Thursday, June 26, 2008

On the road to motherhood: what to eat when sickness hits

I received the following question through my nutrition thread and thought it merits a separate post:

"My husband and I just found out (to our great delight) that we are expecting our second child. The beginning stage of pregnancy leaves me utterly exhausted. Since I work full-time (which will stop when the baby is born!) I don't have many opportunities for rest and nap. Combine that with fairly severe sickness (which is not limited to the morning!) and I find myself extremely low on energy. I'm also finding it difficult to eat much of anything. (I lost 20 pounds in the first trimester of my first pregnancy! Eventually, I had to take some medicine for the hyperemesis, but there were no further complications. I'd like to avoid that if I can.) What recommendations do you have for foods that I should focus on? I know that there will be a few weeks when I can only choke down a few bites, and I want to know which foods should be given priority during this time (I'm also on good prenatal vitamins)."

First, congratulations on your wonderful news! Many women experience nausea at some point during pregnancy, in varying degrees of seriousness. Some just feel queasy a couple of times in their first trimester; others feel sick throughout the entire pregnancy.

Try not to let yourself become very hungry. Even if you feel like you can't keep anything down, sometimes not eating for many hours is precisely what makes you sick. If your blood glucose level is low, it can make nausea worse. Try to eat a few crackers or something else with carbohydrates first thing in the morning.

Generally your best bet is to eat smaller portions, eat slowly, and have your meals more frequently. For example, if you are used to three meals during the day, you might feel better if your main meals are lighter, and two or three small meals are added in between. Some women snack throughout the entire day in the first few weeks of pregnancy, unable to eat a whole meal - which is fine, if that's what helps you deal with sickness.

Listen to your instincts. Every woman is different, and your senses are probably trying to give you hints anyway. If something doesn't look good to you at the moment, avoid it, no matter how "good for you" it's supposed to be. Can't stand eggs? Don't fuss about the protein. Developed a dislike for garlic? Forget about its health benefits. According to your personal preferences, try to make your menu as non-irritating as possible.

What do I mean by "non-irritating"? Again, it's different for every woman, but many deal better with foods that don't aggressively attack our taste buds and smell receptors, like fresh fruit and vegetables, bread or toast, cheese without strong smell or flavor, lean fish and chicken. Often the foods that make your sickness worse are spicy, fried, strong-flavored or fatty.

Of course, you should try and continue to make your meals as balanced as possible. Just try and combine them from foods that you find to be non-irritating (for you).

I hope this was somewhat helpful, and look forward to hearing the advice of more experienced ladies. If you are pregnant, or already have a pregnancy or two (or more) behind you, you are invited to share your experience.


Kacie said...

I'm now approaching my second trimester, when in theory, the nausea ends.

As it turns out, I'm one of those fortunate ladies who didn't really get sick. I felt queasy for about a week, but it wasn't terrible.

I found that eating a slice of plain bread before I even got out of bed helped so much. Just a little bit on the stomach made me feel better.

Also, I used some of those motion-sickness bracelets called Seabands. I felt instant relief!

Melian said...

Wow! I can't believe I got "featured!" Thanks for the great advice. This is what I've been trying to do, and it's very comforting to have some encouragement that I'm doing okay. Thanks again for a wonderful blog!

Holly said...

I second eating before getting out of bed. Keep some crackers or other munchies by your bedside so they're convenient.

Thia said...

Generally good advice here, to listen to yourself. One thing I found helpful was gatorade. It helps keep the deyhydration away. Plus, there are many flavors to choose from. Sometimes it's great to make popsicles with (if that's what stays down for you). Otherwise, I would try a sip every 15 or 20 minutes.

Anonymous said...

I had horrible morning sickness (okay who are we kidding, 24 hour sickness) with my daughter. Avoid the foods you cant stand, eat something before your feet hit the floor in the morning! If you cant stomach prenatal vitamins then have flintstone vitamins. If smells make you nauseated try carrying lemon wedges with you and smelling them.

Anonymous said...

I remember well the sickness I felt in my third pregnancy. For some reason any protein food made me feel awful...even to smell & look at! It made it rather difficult to cook meals for the rest of the family during this time. I stayed with fruits, veges, & grain products for myself. I have to agree with Anna's advice to let your own appetite guide you. Don't force foods on yourself that increase your nausea right now. And if little nibbles throughout the day work better than full meals, then so be it. Best of luck!


