Expecting mother shares her experience with first trimester

Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 1:23 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 10, 2023 at 12:48 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Over the next nine months, WHSV will be highlighting mothers and mothers-to-be about the challenges and excitement that expecting women face. We will also hear from birthing experts and providers from Sentara RMH and Harrisonburg OBGYN who are there to answer all of the questions families may have along the way. It’s all part of a new series we’re calling “Mothering.”

Jeannette Stevens is expecting her first baby.

“I couldn’t believe it. It was something I’ve wanted for a couple of years,” Stevens said as she reflected on how she felt when she saw that positive sign on the pregnancy test.

While she is excited to start this new chapter of her life, she said she was a little nervous at first.

“Every little twinge, kind of pulled muscle type deal, makes you question everything, what foods you’re supposed to eat and not eat,” Stevens said.

Along with the nerves, Dr. Cathy Slusher with Harrisonburg OBGYN noted that women in the first trimester can also find themselves to be more emotional and may experience some physical changes as well.

“The most commonly talked about is nausea and vomiting that everybody’s really familiar with... There’s also dizziness, there’s also fatigue,” Dr. Slusher said.

But thankfully, Stevens said her first trimester has been a breeze.

“So far, baby has been really nice to me. Bloating, that’s a huge difference.”

Dr. Slusher explained that a lot of the early pregnancy symptoms are caused by a lack of adequate water intake.

“Which needs to be at least double, if not more, than the nonpregnant person,” Dr. Slusher said. “You’re making blood at a super-fast rate with lots of red blood cells and they need fluid to push that around because you’re oxygenating yourself and the baby, and that’s going to continue throughout the pregnancy.”

As Stevens plans to stay hydrated through her pregnancy, she and her husband have also started planning to welcome their child into the world.

“The list keeps getting longer and longer. What kind of crib, what kind of car seat, what kind of stroller, childcare, all of that,” Stevens said.

Dr. Slusher noted that focusing on appetite in the first trimester is not as important because the baby is so small and will get what it needs, but she does recommend staying hydrated and getting good rest.

With there being so much to plan for and because this is her first pregnancy, Stevens said she’s grateful to have such a strong support system.

“My husband’s awesome, my family has been very supportive, my mom has been going to town shopping for baby clothes and maternity clothes for me,” Stevens said.

That support extends from the doctors and providers at Sentara and Harrisonburg OBGYN as well.

“The first OB appointment it’s really a compositive three in our office. You get your ultrasound for dating, you get all of the nurse information, you get your physical examination, and an opportunity to ask important questions to the doctor or even not important questions to the doctor. It’s a three-in-one. It takes a long time, but it’s very comprehensive, and I believe people feel very secure that they know where they’re headed,” Dr. Slusher said.

It’s recommended that women, especially if it’s their first pregnancy, make that first appointment six to eight weeks after the onset of the last menstrual period.

“Then we can actually see a baby, see a heartbeat, get good dating, and get the ball rolling in a really positive fashion with tons of information that’s important and make decisions about testing that we want or don’t want,” Dr. Slusher explained.

In the first trimester, Stevens and her husband opted to do genetic testing.

“On my dad’s side of the family, we have lost a few babies to SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy), and I just wanted to be reassured that we weren’t any part of that. And those tests came back good,” Stevens said.

Dr. Slusher noted that after the initial appointment, women usually come back for check-ups once a month for the first trimester.

Stevens said it’s been calming to have providers she can trust and rely on to answer all the questions she has during this journey.

“It takes the anxiety out of it, the unknowing out of it, and gives you the support, plus you feel supported, and knowing that you have that is half the battle,” Dr. Slusher acknowledged.

Because of the positive experience she’s had already, Stevens said she’s looking forward to having her baby in the same place she was born; at Sentara RMH.

Now that Stevens is officially out of her first trimester, Dr. Slusher said there is a lot more to look forward to.

“The biggest excitement is that 20-week anatomic ultrasound and everybody looks forward to that,” Dr. Slusher said. “It’s an opportunity to really see that baby, and it looks like a baby, but more importantly, we’re able to assess and make sure that the brain is developing well, that the heart looks generally good, that all the organ systems are in the right place.”