Morning sickness affects more than half of all pregnant women.
And, as any pregnant woman can tell you, it’s not just morning sickness.
It can be afternoon, middle of the night, or all the time sickness.
Feeling nauseous and vomiting during early pregnancy really takes the shine off things.
The severity and frequency of pregnancy sickness varies among women, and among pregnancies.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I fully expected to have morning sickness. I assumed it would happen because that’s how women in early pregnancy are depicted in books, and in movies.
Pregnant woman with her head over a toilet bowl. Just the sight of food making her gag. Getting angry at her partner for eating smelly foods like anchovies.
The worst thing that happened to me was an intense need to eat seed crackers every five minutes. When I was pregnant with my second baby, it was the same thing: no actual nausea, but woe betide anyone if I didn’t eat a mandarin every few hours.
When I was pregnant for the third time, I waited for that intense need to consume a certain type of food to hit me.
Except it didn’t. And the day after I found out I was pregnant, I got sick.
Same thing the next day. And the next. I had pregnancy nausea. In my case, it was five long weeks of all-day nausea, punctuated with the occasional bout of actual vomiting.
So, in time-honoured tradition, I tried all the remedies. Some worked; some didn’t.
Morning Sickness – Tips To Reduce Pregnancy Sickness
Morning sickness can really bring you down – and that’s even before we venture into the severe pregnancy sickness of hyperemesis gravidarum. Trying to get on with life when you’re constantly feeling seasick isn’t fun.
It’s even worse when, like most newly pregnant people, we tend to avoid announcing to the world exactly why we’re white-faced and hoovering up our body’s weight in crackers every day.
Tip: everyone actually does know; they’re just waiting for you to announce it.
Here are 8 tips for navigating pregnancy sickness, and ways you can enjoy your first trimester more.
#1: Food Matters
You probably don’t want to eat but having some food is better than having none. When, what and how much you eat can make a big difference to how sick you’ll feel.
When your blood sugar levels are too high or too low, this can cause nausea and even vomiting.
Normally, insulin effectively helps to keep your blood sugar levels stable. During pregnancy, however, the placenta produces certain hormones that affect your body’s sensitivity to insulin.
These hormones, while essential to a healthy pregnancy, confuse your body’s metabolism and contribute to fluctuating blood sugar levels.
One tip, handed down through the ages, is for newly pregnant women to eat bland carbohydrates, such as toast or crackers, especially first thing in the morning.
But simple carbs are very quickly taken in by the body and can cause dramatic spikes in your blood sugar levels. Foods that take longer to process, such as protein and complex carbs, help to keep blood sugar more stable, preventing nausea.
Protein is a nutritional building block – and very important when you are pregnant – yet women tend to avoid it in the belief protein foods are too heavy to eat when they are feeling nauseous.
There are many sources of protein. You can eat animal products (meat, dairy and eggs), nuts and seeds, or combine grains and legumes (important if you’re vegetarian or vegan).
If the idea of eating a boiled egg in the morning makes you retch, don’t stress. Eat what you can tolerate and then follow up with some protein afterwards.
Some suggestions are:
- Apple with nut butter
- Fruit with yoghurt
- Seed crackers and cheese
- Boiled egg with toast
- Protein smoothie
To keep your blood sugar levels stable, try experimenting with protein foods when you’re not feeling sick. Some mamas-to-be swear by having a protein snack in the middle of the night, when they’re up visiting the bathroom (yet again).
The practice of acupuncture has been around for many years. Traditional Chinese Medicine works on the principle pregnancy interrupts the natural flow of Qi (energy) in the body. Acupuncture is used to restore the correct flow of Qi by inserting very fine needles into the skin at certain points.
The western medical world actually agrees. Studies have shown acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for pregnancy sickness. Women who have found acupuncture helpful recommend having a session every week to maximise the benefits. Choose a practitioner who specialises in pregnancy care.
Pregnant women are very prone to dehydration and losing electrolytes – particularly if they have been vomiting or not drinking as much water as they should.
Adding electrolytes to your daily routine could make a huge difference. Some women opt for pre-made drinks or they add an electrolyte powder to water.
