If you hadn’t guessed that I’m pregnant by now, especially with the dearth of original recipes from December through March on this blog, consider the cat officialy out of the bag! We are having a little girl in August of this year, and we could not be more excited to meet OrganicBaby 🙂
First things first: this post has a completely misleading title, because it implies you can win against severe morning sickness. You can’t, and the sooner you start seeing morning sickness as Step One in My Life Has Changed Forever Because of this Baby, the better off you’ll be. I went down in flames in my fight against morning sickness day after day for 20 weeks. When people ask how you can get through that much nausea and vomiting, I always say it becomes your new reality and you learn to cope … so that’s what this post is about. None of the pregnancy books or websites did me much help, so I decided to compile my own tips to share with you for when things get really bad. If you have ideas to contribute, by all means, leave them in the comments below.
I wish I could have called this post “natural remedies for morning sickness,” but the truth is that I relied on lots of junk when things were dire, and that I was heavily medicated for more than two months just so I could go to work for 8 hours a day (if that) before sleeping for nearly 12. I’ll share several natural coping strategies for mild sick days or simple nausea, but if you get one takeaway from this post, it’ll be this: nobody gets a medal for enduring debilitating morning sickness, and you could be putting your own health and that of your baby at risk. So don’t be a hero. Just call your doctor before you end up in the hospital. (Second and third takeaway: morning sickness frequently lasts all day, and very often lingers past your first trimester, so start prepping psychologically for that by adopting a stance of acceptance now).
In no particular order, here are my tips for coping with morning sickness.
If a particular food stops being appealing to you, don’t try to force it. Most people who know me know that I abhor wasting food. I’ll eat boring leftovers all week just to avoid throwing away extra food, since the statistics on food waste in America are so alarming. I had to get over this. No sooner will you get home with a steaming plate of Pad Thai than realize it suddenly lives on what I call “the no-fly list.” In this case, my husband was only too eager to eat double his takeout portion, but I can’t tell you how many times this scenario repeated itself, even with foods I usually adore (like Italian) right after I’d told our friends or family a certain restaurant was safe. I had to get used to ordering something only to find it revolting when it arrived on the table, and I took home a lot of uneaten portions that Mark ate later — or not.
Outsource your grocery shopping, cooking & dish washing, ideally to the person who knocked you up in the first place, and don’t even think about reading a food magazine or watching cooking shows. In fact, look down whenever a restaurant commercial comes on screen, too. Why risk it? One minute you’re watching The Biggest Loser and the next you’re hanging over the toilet bowl like an actual loser, just because you didn’t have the good sense to turn away when Red Lobster started hocking some butter-drenched lobster. <<shudder>>
While you’re at it, outsource the toilet bowl cleaning, cat box scooping & anything else involving chemicals to Baby Daddy, too. Not only are many conventional cleaning products unsafe to be around while pregnant (to say nothing of the hazards of cat litter), you’ll be in no mood to encounter whatever germs, smells and hair are clinging to the surfaces of your home once morning sickness strikes. And if you DO get sick and find the sink, shower or toilet in non-pristine condition, you won’t be able to stop. Don’t get sick 10 times when you could leave it at 1 or 2 just because someone doesn’t like to mop.
Leave a snack next to your bed and eat it AS SOON AS you wake up, like before your feet hit the floor. And then, if you need to, just lie there for 5 or 10 minutes to let your stomach catch up. I built in time to do this every morning so I wouldn’t run late. (While you’re at it, keep some Tums on your nightstand, too). The bedside snack will also come in handy if you wake up nauseous in the middle of the night after hitting the bathroom for the second (or third, or fourth) time.
Sleep on your left side. This not only quells nausea quickly, it can lessen heartburn as well. I was shocked at the difference I felt between lying on my right side versus my left.
Don’t leave home without a granola bar. Or whatever your safe food seems to be. Ditto for water. Unlike when you have the flu, water may help you move past a bout of sickness due to baby, and will keep you hydrated — extremely important for your baby’s development while your body’s blood volume is doubling. Other things that worked for me: baby carrots, rice crackers, Cheerios, fruit smoothies (especially, in a pinch, these from McDonald’s), mashed potatoes, bagels and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. Having hot water with lemon in the morning also proved extremely soothing, and I found that most drive-thrus (such as Dunkin’ Donuts) will sell this to you for 50 cents or less. What did I avoid? Unfortunately, an awful lot — my aversions were WAY stronger than my cravings. I couldn’t be around eggs of any kind, bacon, shrimp, black olives, coffee, melted cheese, pepper, the smell of booze, ground beef, sausage, Thai and Chinese food, and pretty much anything fried. I also learned to indulge the rare cravings very carefully. You might think you want a whole jar of candied jalapenos, but really one or two will suffice — and if you overdo it by one spoonful they’ll come right back up, making them immediately repulsive from that moment onward.
