They say it must have been a man who termed it “morning sickness” because he was only around at that time of day to witness his partner in anguish. Sounds about right. Some of us might get that made-for-TV hour or two of queasiness &/or vomiting in the mornings. Many of us find it can strike any time of day, and last much longer than just the morning. Evening sickness is actually another normal pattern for mamas-to-be.
Typically it’s an early pregnancy struggle, but nausea/vomiting can last right up to delivery in extreme cases. If your nausea/vomiting is interfering with regular life, talk to your OB/midwife, as medications do exist to help with extreme pregnancy-induced nausea (known as “hyperemesis gravidarum”).
And, hey, you’re making a person – take a day off work if you need to.
Here are my top tips for mamas-to-be with “morning sickness” so you can stay alert, active and out of the office washroom stall.
Grazing all day isn’t exactly what I mean. You’re not a cow. If you don’t ever fill up your belly and spend your day snarfing handfuls of crackers & grapes, you’ll have a hard time keeping blood sugar levels stable.
It can be hard to eat when you don’t feel well, but skipping meals or spreading meals out so long that your stomach gets bone-dry and your blood sugar levels drop will likely only make you feel worse. Try to eat when you start to feel hungry, not 2 hours later when you’re done that TPS report for the boss and have spent an hour obsessing over your toddler’s online daycare cam.
Most mamas need 3-4 good meals per day; often it’s breakfast, lunch, lunch #2 (or a healthy afternoon snack) and dinner. If your dinner is usually quite early, you might do breakfast, lunch, dinner and a healthy evening snack. You might only eat three meals and never snack. That’s OK, too.
SKIP THE SODA CRACKERS. EAT PROTEIN.
One of the most irritating pieces of “doctor advice” I hear is “Keep a pack of soda crackers next to the bed.” Now, having something carbolicious and easy to digest in case of nausea is not such a bad idea — although choking down chalky soda crackers sounds like more punishment than remedy to me — but the idea that processed carbs are a nausea remedy? Gah! Get into the 21st century, doc.
My clients have found nausea waves are significantly reduced by including protein and fat in their snacks & meals. Rarely does a pregnant mama not get enough carbs. Carbs are calling your name, am I right? Between toast, muffins, fruit, starchy veggies (FRIES), cookies, decaf lattes, pasta, rice, ice cream, juice, oatmeal… should I go on? You’re probably getting plenty of carbohydrate.
By including a protein &/or fat source with each meal and snack, you’ll help slow down your digestion so your stomach empties slowly and doesn’t churn with acid. You’ll also keep blood sugar levels stable, which helps prevent nausea and fatigue PLUS helps you manage cravings, which are a whole other bag of pregnancy worms.
BRINNER. LUPPER. WHATEVER.
For you really nauseas mamas — or for those who might define themselves as “picky eaters” even when you’re not feeling the urge to hurl every hour on the hour — letting go of breakfast/lunch/dinner conventions can be a lifesaver. Gentle, somewhat sweet “breakfast” foods like yogurt, oatmeal, cereal or avocado toast can be a great choice at the end of the day, too, when you’re exhausted or suffering from evening nausea (way more common than most people realize).
Think of which healthy foods appeal to you. If you can’t stomach meat but you could clear out the dairy section of your local grocery store, there’s nothing wrong with a grilled cheese sandwich for breakfast, greek yogurt + granola + fruit for lunch, and a simple homemade soup and salad for dinner with maybe some fruit and frozen yogurt for dessert. Is it perfectly well-rounded? No. Is it packed with nutrients for you and baby and less likely to send you to the bathroom floor? Bingo.
Let go of perfection and focus on getting the healthiest foods you can stomach into you and your little one. Not to worry…gorgeous, healthy babies have grown on much worse than fruit + yogurt.
You don’t have to sip warm gingerale like a six year-old with a tummy ache. Ginger naturally calms your stomach but it’s most potent in its raw state, not processed into a sugary soda. Grab a chunk of gingerroot on your next shopping trip and toss it in your freezer where it will last for months. When you need relief, boil the kettle & grate the frozen ginger straight into your mug with a squeeze of honey. Warm & comforting.
There are ginger products specifically marketed to pregnant women, and my favourite has always been Gravol ginger lozenges, which I kept during my last pregnancy in my bedside drawer for morning and evening and in my purse for workday symptoms. Sometimes a kettle + fresh ginger are just not an option.
LET’S TALK ABOUT VITAMINS (AND MINERALS).
Your prenatal vitamin is chock full of minerals that can be hard on an empty stomach, so take your multi with breakfast, not upon waking. Or, take it before bed when you’re good and tired and won’t feel its effects.
One of the nausea culprits in your prenatal multis? Iron. Many mamas need an iron supplement in pregnancy and most prenatal vitamins will include iron because it’s commonly deficient in women of all ages and life stages. Iron deficiency can happen in second trimester as your blood volume increases and the mineral content of the blood becomes a little weaker.
If you become iron deficient, your OB/midwife might recommend an iron supplement, but iron pills are extremely hard on the digestion and will likely worsen your distress — take it from someone who’s been there! My go-to iron recommendation for mamas is Floradix, a liquid iron supplement in a fruit juice base, which not only goes down better but actually makes it easier for your body to absorb the iron. This means you need to take less iron (read: make it less likely you’ll upset your stomach) than you would in pill form to absorb the same amount.
If you need more iron, the most natural vehicle is in real food. Red meat and poultry (especially dark meat poultry) are great sources of absorbable iron, so let’s circle back to that protein point above, shall we, and include protein sources at multiple times per day?
WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, DRINK YOUR CALORIES.
No, not gingerale again. I’m talking about shakes, smoothies and juices. If you really just can’t imagine chewing a piece of meat or digging into a bowl of crunchy salad, let your blender do half the work for you. You can still include a protein source by adding a grass-fed whey or sprouted vegan protein powder to your shakes, or simply blitzing up cottage cheese or silken tofu together with your yummy add-ins.
And you’d be surprised how sneaky veggies like spinach, avocado — OK, that’s a fruit; but let’s not be too fussy — kale, even sweet potato and squash can melt into a smoothie to amp up the vitamin & mineral content without making it taste like you blended up dinner. Yogurt, oatmeal, ground flax seed, chia seeds, and nut butter are all tasty ways to turn a smoothie into a power shake for you & baby.
So that’s it. Take care of yourself. Don’t give yourself a free pass to ice cream land, but rest and fuel and love that growing bump.