What to Do when You are nauseous and Pregnant
As not all pregnancies are made of glowing faces and growing bellies
My pregnancy was a living hell. I spent the first 4 months in bed, unable to go to the bathroom by myself (dizzy spell), and I vomited until the day I gave birth. Around half to two-thirds of all pregnant women will experience morning sickness to some degree, particularly in the first trimester. Morning sickness is typically at its worst early in the day, but it can strike at any point during the day or night (Better Health 2019).
Nausea normally resolves after the end of the first trimester, but one in five women put up with vomiting and overall sickness in their second trimester, and few unlucky mothers (me) will feel miserable for the duration of the pregnancy.
I suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), which affects 1 in 1000 pregnant women (Better Health 2019), and although it varies in severity, it always leads to weight loss, dehydration, violent vomiting episodes and, most of the time, hospitalisation.
When I was in the thick of it, I remember being afraid of not being able to survive; my skin was translucent and dehydrated, I was severely underweight, and my strength was gone. There were weeks where I couldn’t talk as it would bring up nausea, and I survived on Diet coke and crackers.
Being a nutritionist, I was afraid that my baby was missing out and I was hurting him by not being able to supply his developing brain with the right amount of nutrients.
I came to terms with it, as there wasn’t much I could do, and I realised that he was sucking everything he could find out of my blood, and as long as I gave him protection and a warm womb, he was going to thrive.
At that time, I couldn’t stand people giving me unwanted advice or bringing me foods they thought I had to eat; I couldn’t stand ginger (under any forms), I couldn’t take vitamin B6 supplements (I couldn’t literally swallow a pill), and I couldn’t stand even looking at meat, eggs or fish as they all made me gag. Some weeks tomatoes were the only food I could stomach, and I would completely reject them the week afterward. I went through a rye bread, papaya, mint ice block, diet coke, and spaghetti phase; I was driven by what my hormones wanted, and there was no point in resisting it.
Yet, I felt lonely and completed scared. If you are as sick as I was, or if you simply suffer from strong nausea, keep on reading, as you may find comfort in knowing that you aren’t the only scared butterfly out there.
The baby will be fine
In most cases, morning sickness doesn’t harm the woman or the unborn child, but if you suffer from severe vomiting, dehydration and weight loss, I invite you to see your healthcare provider…now. You may be prescribed with anti-nausea pills that are deemed to be safe in pregnancy. I didn’t want to take medications, but those pills allowed me to stomach a piece of bread with jam every day, which gave me enough energy to get through the day.
Some women are concerned that the action of vomiting may threaten their unborn baby, but the physical mechanics of vomiting won’t harm the baby, as it is perfectly cushioned inside its sac of amniotic fluid (Better Health 2019)
Genetic predisposition, blood sugar imbalance, high hormones. Science still doesn’t know why some women have to endure such a tough pregnancy while others are completely fine. The point is that you will be ok, and numerous studies have discovered that moderate morning sickness is associated with a reduced risk of miscarriage.
There is also the possibility that by depriving your body of the appropriate nourishment will cause your baby to be born earlier, or to be underweight, which is why it is imperative to keep getting checked by your doctor to see where you are at.
What can I do?
There wasn’t much I could do in the first 3 months, and I simply laid down and waited, with all the hope in my heart. But there were a few tricks that improved my life tremendously as soon as the hormones decreased, and I could leave the bedroom:
Protect yourself from smells; don’t cook, don’t chop the food, ask someone else to do it and if you can, ask them to cook with the door closed; my husband had to make himself coffees in the balcony in the middle of winter. But at least he didn’t make me sick.
Eat whenever you can, as an empty stomach triggers nausea; choose high carbohydrates food as they are better tolerated, and always have a packet of crackers on your bedside table for those times when you get woken up by a wave of nausea.
Drink. For a month, I drank diet Coke, which is not advisable, but it prevented me from dying (sounds extreme, and it was). Drink water, herbal teas, juices, suck on ice blocks or ice cubes, do whatever it takes to keep the body hydrated.
Wear comfy clothes, rest whenever you feel the need to and don’t resist it. I have heard of people that tried acupuncture and homeopathy; I couldn’t drag my poor body to see anyone, but these treatments have proven to be surprisingly effective.
Try ginger and vitamin B6 if you can stomach it. I couldn’t, but there is a tone of research out there.
Stop worrying too much. I’m a qualified nutritionist and I certainly know how many nutrients a pregnant mother and her growing belly need, but I got to a point where I had to let go of fear and guilt, as it wasn’t serving me. Do your best every day and be ok with where your body is at for now.
Keep the eye on the prize: it will end, you will be fine, and the day after you give birth you will be allowed to eat whatever you feel like. Pizza anyone?