Feeling nauseous in the early stages of pregnancy is incredibly unpleasant, but not unusual. Up to 80% of pregnant women will experience some form of nausea and over half will also experience vomiting. Often referred to as ‘morning sickness’ this name doesn’t accurately reflect what many women experience, as the symptoms can appear any time during the day or night. While these are easily managed for some, pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting can be debilitating for others and impacts on quality of life.
It’s not all bad, however, and there are a number of different treatment options and natural remedies that can help significantly with pregnancy nausea. Here’s my top five recommendations.
1. GET ACUPUNCTURE
Acupuncture treatment can be very beneficial during early pregnancy and can help to reduce symptoms of fatigue, nausea and vomiting by strengthening the function of the digestive system and calming the nervous system.
2. EAT OFTEN
Eating regularly can have a huge impact on how you feel – aim for a snack or small meal every two hours. This helps to keep your blood sugar levels constant and prevent fluctuations that often result in waves of nausea. Eating regularly also helps to stabilise energy levels, which often take a dip in early pregnancy. Avoid sugary or highly processed foods and focus on healthy, nutritious meals and snacks; particularly those rich in protein, good fats and complex carbohydrates. For example:
- Natural yoghurt with a drizzle of honey
- Avocado or nut butter on toast or crackers
- A handful of nuts
- Miso soup with noodles
- Eggs (boiled eggs are a very convenient snack to have on hand)
- A small salad with fish/meat/chicken/tempeh
- Vegetable sticks +/- hummus / nut butter / guacamole
- Soaked muesli / porridge
- Legumes (such as in a lentil soup)
- A small smoothie
3. TRUST YOUR CRAVINGS
To a degree of course… it can’t be hot chips for every meal!
However, it is important to acknowledge when certain foods make you feel worse and others make your feel better. For example, some women find that their usual go-to healthy snacks and meals – such as salads and veggie bowls – actually make their nausea worse, whereas others want to eat only those types of foods. Everyone’s symptoms will be slightly different and it’s important to adapt what you’re doing to what you and your body need.
I often recommend incorporating foods into your diet that, wherever you’re at with cravings, are cooked or partially cooked and therefore easier to digest. Some examples include: roasted veggies that can be pureed into soup, stirred through pasta or eaten on their own with a serve of protein (e.g. meat, chicken, tofu, tempeh, eggs); Slow cooked meats or cooked in a broth / soup / stew; baked or stewed fruits for yoghurt, muesli or snacks.
From a Chinese medicine point of view, if you experience phlegm in your throat, or have a constant build of up saliva in the mouth, reduce or avoid dairy products, especially milk and cheese. If you are feeling cold and tired, incorporate warm drinks and soups into your diet. If you are craving cold food and drinks, try freezing fruit such as grapes or watermelon and sucking on these or plain ice blocks.
4. STAY HYDRATED
While it may not seem like drinking water would relieve nausea, even mild dehydration will make symptoms more intense. When you’re feeling nauseous, it can be hard to stomach anything. In this case, small regular sips of water or herbal tea are recommended as that’s often most manageable.
Many women find it difficult to drink water when they’re feeling sick, in which case herbal teas (e.g. lemongrass, ginger or peppermint – which also have a soothing effect on digestion), soups (e.g. potato, which is generally well tolerated as it’s very bland) or broths can be a useful. Mineral or soda water can also help to increase fluids and may even help in cases where burping relieves nausea.
If you aren’t able to tolerate fluids and become dehydrated, it’s important to check in with your doctor or midwife as this can become a serious health issue. Signs that you’re becoming dehydrated include thirst, dry mouth, chapped lips, headaches, and infrequent or scanty urination.
5. PROTECT YOUR SENSES
A heightened sense of smell in early pregnancy will often worsen nausea, sometimes triggered by strong-smelling foods, body odours or perfumes / fragrances. While you can’t control the smells created by those around you, you can help to protect yourself from offending odours by using some of the following strategies:
- Using lemon, orange, bergamot or peppermint essential oil, place 3-4 drops on a tissue or handkerchief and carry it with you (in your pocket or bag) so that you can place it to your nose when you encounter any unpleasant or strong odours.
- Take the peel of a fresh lemon or lime and pierce with several holes before wrapping in a clean handkerchief or tissue and carry in your bag, so you can grab and smell if you come across unpleasant smells.
- At home, place several slices of fresh lemon and ginger in a slow cooker and leave on low with the lid off, which will fill your kitchen and house with the fresh scent.
Have you tried any of these? What have you found most beneficial to manage nausea and vomiting in pregnancy?