So for those of you who read my blog regularly, you may have noticed that things were a little quieter than usual over the summer. Yes, we had a very busy summer filled with outdoor fun, cottaging, family and friends so that certainly meant a little less time in front of the computer.
However, there is another reason I was flying under the radar – I was dealing with a terrible case of morning sickness that figuratively and literally stopped me in my tracks for about 10 weeks. Yep, I’m pregnant with baby #2!
In fact, I’m 20 weeks pregnant already – so halfway through. But in this case, the time has definitely not flown by quickly. From about week 6 until week 16 time went very slowwwwwwwly as I battled with nausea like I’ve never felt before. I’m not sure why they call it morning sickness because I was nauseous all day, every day, including through the night. It was brutal. What made it particularly surprising for me was that my first pregnancy had not been like this – sure, I had a few nauseous and tired days here and there but for the most part I felt pretty good. This time around was a whole different story – proof that every pregnancy can be very different.
I was really lucky in one sense in that I never threw up (aside from one terrible day when I decided to take the bus – big mistake!) so I was able to get through work and everyday life relatively well, albeit slowly and miserably. Sure, I was in bed by 7pm most nights but it could have been much worse. For this reason, I decided I would try to manage my sickness without taking prescription medication. (Taking any medication, pregnant or not, is a very personal decision and everybody makes the choice that is right for them. In my case, I told myself that if the nausea lasted past the first trimester I would consider trying a different approach. Luckily I started feeling so much better at 16 weeks and now at 20 weeks I feel completely like myself again…thank goodness!)
So, seeing as over the last few months I have had the opportunity to test out my recommended ways for dealing with morning sickness, I thought I would write a post about it to share some tips and strategies with you. If you are suffering from morning sickness (a.k.a. nausea and vomiting during pregnancy or NVP) I encourage you to give the following natural remedies a try before you go and fill that prescription – they might just bring you the relief you are looking for.
1. Vitamin B6
There have been quite a few studies linking Vitamin B6 to decreased symptoms of morning sickness. In fact, Vitamin B6 (or Pyridoxine) is one of the ingredients in the best known prescription medication for NVP.
Vitamin B6 is easy to find in any health food store in tablet form*.
Let food be thy medicine! Ginger also has a number of studies to support its effectiveness in alleviating morning sickness. In fact, some of these studies show it to be more effective than Vitamin B6.
You can find ginger root in capsule form* at your local health food store. This is a more concentrated form of ginger that may be more effective in severe cases of NVP because it allows you to get a therapeutic dosage more easily.
For less severe morning sickness, ginger root in the form of tea (just slice up fresh ginger root and boil in water for 10-15 minutes) or in food can also be beneficial. I actually bought some ginger candies and kept them in my purse at all times, and found that they brought a lot of relief when I was feeling really nauseous, particularly after eating.
There is something about the smell of peppermint that automatically makes me feel fresh and well! I sipped a lot of peppermint tea during my first trimester. I found that it settled my stomach and quelled the nausea, even if only for the time it took to finish the mug. Peppermint candies would probably work well too.
I also recommend buying some peppermint essential oil. I would spritz some on my pillow at night to help me fall asleep (since my nausea tended to be worse when I was tired) and often rubbed a little bit under my nose or on my neck so I could smell it throughout the day. You could even put a drop or two directly on your tongue.
Even something as simple as brushing your teeth with a peppermint flavoured toothpaste or chewing peppermint gum can bring relief.
4. Drink Water
Most experts agree – staying hydrated can really help decrease morning sickness symptoms. I was lucky because I never had a problem with water so I drank tons of water and herbal tea, but for people who are having a hard time keeping it down, ice chips or even popsicles made with fruit juice are a good option.
I put this one in capitals because it is so simple, yet so important. When your body is not feeling well, it’s a signal that you need to take some time to slow down and take care of yourself. Adequate sleep and rest is obviously important during your entire pregnancy, but particularly during the first trimester. There was a definitely correlation between my tiredness level and how sick I felt. The more rested I was, the more the nausea would subside and this is true for many pregnant women.
It can be difficult (especially if you have one or more other kids to deal with) but you need to get as much rest as possible. This is the time to ask for support and accept help from your partner, friends and parents. Talk to your employer (if you feel comfortable) about working from home as much as possible so you can nap. Say “no” to plans and don’t feel guilty about it. Put you (and your baby!) first.