Sarah K said...

When my Mum was expecting me she went through phases of dreadful nausea. One of the only things she found she could eat and enjoy (and not get sick with) was curry! Never normal, my family, and I love them for it.

Anonymous said...

I kept a small sack of Cheerios or Saltine crackers beside the bed and ate some before lifting my head off the pillow (and yes, that was both tricky and messy). I also made sure that I stood up slowly, and in stages. Good luck to your reader.

Mrs. Mordecai said...

I worked through my pregnancy, and I found that little snacks all the time really helped. Sucking on mints helped too. At home, ginger tea really helped to quell the nausea.

Gothelittle Rose said...

"You're Pregnant, and you're on SLIM FAST!?"

Well, yes, actually, I did. I kept a can by my bedside, as it doesn't require refrigeration before it's opened, along with a straw. Around 3am I'd wake up, crack it open, drink it down, and go back to bed. In the morning, I'd deal with the empty can etc.

It really did seem to help me a lot. I always kept a couple cans with me in my favorite flavor for anytime I was suddenly hungry. Sometimes I'd have two Slim Fast cans and three or four small meals a day.

Anonymous said...

Along with the sea bands and eating in small frequent quantities, something that helped me with all 5 of my pregnancies is to suck on a peppermint candy. This takes away the yucky taste in your mouth as well as any smells around you.

Mrs. Amy Brigham said...

I had terrible nausea with my first pregnant, but then a new midwife shared a little secret with me, and I've never felt ill during subsequent pregnancies. Many studies have shown a link between Vitamin B6 deficiency and morning sickness of all degrees. Either supplementing with a vitamin or eating vitamin B rich foods *before* pregnancy is ideal, but if this is not possible than doing so during pregnancy can also help. Rainbow Light or Super Mom prenatals are both food based prenatals that contain extra Vit B6, as well as pregnancy safe herbs (including the super beneficial red raspberry leaf & nettle) to help with a queasy stomach. As far as food goes, millet, teff, & quinoa are great, as are greens, legumes, cruciferous veggies, eggs, cod & salmon, beef, and sweet potatoes.

What's really interesting, at least to me, about the Vit B6 connection is the fact that celiac disease and other food allergies/intolerances deplete the body's store of this important nutrient AND a symptoms of both these types of illness is morning sickness in all degrees, but especially severe. Many doctors may not be aware of this connection, but for people who experience terrible morning sickness, it is very important that they at least look into the possibility, for their own relief from illness as well as the risks improper vitamin & mineral absorption has for an unborn baby and a nursing baby.

Lady M said...

Oh my. I can so relate. Morning sickness 24/7 for the first 4-5 months. I lost 15 lbs the first trimester with #1 and 13 lbs the first trimester with number 2. I have lost only about 7 lbs with this one and only JUST posted a weight gain at last weeks appointment - I am 25 weeks - and I still have random issues with nausea.

Tricks that worked for me - never, ever let yourself get overly hungry - it can make the nausea WORSE - and who needs that! Crackers help, but here is an odd one - if you like celery, keep it on hand - it worked small miracles for me with my pregnancies. There was some research about it shortly after my 1st child that backed me up on it but that was a decade ago. Ginger snaps helped. Small, nutritious snacks (aka tiny meals) helped. Avoid smells that bother you right now. I am so blessed to have a husband that understands that raw meat smell gags me - he has been dealing with the meat since January. Oh - and a potential protein source is peanuts, although some say do not eat it because it might send a child down peanut allergy road. I had peanuts/peanut butter with both of my older children - no peanut issues - only dairy allergies! Go figure.... Hope this helps - there is a lot of great advice in the comments and, of course, from Anna!

Kelly said...

Ugh this post brings back memories. I was one of those rare ones who had morning sickness the ENTIRE pregnancy.
For one thing the six small meals a day thing worked a great deal. As for what to eat try different things till you find out what works, for me and as far as I know I'm the only one but spicy foods and lots of veggies kept the nausea down.
Yeah I know it's weird even my doctor said she'd never heard of spicy food stopping the nausea(and heartburn btw). My point is don't be put off why what others say doesn't work. You just have to do trial and error.
On the upside for me I spent my entire pregnancy eating lots of chinese, italian, and mexican food. So my daughter is the only two year old who eats tons of broccolli, grean beans, and carrots.
God works in mysterious ways I guess.

tales_from_the_crib said...

