Tips for the ups, the downs, and in between
During the 4th and 5th week of my pregnancy with my twins, I naively thought that I would escape morning sickness (https://www.mother.ly/child/no-apologies-necessary-raising-twins-is-uniquely-amazing). I had heard and seen friends go through it and truthfully, I was scared. I was also confused about how it would feel and how it would affect me. I’d seen friends turn pale and run in desperation to the washroom. I’d seen colleagues keep a bucket beside them throughout their entire pregnancy. On the flip side I’d see some waltz through pregnancy without a hiccup, and that’s what I thought I was getting into.
Morning sickness is a term to describe the nausea and vomiting that happens during roughly 50-80% of pregnancies. The term morning sickness is in fact a misnomer, as symptoms can happen at any point in the day – many practitioners now refer to it as Nausea and Vomiting during pregnancy (NVP). (https://www.todaysparent.com/family/family-life/starting-over-nazlia/)
Symptoms of morning sickness commonly begin around week 4-6 gestation, and last strongly through the first trimester, then subside and often disappear during the second trimester. For some “lucky ones” (myself included!) morning sickness can last right through the entirety of pregnancy, or develop into a more severe form, known as Hyperemesis Gravidarium.
But why, oh why, must we feel this way?
It is not completely understood why morning sickness occurs. Or why it happens more fiercely for some women and not others. Here are some of the competing theories:
- The increase in HcG (human chorionic gonatropic) and estrogen levels has been linked to morning sickness. HCG levels taper out during the 2nd trimester, around the time most women report feeling less sick.
- Some research points to NVP being a way to “cleanse” the body to create a healthy and safe space for baby http://news.cornell.edu/stories/2008/06/pregnant-women-get-morning-sickness-protect-fetus
- A stressed out liver and adrenals (glands that produce a variety of hormones), can be contributing factors. Many women have reported that eating foods that help with liver and adrenal function has reduced their morning sickness.
- Low blood sugar levels have been linked to increased feelings of sickness. https://www.mamanatural.com/natural-morning-sickness-remedies/
- Morning sickness is correlated with a viable pregnancy and a lower chance of miscarriage. Interestingly, one study has found that babies born to mothers with high levels of morning sickness have higher intelligence. https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2016/09/26/morning-sickness-is-linked-to-reduced-risk-of-miscarriage/#7e83cafb2bd0 http://www.sickkids.ca/AboutSickKids/Newsroom/Past-News/2009/morning-sickness-kids.html
The Supports – Tips for Getting Through NVP
While it’s interesting to explore the causes of morning sickness there is no debating that you will want to curb the symptoms you are experiencing. There is no sugar coating it, morning sickness is awful. But like anything along our parenting journey, setting up systems of support can help us glide through with fewer sticky spots.
Here is a master list of potential remedies to help out with morning sickness. Like with everything, there is no universal approach – some of these suggestions will help tremendously and some may not help at all. It’s worth exploring each of them all to find out what works best for your own body and help find some respite.
- Watermelon, cucumbers plus other water laden, non-acidic fruits and vegetables. The high water content and subtle tastes make these fruits and vegetables appealing.
- Ginger. This powerful root can be used fresh, in tea or cooking, or in a candy or lozenge form. It is well known that ginger has a soothing effect on the stomach. HERE is a recipe for a delicious ginger and peach smoothie, to help with NVP. https://www.facebook.com/ilovebeingamomcafemom/videos/1445823975475675/
- Peppermint. Just like ginger, peppermint can be consumed or used in a variety of forms. Another amazing way to use peppermint is in a diffuser or roll on stick. http://www.saje.com/ca/peppermint-halo-PEHACA01.html
- Vitamin B6. The vitamin has been known to help nausea and vomiting for over 60 years. You can find ginger and B6 combinations at health food stores. Vitamin B6 is also the primary ingredient in Diclectin, the prescription pill for NVP. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/264162074_Studying_the_Antiemetic_Effect_of_Vitamin_B6_for_Morning_Sickness_Pyridoxine_and_Pyridoxal_Are_Prodrugs
- Probiotics. It’s well known that probiotics have amazing healing effects on our bodies. Finding a healthy gut balance can help with overall well being, and set a positive environment for a growing baby. http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/changing-gut-bacteria-through-245617
- Acupressure. Acupressure can help in the same way that they help with motion sickness. Evidence points to the positive effect of adding pressure on the P6 point, which is located three finger widths below the wrist, on the inner side. The product Seabands have a similar effect, with no need to hold the pressure yourself. https://exploreim.ucla.edu/self-care/acupressure-point-p6 http://www.sea-band.com/morning-sickness-relief/morningsickness/
- Easy to digest and bland foods. Most women report strong food aversions, combined with a heightened sense of smell. Reducing oils in cooking, making sure vegetables are softened, and avoiding spicy and pungent foods. Smoothies and puree pouches are great options, that can help you get some extra calories and necessary nutrition.
- Small frequent meals. Often times, women feel that they cannot hold a lot of food due to feelings of repulsion or nausea. However, huge gaps between meals can exacerbate feelings of sickness. Spreading food through the day (and sometimes even a snack in the night), can balance out blood sugar levels, and help reduce NVP.
- Adrenals and liver helping foods. Many women report that adding foods (and eliminating foods that negatively affect) that are known to support adrenal and liver function has helped their NVP. Leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, ghee, liver and sea salt are beneficial, while gluten and refined sugars can have a negative effect. You can find out more here and here. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-25960/7-foods-to-eat-to-heal-adrenal-fatigue.html https://www.rodalewellness.com/health/the-best-foods-for-your-liver
- Sleep, Water, Exercise and Fresh Air. Keeping active, rested and hydrated is beneficial for any stage in pregnancy. Keeping our health in check can help keep NVP at bay. Exercise outdoors (even just walking) can also act as an amazing distraction method.
- Call on your village. Building your support system as early as possible, is a wonderful idea. This might be asking for help with daily tasks or chores, looking after your other children so you can rest, or meal preparation. These are your people and they want to help.
It’s important to remember that, although it feels like it, this won’t last forever. You’ve got this mamas.
We’d love to hear – have you tried any of the suggestions above? What has worked for you?
Kate is a Birth and Postpartum Doula, Childbirth Educator, Infant Sleep Educator and Yoga Instructor, currently living in Toronto, ON. When she’s not supporting new families on their parenting journey, she is running after her wonderfully active 2-year-old twins. She loves exploring the ravines of the city, drinking green tea and green smoothies (in large mugs), and the colour purple.