’s 6 Pack Cotton Maternity Underwear ($21.99)

Chances are, you’ll probably need to invest in some new undies as you get further into your first trimester. You might notice your old ones just aren’t making the cut anymore for comfort standards and you might be worried about tracking any discharge or potential spotting to come. I found the under-the-belly style to be the most comfortable without adding any pressure to my sensitive pelvic region and was able to detect any unexpected changes through the white lining. The best part? You can still feel cute in your underwear while pregnant without resorting to the old over-the-belly style for everything.

Petal Fresh SuperFoods Stretch Mark Treatment Butter ($7.99)

I’m a little picky when it comes to body products, so I searched for a while to find just the right one to try. I finally landed on this one because its made with cocoa butter, Vitamin C & avocado oil and is 100% vegan & cruelty free. It used it on my bump, arms & even thighs to get a little extra moisture everywhere since this trimester brought on dry skin for me. Much like the product boasts, it helped tighten my skin as it began to stretch and prevented new marks from appearing. I used it right out of the shower or whenever my belly was just feeling “tight”. It’s very lightweight leaving minimal residue on your hands when you apply it.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting
Paperback ($9.89)

This book answers many common questions first-time parents have and is catered to a variety of different lifestyles. It walks you through what happens at conception, the stages of pregnancy and even life after birth. Even though I’m an avid reader… I have to admit that at first, I was a little intimidated by how thick the book was. After diving in, I realized that not all elements apply to everyone, so I moved through it quickly by skimming over those parts. I really appreciate that vegan considerations were made (this is the 5th edition afterall!) giving you advice for what to eat for a healthy pregnancy & baby!

Belly Bottle Water Tracking Bottle ($19.99)

This water bottle was probably the most valuable purchase I made (aside from prenatals of course)! It helps you track your water intake throughout the day with 3 convenient fills & you can use the stickers as a fun way to track your pregnancy as it progresses. I thought I had been drinking enough water before this but it wasn’t so easy to track given that your normal water intake is recommended at 64 oz. and pregnant intake is supposed to be a whopping 96 oz! It also has fun little mantras & gentle reminders on the sides to keep you going and remember to drink more while exercising or in the heat.

OCCObaby Pregnancy Pillow ($24.99)

This little wedge works wonders to support your back, bump & even knees at night. I opted for the wedge pillow as an easy affordable option for comfort while not intruding on my partner with one of those giant U-shaped maternity ones. Plus, it seems like we’re always on the go so this product is easy to transport (it even comes with a travel bag) and it’s a breeze to clean with the removable cover. I find myself using it for my bump most but also behind my back at night to help me make sure I’m sleeping on my side.

CTHH Non-See Thru Maternity Compression Leggings ($17.99)

These leggings are my favorite out of all my maternity sets. They give just the right amount of belly support while living up to the no-show claim. I bought them in black so they could work with multiple outfits and have been pleasantly surprised at how they extend the life of my dresses now that most of them are too short to wear alone! They do have a slimming effect being compression fabric which is always helpful when you think you look a baby whale (I promise that you really don’t).

Everlasting Comfort Memory Foam Knee Pillow ($21.95)

If you’re suffering from knee or back pain, this memory foam pillow adds just enough cushion to help alleviate those annoying symptoms while supporting your spine alignment. I was having issues with my knees touching while I slept and experienced frequent sciatica pain, so I found this to be very helpful at night. The strap makes it easy to ensure the pillow stays in place during the night no matter what kind of tossing & turning you’re doing. I’ve even used it during the day to help elevate my legs!

True Lemon- Crystalized Lemon ($7.25)

If you find that you’re having a hard time drinking more water now that you’re pregnant or that it simply makes you nauseous, True Lemon might help. It’s made without artificial flavors & preservatives to give you easy access to natural relief. I’ve used these packets even before pregnancy, but truly came to appreciate them in my first trimester thanks to the newfound benefits. You can use it in water, tea, and even while you cook. Not a lemon fan? They have True Lime & True Orange too!