Don't be scared to ask for pills, if you need them. It's far better to take something for the nausea than to end up on iv fluids. this was hard for me because I was certain I could handle it all by myself.
I'm currently in my second pg, and it is easier this time. Oh, and drinking water often but in very small amounts (like one sip every ten minutes) seemed to work better than drinking more in one sitting.

wendybirde said...

I've never been pregnant (sigh), but i have a very bad stomach and have had to learn about nausea remedies. The best one i've found is peppermint essential oil, it releases whatever air is in your stomach, making it have less pressure and so releiving nausea. Just put some drops on a tissue and inhale deeply and downwards. It really works well : )

Some folks put a drop of peppermint onto a bit of sugar (or something else) and put it under the tongue instead, but ive never tried it that way. It does work well to put a drop of peppermint on a teabag though before you make a cup of tea (yum).

Peaceful week : ) Wendy

More Elinor than Marianne said...

I found that I couldn't tolerate iron in my prenatal vitamins when I was pregnant with all 3 of my children. (I took a "No Iron" prenatal formula instead.) Every single time I took a prenatal w/ iron, I would have the *worst* nausea--all day long.

Anonymous said...

Some good advice here! Take what you can and use it. Personally, I get queezy laying down (all 3 pregnancies!) and I've thrown up plenty of crackers eaten prone. So I eventually gave up on that one!

I crave SALT! I'm in week 10 and it's getting easier but I still have super bad times. I'm actually eating sunflower seeds right now because I don't feel like eating but I need just a bit of something to make me feel better! :) My midwife gave me a Vit B shot weeks ago and either it didn't do anything OR would have been much worse?

For about a week, it seemed like all I ate was beef jerky. Then I ate wintergreen mints, then I'd get up and take my liquid vitamins (which, ironically are Vit B heavy) in an ounce or two of juice. It just seems to vary. Sometimes if I eat a little bit, it helps. But overeating can make me feel even worse, so try not to over-do. (That doesn't sound like a big problem, though!)

Take it one day at a time. Worrying or getting upset (easy to do with a 2yo & 8mo) or even feeling rushed can really make me feel worse. One day at a time, one bite or sip at a time.

Mommy of a 2yo, 8mo & one enroute

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna, you had me going there for a minute with the title of your post- thought you were going to make an announcement!! LOL

Suzanne said...

The *only* and I mean, *only*, thing that worked for me with morning sickness was lemonade. I drank lemonade when I felt the worst, and it helped. I've read that it's something about not being able to taste something sour and be nausaous at the same time. Whatever it was, it helped.

I also second the peppermints or other hard candies. They helped, too, but not as much as the lemonade.

Mrs. R said...

I am so glad you did this post! I am 6 weeks pregnant and the queasiness just hit me this week. At first I thought, "Oh, this will be so easy" and I followed my little diet chart to make sure that I got all my whole grains, protein, etc. Now I eat whatever I can keep down (trying to stay semi-healthy). It helps just to not hold yourself up to ridiculous standards. Just do the best you can and you won't starve to death if you don't hit every food group every day.

H and S said...

If you vomit regularly, I recommend drinking a large glass of water - or even better, lemonade - as soon as you get up. That makes it much easier to vomit, and it tastes better on the way back up. I know that sounds horrible but it made a big difference to me. Unfortunately I only figured that out in my third pregnancy.

Vomiting always made me feel much better, so I learned to make myself vomit when necessary - not with fingers down the throat, but by somehow thinking vomity thoughts.

Laura Brown said...

I know some women who swore by crystallised ginger to ease morning sickness. I've never been pregnant myself, but I can attest that it helps with motion sickness.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I've been lurking here for a while, but have never commented before. I enjoy reading your blog.

I'm currently 25 weeks pregnant, and I had hyperemesis earlier during this pregnancy. I found this website
to be helpful, and it would probably have some good tips for those with milder morning sickness as well. It was really helpful for me to read about some of the emotional aspects of hyperemesis on this website. I found that I was getting depressed just from being so sick for so long, and it was nice to read that that's pretty normal and it wasn't just me. (I'm better now :))

I would recommend not waiting to call your doctor/midwife if you get really bad and can't keep anything down. I wound up getting dehydrated and had an electrolyte imbalance. Once I went into the hospital and received IV fluids, an antiemic, and some potassium, I felt so much better. Just getting rehydrated will do you and the baby a world of good. If you do get to this point, there's not really anything you can do in terms of diet to make yourself get better.

