M.Ed., RD, LDN, CLC
Andie is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Lactation Consultant, and Certified Personal Trainer who thinks of nutrition counseling as equal parts science and sensitivity. She specializes in lactation, sports nutrition, exercise fitness, and weight loss programs.
It is not uncommon for newly pregnant women to experience nausea and vomiting (often called “morning sickness”) starting around the sixth week of pregnancy. In fact, a whopping 50-80% of pregnant women are affected by morning sickness. Although the cause is somewhat unclear, morning sickness is believed to be a result of the increased hormones surging through your body during pregnancy.
Despite the nickname, the intensity and duration of symptoms are not limited to the morning, but can actually occur at any time of day. The good news is these symptoms (unless severe enough to cause significant dehydration or prevent adequate weight gain) are not harmful to you or your baby and usually resolve themselves around the twelfth week of pregnancy.
You’ll quickly find that everyone has an opinion as to the best morning sickness remedies. Feel free to experiment as everyone’s experience is different and you never know what might work for your body on any given day. Read What to Do for specific tips on combating morning sickness that work for some women, some of the time.
And always remember to stay hydrated! During pregnancy, your body needs approximately 8-13 (8oz) cups of fluid a day in order to support your baby’s development, nutrition, and well-being in the womb. If you find that you are eating less due to nausea, your fluid intake needs will only increase. And since vomiting can lead to excessive loss of water, nutrients and electrolytes in your body, you should make sure to drink an additional ½ cup to 1 cup of liquid for each episode of vomiting.
If you are unable to find relief from nausea, speak with your physician about your options (they may recommend ginger, vitamin B6 or another dietary adjustment). And contact your physician immediately if you are unable to keep food or fluids down for 24 hours. This type of experience can be a sign of hyperemesis gravidarum (severe and excessive vomiting), which can become dangerous to you and your baby.
Nausea can be at its worst on an empty stomach, so try nibbling on a mild yet nutritious food like citrus fruits (think orange, grapefruit and tangerine) or whole grain crackers throughout the day. Plan on eating more frequent smaller meals as they are easier to tolerate and also keep your stomach from becoming completely empty. And keep a snack by your bed so you can eat something first thing in the morning- some women find relief by having a snack even before getting out of bed!
Increase your fluid intake if you are not eating as much due to the nausea. In most cases you should skip the sugar-laden or artificially sweetened sports drinks and stick to water. Remember also to consume food and drinks high in potassium (like applesauce, banana, papaya, cantaloupe, honeydew and coconut water) and sodium (like clear broth and chicken stock).
If you find it difficult to drink, try taking small sips with a straw, try carbonated water, water with fresh citrus squeezed in or sucking on homemade juice cubes or pops or to keep yourself hydrated.
You can make homemade ginger tea by grating raw ginger into a cup with hot water and steeping for three minutes. Or purchase ginger tea bags at your local store. Ginger also comes in capsule form. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends taking three 250-milligram capsules of ginger a day to help relieve nausea. Just remember to always check with your physician before adding any herbal supplement to your routine.
Get lots of fresh air
Distracting yourself from feeling sick can be a big help, so make plans and get out of the house. And step away from the computer! The rapid and almost unnoticeable flickering of computer screens can sometimes bring on morning sickness symptoms.
Switch to lower fat foods for now
Focus on low fat foods like yogurt, fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grain pasta, and whole grain toast or crackers. But if only white bread and grains are appealing to you now, don’t worry! Just get back to whole grains when you’re feeling better. Also give quinoa, millet and teff a try, since they might be easier for you to tolerate than wheat products.
Choose bland foods over spicy
Rich, spicy, acidic, and fried foods (like french fries, curry, cheesecake, and fried chicken) can be irritating. Swap these items for more bland foods (like oatmeal, eggs, and starchier fruits and vegetables like banana and sweet potato).
Eat foods that are cold or at room temperature
Foods that are cold or at room temperature are more tolerable because they smell and taste less than foods served warm or hot. You may find colder foods easier to stomach since the aroma will not be as strong.
Try liquid foods and smoothies
You may find it easier to drink than eat when you are feeling nauseous. Try eating pureed soups or smoothies, like this Rehydrating Smoothie:
Try wearing loose fitting comfy clothes.
Take your prenatal vitamin with food
The iron in your prenatal vitamin might be aggravating your stomach. Make sure to take your pills with food (ideally a bigger meal or snack) to alleviate any discomfort. If you suspect your prenatal is the culprit, talk to your doctor about an alternative with less iron and focus on increasing your food sources of iron.
Avoid your own personal triggers
Take note of what triggers your nausea and aim to avoid them. Triggers can include particular foods, sights, smells and even sounds.
Avoid artificial sweeteners and caffeine
Artificial sweeteners and caffeine may exacerbate morning sickness symptoms for some women.
Matthews A, Dowswell T, Haas DM, Doyle M, O’Mathúna DP. “Interventions for nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy.” National Institutes of Health. Date accessed 6 August 2018.
“Morning Sickness (Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy)” Cleveland Clinic. Date accessed 24 July 2018.
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