7 Tips For Managing Pregnancy Nausea
According to the American Pregnancy Association, over 50% of pregnant women experience “morning sickness” during their first trimester.According to the American Pregnancy Association, over 50% of pregnant women experience “morning sickness” during their first trimester. Not exactly a fun way to start the process! Pregnancy nausea can strike at any time of the day (the term “morning sickness” is not very accurate), it can last throughout the day and/or night and it can bring on intense food aversions and even vomiting. Most women experience an improvement by their second trimesters but some, unfortunately, can suffer from it throughout their pregnancy. A small percentage of women can experience something called Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) which is extreme nausea and vomiting that typically lasts throughout the pregnancy and can lead to severe dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, nutritional deficiencies and weight loss. It’s important to note that HG is not the same thing as pregnancy nausea and requires medical attention. There are no remedies that will eliminate nausea during your pregnancy (although you can discuss medication options with your doctor) but there are some methods that can help you manage it. It’s important to note that there is very limited research on this topic so much of the advice is anecdotal and what works for one woman might not be as effective for the next. Work through these tips until you find something that works for you!
1. Stay hydrated with a twist. Freeze fresh lemon or lime juice in an ice tray and pop a lemon/lime ice cube into your water bottle before heading out the door. In addition to a potential soothing effect, adequate fluid intake will assist your body as it works to nearly double your blood volume. You might even consider sipping on juice before you have a meal if you’re having trouble warming up to the idea of eating. Sometimes this can cut the food aversions just enough to allow you to eat enough.
2. Use those peels! Some studies suggest that inhaling citrus can help reduce pregnancy nausea. I recommend putting orange, lemon or lime peel in a bag and carrying it in your purse. Every time you sense the nausea increasing, or you’re dealing with less than appetizing smells, squeeze the peels and inhale the refreshing aroma. Make sure you replace the peels often so they stay fresh. You might also consider putting a couple of drops of orange or lemon essential oil on a felt pad for a similar effect!
3. Avoid sudden movement. Be mindful of sudden movements. Any quick movements – rolling over in bed, getting up quickly, etc… can exacerbate the nausea. This means exercise might not be possible for some women during the first trimester and that’s perfectly OK. Anything that makes you more nauseous and less likely to eat is not supportive to you. Remember, it’s likely temporary and once your energy increases and your stomach settles you can get right back into exercise that is approved by your physician.
4. Stay a step ahead of your hunger. Oftentimes women describe the dilemma of being very hungry but feeling too nauseous to eat. As difficult as it is, you must find a way to get something in and it doesn’t need to be fancy! The longer you put off eating due to nausea, the worse it can get. Keep saltine crackers (or any bland food that works for you) next to your bed and stocked in your pantry as a last resort to stay ahead of your hunger. You might even feel averse to saltines but once you get yourself to take a bite, you might notice that improves.
5. Eat more if your body is asking for it. Forget the advice that your body doesn’t need additional food during the first trimester. Some women’s bodies will need additional food in the first trimester, as evidence by their increase in hunger! If you think that’s you, don’t be afraid of it. This is just the start of very strong appetite cues that you’ll be feeling throughout the pregnancy experience. Those cues are there to help you eat enough during this complicated and taxing process. Give it the fuel it needs!
6. Give meal duty to someone else. Have someone else make your meals – while you’re in another room. Interaction with food and food aroma can be enough to make you want to skip that meal all together. If dinner includes anything remotely pungent, step out of the room until the meal is ready for you to eat. Depending on how you do with lingering smells from the kitchen, you might even need to do dinner in bed now and then! Do what you need to do to help your body get the food it needs during this unique time.
7. Keep the pantry well stocked. I know. Nothing really sounds good right now. However, if you sit down to make a list of foods that are even slightly acceptable, you might be surprised with how many you can come up with. Take note of the flavor profiles you’re gravitating towards – sweet, salty, sour? Think of other similar foods that you might try based on your flavor profile preference and emphasize foods that emit minimal odors and won’t linger on your tongue. Once you have a decent list, head to the store (or send someone else) and purchase ample amounts of these foods so that your pantry and fridge are always stocked. For a temporary amount of time meals might look a little funky but that’s ok.
These tips should give you a head start on keeping pregnancy nausea tolerable. Know that this is a very challenging time in your pregnancy so just do the best you can. Very few women nosh on raw veggies and quinoa during their first trimester so if the thought of those foods makes you ill, that’s totally normal. You can have a perfectly healthy first trimester without an “Instagram worthy” diet (Note: You can have a perfectly healthy pregnancy and life without an “Instagram worthy” diet). Eating enough of what is tolerable and staying hydrated are the most important things. If your pregnancy nausea is so severe that you can’t keep food down, you have a very small list of acceptable foods or you are experiencing weight loss, please discuss this with your doctor and consider reaching out to a perinatal registered dietitian who can provide you with individualized support.
Hello! I’m Lindsay Stenovec and I’m the Principal Registered Dietitian and owner of Nutrition Instincts® San Diego Nutrition Therapy. My team and I provide nutrition counseling in the areas of EATING DISORDERS, INTUITIVE EATING, PRENATAL AND POSTPARTUM WELLNESS, DIABETES, family feeding coaching and INTEGRATIVE... Read More