I am living and breathing this article as I write it. As a wonderful surprise, we found out that I was pregnant with our second baby a few weeks ago, which is exciting because I get to walk in the shoes of other bella mamas and re-visit pregnancy health and wellness for myself all over again.
However, one thing that’s been very different to my first pregnancy, is how sick I’ve been in the first trimester. With my first, I barely experienced any nausea. Although I was tired most of the time, my first trimester wasn’t plagued with trips to the bathroom to be sick.
It’s very different this time ‘round.
The last few weeks have been extremely difficult, physically. I’ve been sick several times a day, exhausted and emotional. So, what better way to harness a horrible feeling than to put pen to paper and talk about morning sickness and how I’ve learnt to combat it.
And just for the record, morning sickness isn’t limited to the morning at all. Women can experience it any time of day and it can last the whole day as well. For me, the nausea lasts the whole day but it’s worse from about late afternoon to bedtime so I’ve learnt to do the most important things I need to do (including take my prenatal supplements) and eat meals during the day, in preparation for feeling ill at night.
What is morning sickness?
To support a healthy pregnancy, your hormones like estrogen and progesterone have to soar to new heights. Progesterone increases up to 100 times its normal amount and estrogen goes up to 15 times its usual limit. These hormones keep the baby safe and encourage normal development but they’re responsible for everything from sore boobs and vomiting to mood swings and irritability. The first trimester (the first 12 weeks of pregnancy), is when women experience the most hormonal fluctuations. Hormones often level out after week 13 when the placenta (your baby’s life-support organ) takes over producing these hormones and nausea and fatigue often ease up.
Why do you get it?
One theory is that morning sickness is Mother Nature’s way of getting us to avoid certain toxins in what we eat and drink. Our normal diets are replaced with basic easy-to-stomach foods such as fruit, crackers, bread and soup. At least that was the case for me. I’ve only been able to stomach meat or dairy in very small amounts and the thought of anything fried, overly processed or too sweet, makes me feel sick. As frustrating as it is to not be able to eat all the well-balanced meals as I want right now, I’m trusting that my body knows best and I’m trying to be kind to myself by eating what I can, when I can.
Whether you believe this theory or not, the most important thing in the first trimester (when your baby’s organs are forming), is to avoid and limit toxin exposure. For me, this experience, has made understand the importance of pre-pregnancy health even more, because it’s in that time before you conceive that you can detox your body and build up your nutritional stores. After all, morning sickness doesn’t discriminate. A healthy woman might be faced with a few weeks of nausea, vomiting and an aversion to fruits, vegetables and food she would normally eat, so it's best to be prepared beforehand.
However, if you didn’t get a chance to prepare your body before pregnancy, don’t despair. The best thing you can do now is to get on a good prenatal supplement and limit your toxin exposure by eating organic wherever possible, avoiding processed foods and eating as many fruits and vegetables as you can.
What can you do?
If you’re reading this and already battling nausea and vomiting, I feel ya sister! Here is what helped me get through the last few weeks…
1. Take a good-quality prenatal supplement
Despite being as sick as a dog, I’ve taken my prenatal supplements every day. I love taking high-quality brand like Naturelo because I know my baby is getting the essential vitamins and minerals she or he needs in this time. When it comes to prenatals, it’s important to find a brand that uses real folate, and not the synthetic kind that most brands use because there's a real difference. This is especially important in the first few weeks of pregnancy to reduce the chance of birth defects.
2. Have small, frequent meals
I am not a natural “grazer”. I’ve always preferred to have three larger meals and don’t snack much in between meals but I’ve had to adapt and change the way I eat the past few weeks because low blood sugar levels heighten nausea. Now, I don’t go far from my bed in the morning without having eaten half a banana or half a granola bar or half a glass of unsweetened almond milk. Even though I don’t feel like it, I’ll have a few bites of something every couple of hours so I don’t get too hungry throughout the day.
3. Try natural remedies for queasy stomachs
Ginger is an age-old remedy because ginger neutralizes stomach acid. I’ve had a lot of pickled ginger the past few weeks because one of pregnancy cravings has been shrimp and avocado sushi made with brown rice. You can also try ginger tea or a low-sugar ginger ale. Simple soups and plain crackers have also been life-savers for when I’ve felt queasy. In this time, it’s also best to avoid greasy and overly processed food as they put more strain on your digestion.
4. Citrus fruits
Many women report that the scent of citrus can ease nausea momentarily. I also found this to be true and ate half a grapefruit and a couple of oranges each day because I enjoy the scent (and taste!). Lemons in ice cold water has also helped ease the nausea and on really bad days, I suck on lemon wedges because this takes the nausea away, at least momentarily.
5. Load up on Vitamin B6
Research has found that a Vitamin B6 deficiency can make nausea and morning sickness worse. If you can stomach them, try and eat as many foods rich in Vitamin B6, even before nausea and morning sickness kick in. The best sources of Vitamin B6 are turkey breast, grass-fed beef, pistachio nuts, avocado, pinto beans, garbanzo beans and sunflower seeds.
6. Try essential oils
Just like the scent of citrus, many women report that citrus or peppermint essential oils can help relieve nausea. I use a diffuser to diffuse grapefruit oil throughout the apartment. I have my diffuser in the kitchen, where I feel the most nauseous because of all the different food smells.
7. Get fresh air and sunshine
It might sound cliché, but fresh air and sunshine, does do wonders for the soul. There were days when I felt so sick, I couldn’t leave my apartment and I just had to be kind to myself and accept that it was that way. But on the days that I could, I would go on a short walk with Elijah. Even if my body felt ill, at least I was feeding my soul with some fresh air and sunshine and that brought some relief.