Research shows that as much as 70% or more of us can suffer from pregnancy sickness. After 5 years of trying for a second child I remember texting my sister saying - "I have never been so happy to feel so bloody awful!" My feelings of joy however soon wore off as my sickness hit me like a truck doing 150 kph. It didn't slow down until 26 weeks at which point I still continued to feel nauseous, right up until the end of my pregnancy. I was lucky in that I had sufficient knowledge and colleagues around me to find a way of getting through my illness. Others however simply cannot cope and this can lead to a serious condition called Hyperemesis Gavidarum.
So here are my tips for trying to get through nausea, based on my own and other women's experiences. It also draws on a research which argues for the use of the term 'Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy or NVP for short rather than morning sickness.
SLEEP - Many women on their second pregnancy report how much worse they can feel as they just don't get so many opportunities to sleep. Sleep can be a massive cure - get as much as you can and if you have a toddler, try to enlist daycare or family help so that you can rest up during the day.
FRESH AIR - go out for a gentle walk. Getting away from confined spaces, smells and familiar surroundings and doing gentle exercise, which sends blood flow to the muscles and away from your stomach, will really help to relieve symptoms
SHORT DISTRACTIONS. Being left alone to sit and think without clear focus can often make you feel worse. Think about what activities you can do to give you a full mind and body distraction - try attending gentle exercise classes, meeting up with family and friends or occupying your working day with short burst of activity that allow you to rest in between.
AVOID THE KITCHEN - Research shows that strong kitchen food smells, particularly fried fatty foods, meat and strong smells like chilli and garlic are more likely to bring on nausea - Stick to preparing cold meals and enlist family help to get the cooking done.
EAT WHEN YOU CAN - Many women find they can nibble on small amounts consistently to help, others just eat when they are feeling good. One woman told me that she looked forward to one meal a day where she found a restaurant near her work and where she could sit and slowly eat a bowl of soup and bread. Whatever works for you is fine - just make the most of the opportunities you have and eat as often as you can.
GO WITH FOOD CRAVINGS .... DO NOT worry if it's not always the best health choices - here are some healthy options which, where you can - try to eat. When you are feeling able to eat more sensibly - try to increase your uptake of the nutrients listed i our Pregnancy Nutrition blog post
If you crave....
SALT - go for pretzels or breadsticks rather than crisps and aim for low salt varieties
CRUNCHY - try carrot sticks, apple, celery and cucumber
SWEET – go for fruit rather than sweets - a bowl of strawberries or raspberries rather than jelly babies or haribos and chocolate
SOUR - try grapefruit juice or sucking on lemons, and vinaigrette dressing on salads. Look at ways to get the above nutrients in rather than opting for a jar of pickles instead.
SAVOURY - go for lots of vegetables rather than processed foods on your plate.
STODGY - go for a hearty bowl of porridge, baked potato or whole grain rice dish rather than chips and processed white breads/grains.
DEALING WITH AVERSIONS. I was flummoxed when my taste buds started to tell me that foods such as bread, in fact any complex carbohydrate, were completely sweet in taste and made me want to heave. Whatever your food aversion - here are some ways to help you cope;
When you can't stand.....
MEAT/FISH - go for pulses, diary and other protein substitutes that are bland in taste such as soya and a variety of beans and nuts and seeds. Look to taking an iron and zinc supplement and make sure you are getting essential fatty oils through upping your seed intake - go for linseed, hemp, sesame, sunflower oils and seeds.
STARCHES - most common starches contain gluten and it could be the gluten and/or sugars in carbohydrates that you are reacting to. Try non wheat/gluten alternatives such as buckwheat, rice flour, millet or quinoa.
SUGARS - this is the one food you don't need an alternative for as it's not essential in your diet - instead try eating more vegetables, rich in some of the nutrients above.
DAIRY - look for alternatives such as soya, rice milk or oat milk, goats or sheep's cheese. Some will need to be fortified with Calcium and vitamin D to help boost your nutrient levels so make sure you go for varieties that have these added in.
FRESH FRUIT AND VEGETABLES - if all you want to eat is starch and stodge - don't panic. Definitely take a multi-vitamin and iron tablet and as soon as you feel well enough to start eating fruit and vegetables, do so, as much as you can.
SIP WATER constantly and also drink teas such as ginger or lightly sweetened drinks such as watered down fruit juice - keeping your hydration levels up is of absolute importance so keep looking for drinks that are mainly water and which you can stomach. Avoid caffeinated drinks that can make you more dehydrated.
MEDICATION - There are safe drugs that are available and can really help you to cope - whatever you do - don't suffer in silence. Go to your GP and insist that you need medical assistance. Enlist the help of family/friends and or partner and keep telling yourself you will get through this!
IF YOU CAN’T HOLD ANYTHING DOWN – GO TO YOUR DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY.