Oh, mama, I FEEL YOU! “Morning sickness”, or more accurately, nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP) SUCKS!
NVP affects up to 80% of pregnant women and usually occurs between 5 and 18 weeks of gestation. Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), extreme nausea and vomiting that can last throughout pregnancy, affects less than 3% of pregnancies, but is very serious.
There are likely many factors that cause some mamas to get NVP, such as quickly rising hormones like HCG, estrogen, and progesterone and gastrointestinal dysmotility, meaning the muscles of your digestive tract are contracting abnormally. The bacteria H. Pylori, which is present in about half of people worldwide, may also be related to a higher incidence of getting HG.
The good news is that first trimester nausea is generally thought to be a sign of healthy pregnancy but that doesn’t mean you have to just suffer. Here are my favorite “quease-easers”:
Eat smaller, more frequent meals
NVP is often triggered by blood sugar fluctuations so keeping your blood sugar as stable as possible can help. Many mamas will have crackers on their nightstand so they can nibble on one even before getting out of bed. Having a protein-rich snack may also help keep blood sugars more stable overnight.
Opt for more complex carbs and veggies
When you don’t feel good, the only thing that might sound palatable are simple carbs like crackers, breads, noodles or pasta. But studies have suggested that sugar and processed carbohydrate intake can worsen nausea, where eating some veggies can help ease the severity overall. I suggest trying to eat starchy veggies like yams, parsnips carrots and limit sugary processed foods as much as possible. Cruciferous veggies, like broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and cabbage will also help promote liver detoxification, which will help process all those hormones.
One of the underlying causes of NVP is irregular muscle contractions in your digestive system. Studies have shown that eating protein-rich meals helps ease this. Eating protein also helps stabilize your blood sugar.
Avoid spicy, fried, fatty foods
These are some other big triggers for nausea and heartburn during pregnancy due to slowed digestion. Limiting fats temporarily will help ease digestive concerns.
Dehydration will definitely make you feel a lot worse. Sipping water with lemon throughout the day will help prevent dehydration and promote digestion and liver detoxification.
Mama, that fatigue is your body telling you to rest. Even if you don’t feel anything happening in your belly yet, you’re creating a little human! So unload any responsibilities that you can, ask for help, and slow down temporarily. If you have a kiddo at home already, this is a great time to teach them by example how to listen to their own body.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy has been shown to be beneficial in addition to pyridoxine. Don’t know where to start? I recommend doing some gentle, slow breathing to shift your nervous system out of “fight or flight”. Then try to shift your thoughts to peaceful, positive things like “I’m growing a healthy baby” or “This is temporary. I will get through this and it will be a distant memory”. You can also do some visualization to go to your “happy place” if you need a break. Imagine every beautiful detail of your favorite vacation spot and feel calm and relaxed.
Vitamin B6, aka pyridoxine, is a water-soluble vitamin involved in the metabolism of amino acids, lipids, and carbohydrates. It has been shown to be effective against nausea in pregnancy. It is also completely safe (pregnancy category A) at doses up to 100mg per day. I recommend taking the Pyridoxyl-5-phosphate (P-5-P) form which is more active. The typical dosage for nausea is 10-25mg three times a day, but could be taken in 50mg doses once or twice a day depending on what works well for you. If you can’t tolerate oral supplements, this can be given through IV infusion or injection.
I recommend starting this supplement once you find out you’re pregnant, or even before! Not only is B6 essential for metabolizing macronutrients and helpful with easing morning sickness, but it may actually help prevent or lessen the overall severity of NVP if taken ahead of time.