Gina Marie said...

Ah, the title of this post had me thinking *you* were on the road to motherhood. The advice is good, and I'll store it away for when that day comes for me.

I remembered something I heard once, so I have a question: is it true that Orthodox Jews, or perhaps even the Jewish people in general, don't announce a pregnancy until it is three months in, in case of an early miscarriage?

Anonymous said...

I found that keeping up my exercise routine (jogging mixed with walking) really helped keep my energy level up.

Persuaded said...

i'm sure all of the other wonderful ladies have shared any advice i might have given, so i won't add any more. i do want to say that i saw the title of this post in a link somewhere and i thought oh my! anna is writing about being "on the road to motherhood"???!!!??? did i miss something? and i dashed over here toute suite to read any news you might have;)
imagine the surprise i had (and the laugh i had at my own overactive imagination!) when i saw what the article was really about!:D

blessings to you today my dear((hugs))

Anonymous said...

I don't often post to blogs but this one I can identify with! I've had 2 boys and the pregnancies were pretty much the same for nausea triggers etc, except about half as bad the 2nd time. Actually, foods themselves didn't bother me, it was things like someone's breath in my face (even a toddler's, the first time!) Nothing but pills would make much difference although I only used them when I had to go out or after too many bad days in a row. I was bemoaning this fact to my dad one day and he just told me to "eat stuff that comes up easy." That was mainly what made it bearable. The meal replacement Ensure with extra calories was a lifesaver during both pregnancy and nursing for boosting milk supply. Also, making myself throw up (concentration, not fingers in the throat) after a long stretch of queasiness helped settle things too. I could actually eat a decent amount and keep it down right afterward most times. Congratulations on your growing blessing!

Anonymous said...

Ooh, I'm going to come down pretty firmly against the use of peppermint oil or peppermint tea to combat morning sickness. While we know that peppermint can help with nausea, we also know that peppermint is a mild uterine stimulant that can cause contractions. Though it's rare, use of peppermint or peppermint essential oil during pregnancy can potentially precipitate miscarriage. While it's uncommon, certainly a woman doesn't want to do anything she might blame herself for if she were to eventually miscarry. Therefore, to be on the safe side, I'd stick to more traditional remedies like saltines and Sprite, ginger or ginger tea, and SeaBands.

Karen said...

I reccomend Ginger Tea! It only helps sometimes, but well that is better than none of the time! I always found that my sickness was worst around things I shouldn't have anyway. Hot dogs are out. They are really bad for you when you're pregnant as they can contain bacterias that can harm the baby. If you MUST have them, cook them until they steam. Fish is out, because of the mercury you should limit it to once a week or less. You can probably get away with a little more but why take the chance! These things made me sooo sick! Even the smell! The body knows what it's doing!

I've found just to eat WHATEVER you're craving. Even if it's chocolate. Seriously. Now isn't the time for guilt. Because chances are, if you eat anything you don't want, it won't stay down. And eating something is better than never eating anything and possibly ending up in the hospital!

Sometimes I'd crave bizarre things or things we didn't have, but if I could eat that or something like it, I was almost never sick!!

Beverly said...

You know, usually I really agree with your posts Ana, but I have to disagree a little with what you said, regarding "Nausea" ... for some of us, it goes far beyond *nausea*, to constant vomiting. Someone who hasn't been pregnant ever, and especially people who have been pregnant but never had this kind of morning sickness, can't really "get" it... but when you are walking through a store and catch a whiff of perfume and suddenly start vomiting... when you get up in the morning and for three hours straight are vomiting... that's not even as bad as it *can* get. Women who just get "a little nauseous" for the first few months are extremely blessed!!

However in the comments there are some GREAT suggestions! DO eat whatever you're craving, no matter how weird. For me, I found the only thing I could keep down was canned peaches and almost-raw steak.

And, GINGER. Ginger ginger ginger ginger. Ginger slices, crystallized ginger, ginger chews, ginger tea - all have amazing anti-emetic properties.

Finally, this is controversial, however, Mothering magazine ran a feature about how marijuana can be used medicinally to quell the kind of vomiting that WON'T QUIT during pregnancy (called Hypermyesis if I'm spelling it right). There have been numerous studies that show it is far less harmful to the developing fetus than some of the new, undertested synthetic pharmaceutical products. So it's something to consider! They have the article on their website in the archives (