It’s easier said than done, but don’t try to be a hero. It was particularly hard for a type-A person like myself to come home at 6pm and go straight to bed – I felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything and that I was letting Tyson down. But at the end of the day (and after much convincing from my husband), I realized that the world wasn’t going to end if I didn’t get everything done, and that I had to listen to my body. After that I really started to embrace the afternoon nap as much as I could and it made a HUGE difference.
Although it may seem tempting to live off of only bland carbohydrates during pregnancy, it’s important to make sure that your protein intake still remains high even while suffering from morning sickness. While most of the support for this recommendation seems anecdotal, it definitely makes a difference for a lot of people. I think part of the reason behind this is that protein keeps you full longer, keeping the nausea at bay. Another school of thought on this is that because protein is so important in many of the processes involved in creating a baby, your protein requirements are higher, so the nausea is a result of a protein deficiency when your body can’t keep up with the demand. Whatever the reason, a higher than normal protein intake usually does help decrease morning sickness.
Although high protein foods may be hard to stomach when you are feeling super nauseous, it is important to try your best to find a protein source you can tolerate. I found that a smoothie made with a couple scoops of protein powder or hemp seeds is a great way to get protein first thing in the morning, and luckily I was able to eat most meat, eggs etc. (it was the vegetables that were the biggest problem for me). Try finding a low-carbohydrate, high-protein snack bar as another alternative.
7. Eat Small Meals/Eat Often
I struggled with the same conflict all throughout my first trimester – I felt too nauseous to eat (or to want to eat anything) but being hungry made me feel worse! Then when I could find something that I actually felt like eating, I ended up eating too much of it and feeling worse!
I recommend (and the other experts agree) that eating frequent, small meals is the best solution to this problem. I always kept food beside me and just nibbled throughout the day so that I was never really hungry or really full. It really made a huge difference in how I felt.
Along these same lines, make sure to eat something before you go to bed (waking up hungry and nauseous is the worst!) and have something beside your bed to nibble on before you get up.
At the beginning of the first trimester when I was starting to feel nauseous and just craved carbs to keep my stomach settled, I found that a lot of the crackers out there were pretty nutrient void, highly processed and full of ingredients that I didn’t want to be eating (especially if it was the ONLY thing I could eat!) Early on I was happy to discover Nairns Scottish Oat Crackers at my local grocery store. These were the perfect morning sickness cracker for me – I loved the oat flavour and the crispy, crumbly texture and they come individually wrapped in packages of 6 so I could easily keep a pack stashed in my purse, beside my bed and at my desk. From a nutritionist’s perspective, it made me happy that they contain 100% whole grain oats, are high in fiber, and do not contain hydrogenated oils, genetically modified ingredients or any artificial colours or flavours. They are wheat free and technically gluten-free, although the oats are not certified gluten-free so celiacs or people with a severe gluten intolerance should be cautious. And you can purchase an organic version, although I was usually only able to find this variety at health food stores.
I ate a lot of these crackers during the first few months of my pregnancy and even now, they are one of my favourite snacks topped with almond butter and a bit of cinnamon honey. So it was a nice surprise when Nairns contacted me about trying some of their other flavours and providing a giveaway to my readers! Whooohoooo!
Nairns not only makes oat crackers but cookies as well. I am trying to avoid most processed sugar during my pregnancy but these are a nice treat once in a while I am craving something sweet and the ingredient profile is pretty great for a packaged cookie. If I’m not going to make a homemade treat for Tyson (which lets be honest, I was definitely not doing during my first trimester), these are a great alternative (the ginger ones are my favourite).
So now it’s time for a lucky reader to give these delicious crackers and cookies a try!
Enter for your chance to win a selection of Nairns crackers and cookies valued at $30.00.
The giveaway will close at midnight EST on Tuesday, September 30th, 2014 and is open to Canadian residents only (sorry to everyone else). I will announce the winner next Wednesday morning. Good luck!
I should note that other natural options for morning sickness that I didn’t try include acupuncture, homeopathics (see a certified homeopath or naturopath) and wearing one of those sea sickness bands. Each person is different so what doesn’t work for one person may work for someone else so you should explore all options!
* Always consult with your doctor or midwife before starting any supplements during your pregnancy. For information on specific dosages, speak with a qualified nutritionist or other healthcare practitioner for recommendations specific to your needs.