Set of 3 Women’s Cotton/Bamboo Maternity Belly Band Clothing Extenders ($23.99)

These belly bands are everything you need to keep your tummy feeling nice & secure as it starts to pop out towards the end of your first trimester and can be used throughout the rest of your pregnancy. I love that they come in a set of 3 and you have a choice of which fabric you prefer. They’ve helped me extend the life of some of my favorite tops and give me the support I need when I’m wearing under-the-belly leggings or pants. Thinking of doing the hair tie trick with your favorite pair of jeans? These bands have you covered…literally!

CHARMKING Compression Socks for Women/Men – 3 Pairs ($16.99)

Whether you’re suffering from fatigue, restless legs or are trying to help improve your circulation, these socks are a great find. I’m personally not a fan of long socks anymore, but found these to be super comfy and helped me relax when I was feeling unsettled. They’re recommended for pregnant & nursing women as well as athletes and those that stand on their feet for long periods of time so you’re bound to get plenty of use out of them. They also come in a lot of different designs so whatever your style is, they probably have it.

Liu & Qu Maternity Women’s Casual Stretchy Pants ($21.99)

I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point, the waistband to my old joggers started hurting and I simply couldn’t take it anymore.That’s when I knew it was time to invest in some maternity loungewear. I wanted to find something that didn’t add much pressure to my lower abdomen & gave me more space for my belly to continue to grow. I also wanted them to be something I could bear leaving the house in…not just another pair of pajamas. I spent quite a bit of time looking for maternity pants and eventually landed on these in maroon. After trying them, I’m can say that the fabric is cozy and stretchy, but not too heavy. I also discovered they work great with the simple crew neck t-shirts I was outgrowing and a few accessories for a stylish new maternity outfit! They are my go-to for appointments where I’m learning various stretches & the waistband rolls down nicely when it’s time to find the baby’s heartbeat. You can even wear them while you do some light yoga, making them the perfect addition to your activewear collection.

MMIZOO Blood Pressure Monitor ($29.99)

I’m a little health nut at heart, so I feel that it’s important to monitor your blood pressure at home, especially while pregnant. If you have a family history of high blood pressure or are concerned about developing gestational hypertension & preeclampsia, it’s not a bad idea to invest in a home monitor for your own peace of mind. Your healthcare provider will certainly appreciate the extra effort on your part too! I personally prefer the wrist method over the traditional route and found the LCD display to be very easy to read. It also has dual-user mode, so your partner can also track their pressure…because pregnancy can be stressful on them too! Plus, instead of trying to Google what the normal limits are, this monitor helps you know when your levels are high, low, or just right with a voice readout.

Vegan First Trimester Nutrition

During pregnancy, not only will your lifestyle change, but your diet as well. It’s extremely important to ensure you’re getting the proper nutrition which is why you should take extra care to what goes on your plate & in your body. You can accomplish this through a vegan diet by eating more whole foods that contain folate, calcium, Vitamin D, protein, & iron. You’ll also need to incorporate supplements like quality prenatal vitamins and it’s even recommended that you start taking a probiotic. This should help regulate your gut flora (often relieving the symptom of constipation), so that vitamins & nutrients are being absorbed properly for you and your baby. Here’s a few products that helped me feel great during my first trimester that I continue to take daily for my vegan pregnancy.

Garden of Life mykind Organics Prenatal Once Daily Tablets ($34.39)

This supplement is whole foods based (lemons, ginger, annatoto, holy basil & other real foods) giving you a natural, wide spectrum of vitamins & nutrients to help you and your little one as they grow. It has a full dose of Vitamin A, C, E, & K. Even better is that you can stop taking your vegan B12 supplement during pregnancy because this one already has a little over your daily recommended value. It gives you a dose of half your recommended iron to help fight anemia & a full serving of folate which is essential for healthy fetal development. Compared to another prenatal I had tried, I found that I had more energy and less morning sickness with this supplement. It makes such a difference for me that I always notice when I take it off-schedule, so it encourages me to take it on time when I wake up each day. I prefer to buy these at Sprouts Farmers Market in a 90-day supply but you can also purchase them directly from their website. If you can’t stand to take pills in tablet form, they also have gummies to try.

