Nausea in Pregnancy: What can a mama do?
Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy take a huge toll on a mother’s quality of life. Throwing up for a couple days with the flu is awful, but feeling that badly with weeks or even months more to go is downright dreadful. This can leave mothers unable to work and without many hours of pay. For mothers with older children, it can be difficult to provide the care they need. Everyday tasks like cooking, cleaning and running errands can become impossible. For some mothers, feeling this unwell for weeks on end can lead to depression. The term “morning sickness” is nothing short of a cruel joke. It isn’t uncommon for the queasy feeling to last all day.
Approximately 80% of mothers experience nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, with around 0.5% of mothers developing severe vomiting in a condition known as Hyperemesis gravidarum, or HG for short. HG can lead to hospitalization where the mother will be treated for dehydration with IV fluids. It is important to seek out medical attention with HG because it can have serious consequences, or be a sign of an underlying condition. Interestingly, mothers with uncomplicated nausea and vomiting have been shown to have improved outcomes, including lower rates of miscarriage. This poses the question, is there an evolutionary advantage to nausea in early pregnancy? It’s thought that the nausea deters mothers from eating foods which could be potentially harmful to the baby. For most mothers, the nausea subsides by the second trimester, and for mothers with HG by around 20 weeks. That being said, in either case it can persist throughout pregnancy.
When I was pregnant with my son, I would wake up at 4:30 am with a knot in my stomach and was often throwing up until I went to bed that night. There were days I couldn’t even keep water down and would have to suck on ice. Into the second trimester the nausea was often just in the mornings and I was able to start gaining weight. That being said, the vomiting persisted until I gave birth. The information I’m going to share in this article comes from the heart. I know first hand how awful of an experience this can be. Thankfully I’ve gathered a handful of tricks that may help other mamas to survive it!
I will begin by saying that none of these suggestions are guaranteed to work. Sometimes the nausea is bad enough that waiting it out is all you can do. Unfortunately this was often the case for me. A strategy I found particularly helpful was visualization and hypnosis. Essentially it works by replacing the sensation of nausea with a different sensory input. I would picture the nausea as a wave, inhaling as I watched the swell roll in, peak- then crash onto shore, exhaling as it pulled back into the sea. Often this would be enough to prolong vomiting to a slightly more convenient time. Limiting sensory inputs like bright lights, moving objects, strong smells and loud noises can help when you’re able to do so. A cold cloth over the face can also be very soothing.
It’s thought that the nausea is triggered when blood sugar crashes. For this reason, small frequent meals may be better than 3 large meals. Typically I suggest protein and fat to stabilize blood sugar but these foods can often be triggering to queasy mamas. Simple carbohydrates are often the best foods to try introducing once a wave of nausea subsides. Many mothers prefer salty and sour tastes while nauseous. Lightly oiled roast potatoes with salt and a glass of lemon water tends to be well tolerated.
Listen to your Cravings
Nutrition during pregnancy is a double edged sword. While in an ideal world, mothers would only be eating nutrient dense whole foods, this is unrealistic. It’s important for mothers to eat what they can keep down- which is often what they’re craving. Releasing guilt around this is crucial. It’s important to remember that you’re doing the best you can. If salt and vinegar chips are all you can stomach, make sure they’re free of MSG and ideally organic. These food cravings can act as a gateway into being able to stomach healthier options.
Avoid Supplemental Iron
Iron containing prenatal vitamins have been shown to increase symptoms of nausea and vomiting in the first trimester. If discontinuing a prenatal vitamin, mothers should supplement with methylfolate to prevent neural tube defects. It is key to opt for methylfolate rather than folic acid. Folic acid is poorly absorbed by the body and may remain unconverted in the bloodstream which could have negative impacts. There is evidence to suggest that high doses of folic acid may be linked to tongue ties in infants.
Supplementing Vitamin 6 has been quite well studied for reducing symptoms of nausea and vomiting. In one study the dose used was a 25 mg tablet taken orally every 8 hours for 72 hours. Food sources of B6 include avocado, salmon, sweet potato, chicken breast and pistachio nuts. There are also organic sour candies called “Preggie Pop Drops” which contain B6.
Ginger is a well known herb for easing nausea. In moderate doses, it is a very safe herb to use in pregnancy. The only concern is that it does stimulate blood flow to the pelvis so just be mindful not to over do it. Ginger ale is often suggested for nausea but it rarely contains real ginger and is high in sugar. I personally opted for ginger kombucha. Although the recommendation is to avoid kombucha during pregnancy because of the alcohol content, I personally felt comfortable with it. The amount of alcohol is low but if you do drink kombucha, do so at your own risk. In my case, I found the carbonation combined with the ginger made a big difference. Otherwise ginger tea or crystalized ginger for on-the-go are good options.
If you’re in the thick of it right now mama, my heart is with you. This may not have been what you expected pregnancy to be like. Before you know it the tides will turn. It is through this challenging experience that you are cultivating the resilience which will carry you through motherhood. Be gentle with yourself and remember that you’re doing the best you can.
How hard were you hit with nausea? Drop me a comment below with any additional remedies you found helpful!