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Pregnancy is full of ups and downs. Some days you feel energized and ready to take on the world, and on other days you feel, well, not so great.
Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy are often referred to as morning sickness, but this is such a misnomer. For many pregnant women, any-time-of-day sickness is a better description. Your nausea may last for a few weeks, a few months, and—I'm sorry to say—it may even stick around for your entire pregnancy.
Most often, nausea is a fleeting symptom that occurs in the first few months, then gradually eases up. In approximately 60% of women, nausea and vomiting will resolve by the end of the first trimester (13 weeks) and if it doesn't, know that only 9% of women experience it past 20 weeks.
Hang in there, mama. Although there's no "cure" for nausea in pregnancy, there are many tricks you can try to ease your symptoms.
Natural ways to treat morning sickness
1. Eat small, frequent meals or snacks
Most pregnant people benefit from smaller, more frequent snacks in place of large meals when nausea is at its worst. This helps prevent you from getting too hungry and your blood sugar dropping—all common nausea triggers.
When you're nauseated or anticipate throwing up, it can be hard to want to eat, so simple carbohydrates tend to be the easiest foods to digest. Try plain crackers, toast, but also fruit, sweet potatoes and rice.
Eat slowly and mindfully. Ideally, stop eating when you're comfortably satisfied, but not stuffed.
2. Keep your blood sugar balanced by including some protein and fat
Sharp blood sugar fluctuations are another nausea trigger. Once you can tolerate a small amount of carbohydrates, try to follow it with a small portion of protein or fat-containing foods to stabilize your blood sugar, such as nuts, cheese, avocado, Greek yogurt, scrambled eggs, or beef jerky.
Protein at breakfast is especially helpful for maintaining blood sugar balance throughout the day, which can help alleviate nausea.
If eggs or other high-protein foods are unappetizing (a common food aversion in early pregnancy), try a protein shake. If you can stomach a smoothie, you can pack it full of protein powder to give yourself a bit more of a nutritional boost. I prefer grassfed whey protein or organic pea protein blended up with yogurt, kefir, coconut milk, or almond milk for liquid and 1 cup of fruit for flavor.
For extra staying power, a tablespoon of nut butter or coconut oil, or even half of an avocado, can add healthy fats. You may also be able to tuck in things like greens and collagen powder to lend additional nutrients. Some of my clients have even opened the capsules of their prenatal vitamin into their shake, as this was the only way they could get it down in the first trimester. Grab your blender and experiment.
3. Try salty, sour or cold foods
Some women find that sour or salty foods help mitigate their nausea, which perhaps explains why pickles are a common pregnancy food craving. In India and Mexico, sweet and sour foods, such as tamarind, are traditionally recommended to ease nausea.
Other options to try include:
- Lemon water
- Tangy popsicles (homemade versions with citrus juice work well)
- Avocado with salt and lemon juice
- Unsweetened dried cherries (a good balance of sweet and tart, like nature's sour candy)
4. Keep a snack at your bedside and move slowly first thing in the morning
If you wake up nauseous first (perhaps where the term morning sickness originated), you may find it helpful to keep a snack at your bedside. Saltine crackers are a classic, but I personally found that the steep blood sugar spike I got from them only worsened my nausea.
Roasted, salted cashews were my bedside snack of choice. I'd nosh on a few before even sitting up in bed and that seemed to do the trick (most mornings, anyway). It can also help to ease out of bed slowly if you notice that quick movements worsen your nausea.
5. Consider supplementing with ginger, vitamin B6 and magnesium
Certain supplements can be effective for managing nausea. One of the most common is vitamin B6. You can take a supplement or try munching on vitamin B6-rich foods, like avocados, bananas, pistachios, and sunflower seeds. Meat, fish and poultry are also good sources of vitamin B6, but are often not that appealing when you're nauseated.
Ginger has been used for centuries to reduce nausea and is clinically shown to be both safe and effective in pregnancy. Several forms of ginger are good options: ginger tea, crystallized ginger (dried, sweetened ginger slices) and ginger supplements (often sold in capsules).
Magnesium has also been found to lessen morning sickness. You can take a magnesium supplement or take a relaxing bath or foot bath with Epsom salts to boost your levels.
Your body can adapt
Reassure yourself that this is temporary and the human body is an incredible machine. Human beings would not have been able to survive famines without a complex system to make up for a temporary lack of nutrition.
When my nausea was at its worst, I remember feeling nervous that I couldn't eat all the nutrient-dense foods that I knew were so important for my baby's development. But, I had to trust that my body could handle the demands and draw from my nutrient reserves for the short term. They did, the nausea eventually went away, and I had a very healthy baby despite an imperfect diet in my first trimester. (Full disclosure: salt & vinegar chips were a lifesaver on bad days. Ideal? No. Better than starving? Yes.)
If you're struggling with nausea, take heart that you will get through this and you will be able to return to a more balanced diet when it passes.