Morning Sickness Survival Guide

Health & Wellness on 04.15.11
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Babies make me sick. Literally. I am one of the "lucky" women who suffer from horrible morning sickness. As a dietitian, I am well aware of the dos and don'ts of eating healthy for pregnancy. However, as a pregnant woman, I am also realistic about the havoc morning sickness can play on your normal eating patterns. 

What is Morning Sickness?

Morning sickness usually starts around week 6 of the first trimester and can last up to 14 weeks for some women.  It can make you feel sick or nauseous in the morning, evening, or all day long. It is largely thought to be caused by a surge in pregnancy hormones like human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), cholecystokinin, estrogen, and progesterone. These hormones are responsible for the successful implantation of the embryo into the uterus, frequent urination, gastrointestinal upset, or that metallic taste in your mouth.

Awesome, right?

Can Morning Sickness Hurt Your Baby?

In most cases of mild nausea and occasional vomiting your baby will be just fine as long as you stay hydrated and try to eat a well balanced diet. However, if you are continuously ill, have frequent vomiting every day, have rapid weight loss, and cannot keep food down you may have a more severe case of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). If you are diagnosed with this condition check out the Her Foundation for more information.

I was never diagnosed with HG, but my morning sickness was still pretty bad. The biggest challenge for me was the aversion to food.  Most days I could not even enter the kitchen. Certain foods were banned from the house because of the smell they produced. Even as a veggie loving, food obsessed nutritionist I was lucky if a vegetable went anywhere near my plate, let alone a full well balanced meal meeting all of my pregnancy dietary requirements.

I did, however, make sure I supplemented my temporary poor diet with a good prenatal vitamin. With my first pregnancy, I took them at night before bed so I could stomach them. This time around, I am taking a powdered formula. Prenatals also come in chewable or one-a-day options. Some doctors recommend Flinstones vitamins. I, however, do not agree. These children's vitamins do not have the nutrients pregnant women need and they also contain food dyes. (Check out the latest information on food dye regulations here)

10 Tips and Tricks to Help Fight the Morning Sickness Blues

1. Eat smaller, more frequent meals. Since the increase in hormones can affect your blood sugar eating smaller portions more often can keep your blood sugars from rapidly rising and falling. Most women find that eating carbohydrates or protein foods are the most appealing when they feel sick. Also, try to drink fluids in between meals since too full a belly may cause vomiting. If you have been vomiting, try a sports drink to replace electrolytes like glucose, sodium, and potassium.

2. Eat crackers before getting out of bed. Since many women feel sick first thing in the morning, eating a little snack in bed and then waiting about 20 minutes before getting up can help to raise blood sugars and prevent nausea.

3. Avoid sick triggers. Simply avoid foods and smells that trigger nausea. Try sticking to cold foods because hot foods have a stronger smell. I had a friend whose husband had to brew his morning coffee in the garage. Supportive husbands are the best! Eat what appeals to you, as long as it is safe during pregnancy. If this means eating cheese puffs and lemonade everyday for a few weeks, so be it. Remember this is temporary and healthy foods will appeal to you again when you feel better.

4. Avoid greasy or fried foods. These foods are hard to digest and can also make you feel too full, ultimately causing vomiting.

5. Keep cool and stay rested.  A hot or humid room can elevate nausea. So can a stressed out tired mama. Make sure to get enough rest during this crucial baby growing phase of your pregnancy. Try relaxing activities like naps, watching movies, yoga, and foot rubs from that supportive husband.

6. Ginger, ginger, ginger! Ginger is an aromatic root that helps to settle tummies and ease queasiness. Look for ginger beer (non-alcoholic) made with real ginger, ginger tea, or chewable tablets. You can even make ginger ale popsicles to help you cool down.

7. Citrus or vinegar. The acidity in lemons, limes, and grapefruits can help get rid of the metallic taste that excess saliva gives you. Same goes for vinegar.

8. Sea Bands. These bio-bands are the same ones sold at drug stores for motion sickness. They put pressure on the P-6 acupressure point located on the wrist and help alleviate some of the nausea.

9. Exercise. As hard as it may be to get up and walk when you are feeling sick, exercise really can do wonders. Try going for a walk for some fresh air and to get your mind off how you feel.

10. Hypnosis, acupuncture, and acupressure. These complementary treatments have been known to alleviate nausea and vomiting in morning sickness. If you have a well recommended licensed practitioner near you, give it a try.

If these DIY morning sickness cures are still not helping, your doctor can prescribe you anti-nausea or anti-vomiting medication.

During the many weeks of morning sickness I have a tendency to feel reallly sorry for myself. On the bad days, I rely heavily on my husband to step it up in the kitchen and the childcare department. I usually have ginger in hand and I am never too far from the bathroom. Often the best course of action is to just put my head down and forge on, knowing this will all be over soon and I will enter the blissful 2nd trimester. It also helps to look at my beautiful daughter and  remember that babies may make me sick, but they are worth it in the end.

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