Be mindful of supermarket stocked sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade – they are usually full of sugar, which can cause insulin spikes and inflammation.
Other women prefer to make their own electrolyte solution and freeze it in cubes. Sucking on ice cubes is also a great way to stay hydrated, especially when swallowing food or fluids triggers a gag reflex.
Doctor Andrew Orr recommends Endura, which you can get from natural health food stores or a naturopath. Because hydration demands increase in the post-natal period, it’s a great idea to keep taking electrolytes to help avoid problems associated with lack of water, including constipation, fatigue and other unpleasant issues like anal fissures (ouch).
#4: Chill Out And Rest
Early pregnancy is exhausting. It’s hard to understand why, when you’re not doing anything more active than usual.
But your body is going through some huge adjustments and you’re invisibly putting a lot of energy into growing another human being. Sleep might be interrupted too, because of the increased need to urinate during the night.
Rest is vital, especially as tiredness can make pregnancy sickness even worse. Take that afternoon nap!
Stress is another factor that can increase your sensitivity to morning sickness.
Meditation, yoga or a soak in a Epsom salts bath can help you to unwind and chill out.
Keep stress during pregnancy at bay with these tips.
#5: Avoid Strong Smells
We often expect the sight of something to be a trigger for pregnancy sickness, but often it’s the smell!
If possible, clean out all areas where you’re likely to come across strong smells, such as your fridge, rubbish bins, and bathrooms. Better still, organise someone else to do it. Use a citrus based, non-toxic cleaner, and regularly clean areas, such as cook tops, that are likely to accumulate smells.
Some women say the smell of a cut lemon eases their nausea, so have some on hand for those days when you need to open the fridge and your partner’s not home to do it for you!
One cool trick is to place slices of lemon in a slow cooker and leave it on low, with the lid off. It will keep your kitchen filled with a lemony scent.
Diffusing essential oils is another popular way of keeping pregnancy nausea at bay. Check with an aromatherapist which essential oils are safe for use during pregnancy.
Avoiding perfumes (yours and others) can also help.
#6: Everything Ginger
The humble ginger root has been used as a remedy for stomach upsets for centuries. The root contains many chemicals – two in particular called gingerols and shogaols. These chemicals relax the intestinal tract and help to reduce nausea.
There are many different ways you can take ginger – drinking it as a tea, nibbling ginger biscuits, or having some non alcoholic ginger ale. Some women find fizzy drinks work especially well to combat nausea, and add ginger extract to mineral water. Experiment to find what works best for you.
#7: Vitamin B6
Another reason to eat well during early pregnancy is to make sure you are getting adequate vitamin B6. This vitamin, also known as pyriodoxine, is essential for your baby’s developing brain and nervous system.
Research has shown extra vitamin B6 can relieve nausea and vomiting in women. The vitamin helps the body to process protein, suggesting it might help those who aren’t getting enough protein in their daily diet.
B6 also helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Some studies have shown women with severe morning sickness have low levels of vitamin B6 in their blood.
It’s important not to take too much vitamin B6, as it can cause problems such as nausea, stomach pain, loss of appetite, headache, tingling in the hands and feet, and sleepiness.
Pregnant women require only 1.9mg per day, which should be obtained easily in a varied diet that includes fish, nuts and meat.
If you are considering vitamin B6 supplementation you should be aware of the risks of excessive intake of vitamin B6. It is often found in multivitamins and prenatal supplements, as well as in many fortified foods. Always seek your care provider’s advice before increasing your dosage beyond recommended levels.
#8: Acupressure Points
In a similar way to acupuncture, treating points with acupressure can also relieve morning sickness. Acupressure has a long history in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
To alleviate pregnancy sickness, you press the P6 acupuncture point, which is 10cms from your inner wrist, between the two tendons.
An easier way to treat this acupressure point is with travel sickness bands. They are often used by people who experience motion or sea sickness. The bands are made of elastic and have plastic studs to stimulate the acupuncture point.
Most women find they need to wear the band constantly or their morning sickness returns when they remove it.
Have you experienced morning sickness? What tips and tricks worked for you?