Garden of Life Dr. Formulated Prenatal DHA Softgels ($22.39)

You’ll hear a lot about making sure you’re getting enough Omega-3s during pregnancy. It helps decrease the mother’s risk of depression and increased intake of DHA & DPA has been said to prevent pre-term labor & delivery. Being vegan doesn’t mean you have to miss out on any nutrition and you can rest easy knowing your nutrients are ethically & sustainably sourced with this supplement. It’s derived from algal oil and includes specialized pro-resolving meditators (SPM) which are compounds that naturally support normal inflammatory responses in the body. It helps support your baby’s brain development & healthy lactation.The softgel is very easy to take (I’m not a pill person at all) and can be taken just once daily along with your regular prenatal.

Organic Liquid Probiotics by MaryRuth’s ($44.95)

I’ve used many products by MaryRuth’s before pregnancy including this probiotic. Whenever I was feeling bloated, I’d use this for 1-2 weeks until I felt regular again. The last time I visited my midwife, she recommended that I start taking a probiotic again to help regulate my gut and prevent infection. For those of you that don’t know, pregnancy hormones increase your chances of developing UTIs, bacterial & yeast infections. I didn’t want to take another pill during my daily routine, so I opted for this liquid probiotic again and haven’t been disappointed. You can take this supplement as-is or with water since it has a mild water-like taste. It has 12 live strains of flora w/ acidophilus giving you a full spectrum of probiotics to keep you healthy before, during & after your pregnancy.

Essential Nutrients During Pregnancy

  • Folate & Folic Acid– Folate is a B vitamin that helps prevent neural tube defects, serious abnormalities of the brain & spinal cord. The synthetic form of folate found in supplements & fortified foods is called folic acid. This has been shown to decrease the risk of premature birth. Aside from supplements, you can find this in food sources like cereal, spinach, beans, asparagus, oranges & peanuts.
  • Vitamin D– Vitamin D helps build your baby’s bones & teeth. Aside from supplements, you can find it in food sources like mushrooms, fortified cereals & nut milks, & orange juice. You can also get a healthy dose from good old sunshine by being outdoors more!
  • Protein– Protein is an essential element of the building blocks for your baby’s growth during pregnancy. Foods with high sources of protein include seitan, tofu, tempeh, edamame, chickpeas, broccoli, spinach, nuts, seeds, sprouted breads & grains like quinoa or wild rice.
  • Iron– Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to your tissues. You’ll need double the recommended daily amount during pregnancy because your body will need more blood to supply oxygen to your baby. Signs you are iron defiient could be headaches, cold hands/feet, dizziness, weakness or pale skin. You can find iron in food sources like fortified cereals, oats, spinach, beans, tofu, chickpeas, cashews, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, & lentils.
  • Choline-Choline aids in brain & spinal cord development during pregnancy. Some studies suggest it may also protect a newborn against neural tube defects (like folic acid does). You can find choline in food sources like tofu, broccoli, peanut butter, beans, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, potatoes & quinoa.

Mental Health During Pregnancy

It should go without saying, but keeping an eye on your mental health during pregnancy is absolutely critical. Not only will you be going through physical changes that make you feel some type of way, you’ll also be likely to experience hormonal shifts making you feel a variety of emotions…positive or negative. You may get easily frustrated over things that didn’t seem to matter before. You may get easily offended by comments or criticisms that aren’t meant to upset. You might find yourself crying over simple things like food one minute and excited about the pregnancy the next. You might even have moments where you can’t get off the couch and others where you’re suddenly full of bursts of energy out of nowhere.

Whether you’ve experienced feelings of anxiety and depression before conceiving, they might creep up during your nine month journey as you move along. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Your support system can include your partner, family, friends and/or healthcare provider. There’s no shame in asking for help and moms truly don’t have to do it all. Afterall, the saying is true… “it takes a village to raise a child”. If you find yourself in a slump feeling hopeless, worthless, or can’t seem to relax for a period of 2 weeks or more, it might be time to talk to a professional. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about and know you are doing the right thing for your baby in the process. High levels of stress for long periods of time can increase the chances of premature labor or your child having a low birth weight. or Here are some natural methods you can try at home to help you relax and enjoy your journey into motherhood while making the most out of your time being pregnant.

