October 30, 2013 22 Comments
I am almost 14 weeks pregnant, due in early May 2014! I’ve been struggling with nausea since the 5th week, but it’s finally, gradually beginning to abate. Now that I’ve gotten through this phase of pregnancy two-and-a-half times (my second pregnancy died at 7 weeks; the only good thing about that was ending the queasiness!) I feel qualified to share some advice on how to cope with the horrible experience of feeling sick to your stomach for at least part of every day for two months straight.
Every mother is different. Every pregnancy is different, even for the same mother; some details of my experience were different each time. But I hope that my tips will give you at least a few helpful ideas.
The most important thing to know is that almost everything you know about how to react to queasy feelings and vomiting is wrong. Probably most of your experiences with stomach upheaval have been caused by illnesses or food poisoning. In those circumstances, you want to get the bad stuff out of your stomach and then leave it empty so it can rest; when you start eating again, you need to choose very simple, quickly digested foods; you shouldn’t eat more of the food that made you sick. This is all very wise when your queasiness is caused by germs. But when it’s caused by pregnancy, these behaviors will make it worse or just won’t help. In fact, when you’re pregnant, a queasy feeling usually means you’re hungry. It took me weeks to learn this in my first pregnancy, and I didn’t feel hunger that felt like hunger until about the sixth month.
Eat like a hobbit. Start by putting some kind of nourishment–even if it’s only a few bites–into your mouth every hour while awake. Within a couple of weeks, you’ll learn at which times of day you can eat larger amounts less frequently. Develop a routine of frequent meals and snacks, adjusting as you find out what works best for you. This is my basic routine:
- First Breakfast. Eat something before you even get out of bed. A lot of pregnancy books recommend saltine crackers or pretzels for this purpose. However, these starchy foods are difficult to eat if your mouth is dry, and in my second and third pregnancies I got a horrible aftertaste from all bread-type foods. (My mother told me this is an amylase reaction. I’m apparently just more grossed-out by the sweet taste of it when pregnant.) Almonds are really good for easy eating in the dark, triggering just enough saliva to help you swallow them, and providing some protein which may settle your stomach better than simple carbs. I bought organic, steam-pasteurized almonds in bulk at the food co-op.
- Second Breakfast. As soon as you get up, eat a smallish portion of an easily digestible food. My favorites are organic cornflakes with milk, or warmed-up leftover rice with butter and either seaweed sprinkles or nutritional yeast flakes. (B vitamins, found in both nutritional yeast and seaweed, may help with nausea.)
- Elevensies. After you’ve been up and about for a while, eating feels more feasible. Do not make yourself wait until lunchtime. Don’t even wait until 11:00 if you feel hungry/queasy earlier! Try to get in some significant protein and/or fat at this point. Some days I’ve ended up walking Nicholas to school and then going back home for my “elevensies” at about 8:30 before I go to work. Some things I like to eat at this point are yogurt, scrambled eggs with toast, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
- Lunch. By this point in the day, I’m usually able to eat much the same kind of thing I would when not pregnant, but I have to be careful not to eat too much at once. If going out to lunch, bring a container to save leftovers.
- Tea-time. Eat at some point during the afternoon. It’s especially crucial if you work outside the home and go home at dinnertime–and even more crucial if you don’t have a Daniel making dinner ready around the time you get home, like I do–that you don’t ignore late-afternoon hunger thinking you’ll soon be eating dinner. It’s not “soon” enough when you have an embryo draining away your nutrients! Especially if there is any delay in getting home, you can get dangerously hungry, and that often leads to throwing up the first thing you eat. Practice pre-emptive snacking!
- Dinner. Like lunch, this should be a normal meal, but don’t over-eat.
- Nighttime Snack. I’m often surprised at how quickly my dinner seems to disappear. Two to three hours later, I can eat another full meal! This should be something nourishing, not dessert. If you do feel like eating sweets, also eat some protein that will digest more slowly. This prevents you from running out of calories so completely during the night.