Find the least-foamy toothpaste you can. Brushing my teeth was just insulting: the paste would make me gag, which would make me sick in the shower, which meant I had to clean the tub so my husband could use it next, AND I somehow had to get my teeth clean again without getting getting sick. My dentist had a good tip: if you really can’t take the toothpaste in the a.m., which I truly couldn’t for a few weeks there, just brush as best you can at night, and then brush with a bare toothbrush after rinsing with a good mouthwash in the morning. And don’t forget to floss, even if your gums are bleeding for the first time in your life thanks to all those hormones. You can really develop some serious problems if you don’t take care of your teeth while you’re pregnant.
Don’t take your prenatal on an empty stomach. If you are having trouble getting it down at all — either because it makes you nauseous when it hits your stomach, or because the act of swallowing a pill makes you gag — talk to your doctor about other options. When I had gone almost a week without being able to get mine down (or keep it there), I got the green light to switch to these chewables, available at Target or online via Amazon.
Graze, don’t stuff. Not only will you be shocked at how full “full” really feels when you’re newly pregnant, over-eating will make you nauseous and potentially cause you to vomit too … and all you can do is wait for digestion to take its course, barf bag in hand. (Related tip: if you’re getting in the car or going on the subway, don’t leave home without packing a barf bag in your purse. They actually make stylish ones, believe it or not).
If something works — for example, waffles for breakfast, lunch & dinner — just go with it. I found things with sugar helped stabilize me so I could at least leave the house (canned fruit, cranberry juice, waffles with maple syrup, etc.) but I’ve heard just as many people say sugary things made their nausea worse. Personally, the usual upset-tummy trio of toast, peppermint tea and ginger candies made me MORE sick while pregnant, so don’t be surprised if your go-to cures feel like the opposite as well. There’s no right or wrong (unless you’re thinking Brie, white wine and espresso are your go-to remedies).
Wear loose clothing and don’t be afraid to transition into a bigger size or a maternity outfit earlier than you planned to, aka before you’re really showing. Button down shirts, tight jeans, nylons and even your favorite underwear may just pinch too much around the middle now, and you shouldn’t feel silly going into clothes that are one size larger or switching to maternity hosiery (what’s that, you say? Well Spanx makes a line of nylons for moms-to-be that will change your life. Check ’em out and order liberally! Just try not too laugh too hard at the photos while you do so.)
I plan on doing a post soon about my top maternity wear recommendations, since it can be so challenging to find a) petite preggo wear and b) work-appropriate attire that’s fashionable, professional and comfortable.
PS: Need a laugh? When all else fails, visit the PregnantHusband Tumblr blog and I promise you, your day will improve. (Not that it can go downhill much when you start with your head hanging in a toilet).
Things that worked great for me
- Getting to bed early
- Starting each day with a carb-heavy meal (like a bagel)
- Sipping broth (like Matzo Ball soup or chicken noodle)
- Avoiding perfume and other strongly scented products
- Dressing in layers to prevent overheating, which often led to nausea
- Keepings baths & showers lukewarm
- Keeping a sliced lemon in a Ziploc in my purse for counteracting offensive smells
- Packing applesauce and granola bars in my purse for emergencies
Things that didn’t work for me, but worked for others I know:
- Peppermint tea
- Ginger candies
- Taking an approved sleep aid to prevent overnight sickness
Other tips from friends that I didn’t try:
- Seabands (motion-sickness wrist cuffs, available at any drug store or Amazon)
- Vitamin B6
- Sleep aids
Final words of wisdom: Your baby will be fine no matter how much (or how little) you are eating. My typical day included a bagel in the morning, a bag of Cheerios that I nibbled on all day, ginger ale or lemon water in my hand at all times, and mac n’ cheese or soup and toast for dinner. If I could muster it, I ate an apple and a granola bar for a snack. It was seriously lame and nutrient-deficient. But you know what? You can make up for the lack of vegetables, iron, legumes and Omega-3’s later in your pregnancy. Don’t worry if you can’t fit in much exercise, either. You can get back on board with physical activity after your morning sickness fades, so just take care of yourself and get lots of rest in the meantime! Baking a baby is hard work, and there’s no shame in getting the rest you need. And click here for a helpful prenatal wellness & nutrition guide from the hospital where I’m delivering in Boston.