15 Ways to Reduce Stress During Pregnancy

  1. Do Some Light Yoga– Exercise is a great way to destress and release your endorphins. Yoga is light enough on the joins and helps you connect your mind & spirit to the body. Stretching is a great way to help your body prepare for your womb to expand and some studies even recommend yoga for an easier labor because it helps you build strength and master mind centering. You can do many poses during prenatal yoga like standing warrior, hip rotations & modified pigeon pose. Take your time and stop if you get tired or dizzy at any point.
  2. Try Breathwork– When you’re stressed out, your breathing is likely to be faster along with your heart rate. Practicing deep breathing can help you regulate yourself and find your center again. Try this breathing exercise to help you relax: Breathe in for 6 seconds. Hold for 2 seconds. Breathe out for 4 seconds. Repeat for 10-15 times or until you feel like your heart rate is at a slower pace.
  3. Draw a Warm Bath– Being in water not only helps reduce pain & inflammation, but it also helps calm the nervous system. The feeling of being clean & being weightlessness can be helpful to those experiencing feelings of anxiety. It also helps you prepare for a water birth if you’re thinking about taking that route to reduce labor pains. Try a warm, never hot, bath with 2 cups of epsom salt (you can even use some with essential oils like hemp seed oil).
  4. Light a Candle or Use Essential Oils– Candles with chamomile, vanilla, geranium, roses are great choices for relieving anxiety, stress & depression during pregnancy. You can also try essential oils like lavender, bergamot, oranges, & lemons in a diffuser. Pro tip: peppermint oil can also help you with headaches!
  5. Take 1-2 Hour Nap– Sleep is a powerful stress reducer. It helps you calm and restore your body while improving concentration & regulating your mood. Lack of sleep makes you feel sluggish & foggy, so it’s always a good idea to get more shut-eye. Grab your pillow & your favorite blanket (maybe even a lightly weighted one), throw on your pajamas and an eye mask to block out extra light and give yourself some rest for an hour or two.
  6. Sip on Tea– Taking care of yourself is important when it comes to mental health. Self-care doesn’t have to be time consuming. Steep a cup of tea next time you’re feeling overwhelmed. You can try mint, lemon ginger, and other fruit teas. Try avoiding teas with caffeine & rare herbal teas as they can pose health risks. 1-2 cups is fine, but don’t overdo it!
  7. Ask Your Partner for a Massage– Instead of heading to the spa, make your own at home! Ask your partner to try a gentle foot, back, and/or shoulder rub. They can also do a scalp massage starting at the base of the skull to the hairline applying light pressure. They can also gently rub (not massage) your belly with coconut or vitamin E oil to soothe you while also preventing stretch marks.
  8. Talk to Someone– When you’re feeling down, always remember that you’re not alone. Give a friend a call. It’s your choice to share what you’re going through, but if you simply need a pick-me-up, try catching up and focusing on baby related topics with them like the gender, your registry, or what you are most excited about (i.e. decorating the nursery, baby shoes, doing their hair, hearing their little voice, or teaching them numbers & letters).
  9. Take a Walk– Sometimes a change in scenery is all you need and being in nature comes with added benefits like fresh air in the lungs & a healthy dose of vitamin D. Start with a brisk walk around the block, but don’t overdo it by pushing yourself. Do it with a conscious mindset and count 5 things that you notice about your surroundings (i.e. the smell of a flower, the sound of a car passing by, the way the breeze moves the grass or the trees, the warmth of the sun on your face, or any animals you might see along the way).
  10. Cry it Out– It’s never good to bottle up your emotions and they will come out one way or another. When we cry from stress, our tears contain hormones & other chemicals which researchers believe could reduce their presence in the body. Believe it or not, crying helps relieve pain and the oxytocin & endorphins released can also improve your overall mood. So next time you feel the waterworks coming on, go ahead and let it out! Just be aware of how often you cry and know when to seek help especially when you are experiencing the feelings that cause it over a long period of time.
  11. Have a Snack– Do you ever feel “hangry”? Science shows eating your feelings sometimes might not be the worst thing after all (in moderation of course!). Certain types of foods have been shown to cut levels of cortisol & adrenaline, stress hormones that can build up in the body. Dark chocolate, nuts, berries, citrus fruits, edamame & yogurt are all great snacks to try when you’re feeling stressed.
  12. Socialize With Other Pregnant Women or Parents– There are plenty of other women who are going through what you are or have been through it. Sign up for a parenting or prenatal yoga class to meet them face to face. If you can’t do contact right now, joining communities on pregnancy apps like Nurture can help and there are plenty of Facebook groups especially for vegan parents. Through this, you can follow each other’s journey, show support and receive advice from more seasoned mamas.
  13. Rub Your Belly– Lay on your back and use your hands to apply your favorite oil (vitamin E, coconut oil, argan oil) to your belly. As you rub your bump, you’ll slowly ease into the feeling of relaxation and bonding with your baby. You might even get a little kick or “flutter” after showing all that love… some studies show that fetuses respond powerfully to touch!
  14. Sing to Your Baby– When you sing to your baby, they’ll start to bond more with you and can more easily recognize your voice outside the womb. Some people even swear that singing can help alter the baby’s mood helping them feed & sleep which can have a positive effect on their growth & development. It’ll also help lift your spirits as singing is a natural antidepressant, so it’s a win-win.
  15. Meditate– When all else fails, meditate! Not only does it help you relax, but it helps you focus on your concentration, lower blood pressure & has been shown to be beneficial when dealing with symptoms of mild to moderate anxiety or depression during pregnancy. Because of these benefits, it’s said to also help you have a smoother labor process too!

