Baby on board? Relieve morning sickness with these tips
Pregnancy is an amazing journey, but the nausea that often comes with it? Not so awesome
Many women experience morning sickness during pregnancy, with symptoms ranging from mild nausea to something more severe, such as the inability to hold down food throughout the day. Although morning sickness or what doctors refer to as NVP (feelings of nausea and vomiting), happens more commonly during the first trimester of pregnancy, some individuals experience it right up till the baby’s birth.
In fact, the term “morning sickness” is quite a misnomer for many women, because pregnancy nausea can occur at any time of the day. “It’s very, very common, but it’s also incredibly varied,” says Dr Marjorie Greenfield, ob-gyn and author of The Working Woman’s Pregnancy Book. “Lots of people are sick all day, some are sick mostly in the evening, and other are sick if they haven’t gotten enough sleep.” According to Dr Greenfield, approximately 70 percent of women experience nausea early in pregnancy, and about 50 percent experience vomiting.
Although millions of women all over the world suffer from NVP, no one knows for sure what causes it as severity varies among individuals. There’s no single cause, but experts point to increased hormone levels during the first few weeks of pregnancy as one of the most common. “These hormones are thought to stimulate a woman’s brain, making her more susceptible to queasiness,” explains Nicole Yost, M.D., an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre. Other researchers theorise that morning sickness evolved to prevent expectant mothers from consuming foods that are most likely to contain toxins or pathogens (such as meat and poultry), that have the potential to harm a developing fetus. “Maybe it’s an evolutionary trade-off that we keep a very, very low-risk diet in the first trimester of pregnancy,” says Dr. Stephen O’Rahilly, Director of the metabolic diseases unit at the University of Cambridge. Research also shows that women who experience NVP have a lower risk of miscarriage.
According to KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, most cases of NVP do not need treatment with medication (in severe cases, a doctor may prescribe drugs after an assessment). And although there are no sure-fire ways to prevent morning sickness, small changes to your diet and lifestyle can help you to feel a lot better. Avoid skipping meals (even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing) and opt for smaller but more frequent meals every two hours (instead of having three large meals a day). There’s no hard and fast rule about which foods work best for everyone who suffers from morning sickness, but many women find it easier to keep down food that’s bland or rich in carbohydrates (such as dry crackers or plain bread). Cold foods are also a popular choice as they don’t smell as strong and are thus less likely to trigger nausea. Here are some other diet and lifestyle changes you can try to reduce the symptoms of morning sickness:
SNIFF SOMETHING FRESH
“Morning sickness is often smell-associated,” says Miriam Erick, a senior dietician and nutritionist, and author of Managing Morning Sickness: A Survival Guide for Pregnant Women. “Estrogen is the hormone that’s responsible for the sense of smell, and if you’re a high estrogen hormone person – like when you’re pregnant – you have the radar nose of pregnancy,” she adds, “Ugly smells, smells you can’t get away from, and potent smells will make you nauseous.” Carry a bottle of lemon essential oil or a sprig of fresh mint in your bag, and take a stealthy sniff when you find yourself stuck in a crowded train or elevator with the overpowering smell of someone’s perfume.
ROOT OUT NAUSEA WITH GINGER
This ancient herb has been used widely in history for its many natural medicinal properties, and particularly as an antiemetic. Long touted as a stomach soother, numerous studies have found ginger to be effective as a safe and inexpensive treatment for nausea. Snack on a handful of crystallised ginger candy, chew on ginger capsules, munch on gingerbread cookies, or add a thin slice of it to hot water or tea, whenever a wave of queasiness hits.
PRACTICE DEEP BREATHING EXERCISES
Have you noticed that when we feel stressed, we also tend to feel more sick? And when we’re feeling sick, we subconsciously grip our belly, which further restricts blood flow and adds to the tension. “A pregnant woman’s body undergoes many changes during the gestation period, including an expanded belly, looser joints, slower digestion, and a hormonal system going on a roller coaster ride!” says Lay Peng, who teaches Pre-natal yoga at The Yoga School. Lay Peng recommends having a regular yoga routine as a form of self-care because “A strong and healthy mummy who feels empowered and has a more positive outlook, tends to enjoy the journey better,” she explains.
“Yoga practice helps to minimise or prevent a lot of discomforts,” she adds, “The breathing practice during yoga also helps to increase oxygen intake, enhance focus, and bring on a deeper sense of calmness for the mummy.” To take the edge off your nausea, try deep belly breathing as a way to reduce stress and tension in the body. Here’s how you do it:
- Seat comfortably in a relaxed posture, then take a deep breath into your belly.
- As you exhale, release any tension you feel, and allow your belly to just hang.
- As you take your next breath in, notice how you feel (without judgement).
- As you exhale again, visualise yourself breathing out any stress of tension that you’re carrying.
- Repeat for three minutes (or until you feel better).