The Best Advice I Got During Trimester One

After telling friends & family the good news, I received quite a bit of advice from them. Many were more experienced moms having been through the process several times over and they came with the best intentions. They shared everything from how to deal with some of the aches & pains and how to be realistic when it came to creating our registry. Here are the best tips I got from loved ones that I think will help you through the start of your pregnancy:

  • Get all the sleep you can now… Yes, your precious newborn is bound to rob you of some of that precious REM when they arrive (totally worth it!). Getting your rest now is not only helpful to you, but can help regulate growth hormone levels. Plus, not getting enough sleep puts you at risk for developing preeclampsia or high blood pressure.
  • Make sure you’re drinking enough water. I know, duh! But I was experiencing some headaches & light cramping early on and realized that water was the best natural solution. It seems to like the miracle cure for everything I’ve experienced so sipping on some water is the first thing I do now when I notice I’m feeling a little off.
  • Try not to put too many clothing items on your registry. If you go clothes heavy, that’s all people will want to get you… It’s likely they probably will either way due to all the excitement, but think about adding more of what you really need.
  • You don’t have to buy everything new! Chances are, some items will be given to you from friends or family, so that’ll help lighten the load.
  • Ask for help! It can be easy to want to do everything yourself (I’m definitely like that), but being pregnant does come with some extra restrictions for both of you and for good reason. Don’t be afraid to ask your partner, a friend, or family member for help on shopping trips, chores around the house, or general advice.
  • Relax & enjoy the process…because it’ll go by faster than you think. This seems so simple but it’s easy to get stressed when you’re growing a tiny human through raging hormones. The best thing you can do is focus on ways to help yourself relax, because it’s good for your mental health & your baby’s development.

I hope you find this guide to be a helpful! My goal is to always be a resource speaking from experience. Have you tried any of the products recommended? Are you curious to learn more about vegan pregnancies or are you going through your first trimester right now? Leave me a note in the comments section below!

As always, thanks for your love & support.

‘Til next time!

Em 🌱

Emmy May, The Plant Based Bae
Emmy May, The Plant Based Bae

Hi! My name is Emmy May and I’m The Plant Based Bae. I was born and raised in the Midwest, and have called Southern California home for the past seven years. In 2018, I decided to switch to a vegan diet which led to me improving my overall quality of life and learning a lot about health & humanitarianism. Since then, I’ve had countless conversations with vigorous vegans and curious omnivores to share what I’ve learned along the way.

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