Last year while I was pregnant I, like most women, experienced some typical first trimester issues, including waking up in the night to pee, like-never-before exhaustion, and my all-time favourite, nausea!
While none of these things are insurmountable, combined they can certainly make day-to-day life difficult and unpredictable! I found that I had to just adjust to getting up in the night and increase my sleep time/reduce my work time to get enough rest to deal with the first two, while the nausea was a bit more of a project.
Thankfully I found some strategies to reduce nausea of pregnancy that worked well for me that I’d like to share with you!
Nausea of pregnancy (also known as “morning sickness” even though it happens all day long) usually begins between weeks 4 and 9 of pregnancy and typically lasts until between weeks 12 and 14, peaking somewhere in there. It is estimated that 75-80% of women experience nausea of pregnancy with or without vomiting and it can range from mild to severe.
In my case, the nausea started around 5 weeks and lasted until about 13-14 weeks and I think it was at its worst around 12 weeks (at which point I started to worry it would NEVER end!).
5 ways to reduce nausea of pregnancy:
1. Eat healthily and frequently
This was BY FAR the strategy that worked best for me, but I found that I had to have the right foods at the right time for this to do the trick. Eating the wrong foods would make me feel worse! So, I’m going to share with you exactly the foods and timing I found worked best for me in the hopes they will help you too!
Rule 1: Protein and fibre required
The best meals and snacks for me always combined both protein and fibre. Carb-heavy or heavy/fatty meals and snacks made me feel definitely worse.
The BEST quick foods for nausea of pregnancy I used were:
- Dried figs: High fibre, provides a boost to blood sugar, good source of iron. Figs worked better than any other fruit I had, so I was buying them in bulk and I carried some with me always!
- Almonds: High fibre, protein, crunchy. Provided just the right balance to the figs, I would often eat 2 figs plus a handful of almonds as a snack between meals and this worked well.
- Smoothies: I would combine frozen fruit, frozen peas, a bit of protein powder, and ground flaxseed to create the perfect hybrid of carbs, protein, and fibre that I could tote with me and drink quickly as a snack.
- Turkey: Sliced and preservative-free, great source of quick protein
Rule 2: Alternate snacks and meals
When I was feeling nauseous I had little interest in eating, but eating ALWAYS helped me feel better. So, initially I was just trying to eat SOMETHING regularly but soon found I was eating more than I wanted to and by the end of the day I was bloated and tired of eating entirely. So I changed to a system of alternating snacks with “mini-meals”.
For example, a snack might be:
- 2 figs plus a handful of almonds
- 1 cup of a pre-made smoothie
- A few pieces of dried mango plus a few carrots
- A couple of handfuls of homemade Honey Granola
- 1 package of wheat-free instant oatmeal
- A decent snack bar (I liked Vega Snack Bars) for times when caught needing a quick snack
I also changed from eating full meals to having “mini-meals” by making what used to be normal meal for me at breakfast, lunch, or dinner and then just cutting the whole thing in half and having one half now, the other half in 2 hours. I could bring the second half with me somewhere to reheat or just put it in the fridge to reheat in a few hours for my meal, part 2. In this way, I still filled up with a “meal” but didn’t overeat just to be nauseous/hungry in a few hours.
I also kept a lot of foods on-hand for quick “mini-meals” such as sliced preservative-free turkey breast, these mini-meatballs (make a big batch to freeze and reheat as needed)
Rule 3: Timing is everything
I found I needed to nibble on something every 1-2 hours and often if I waited ANY longer (e.g.: 3 hours), then eating did not relieve my symptoms and I just felt worse for the rest of the day. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so plan ahead!
To ensure I ate on schedule, I plotted out my day and planned what I was going to have every 2 hours. In many cases I ended up carrying quite a lot of food with me to work, but it definitely paid off in feeling semi-normal while trying to focus on doing my job!
One day, just by accident, I noticed that I felt a lot less nauseous after I drank a bunch of water. I then realized that at that point I was probably a bit dehydrated and then confirmed that if I kept myself well-hydrated, I felt much better!
I know this one seems overly simple/obvious, but if you, like me, don’t feel like eating OR drinking anything during the first trimester of pregnancy, it is really easy to become dehydrated.
During pregnancy, your body is busy building a baby plus all the baby’s life support structures, such as the placenta, amniotic fluid, and YOUR blood, which increases in volume beginning weeks 6 to 8. All this work requires fuel, not just in the form of nutrients/calories, but also water, which is key to the right chemical reactions and waste elimination functions happening. So it makes sense that a pregnant woman will need more water too.
How to drink enough water:
- Aim for 2-3L of water daily, using some method to keep tabs on how much you are drinking (like a water bottle that you must drink a certain number of times per day)
- On waking, drink 500mL warm water with splash of lemon juice
- Water, sparkling water, herbal tea all count as water so try different drinks to increase variety
- Coffee, caffeinated tea, soda, energy drinks, juices DO NOT count as water and dehydrate you further, so avoid these entirely
- Drink in sips instead of gulps, since drinking a lot of water quickly can make you more nauseous!
3. Good nutrition plus the right supplements
A healthy diet with adequate protein, fibre, and nutrients (that means eat your fruits and veggies!) plus appropriate supplementation can help you prevent or reduce many of the difficult symptoms of early pregnancy, including nausea. For the best guidance for your individual situation, seek treatment from a Naturopathic Doctor.
The most important guideline to follow is to have fruits AND vegetables AND protein at EVERY meal. Yes, that means breakfast too! This combo has been a major rule for me for years and has really paid of for keeping me satisfied and less nauseous all day.
The supplements that worked for me:
First and most important is to take a a QUALITY prenatal multivitamin a couple times per day.
I mostly took NFH PreNatal SAP which provides appropriate doses of methylfolate, iron, zinc, iodine, and B vitamins. However, during the worst of the nausea I found the prenatal made me feel worse! This is very common due to the iron content in most prenatals, so I switched for a few weeks to a combination of NFH B6 SAP (a B complex with extra vitamin B6 which is a common and effective treatment for nausea of pregnancy) plus Thorne 5-MTHF (a methylfolate supplement, converted one more step than folate which is important for ensuring adequate levels to prevent neural tube defects, especially in those with genetic enzyme defects such as MTHFR).
Throughout my pregnancy I also took NFH Magnesium SAP at a low dose which I think helped me feel better overall due to blood sugar stabilization, bowel movement regulation, and muscle function support.
Ginger is perhaps the best known treatment for nausea of pregnancy and is available in all kinds of forms: tea, chews, candied, capsules, tablets, tinctures, etc.
I found ginger was helpful some of the time in any form, but I definitely developed preferences! I was not a big fan of the ginger chews as I found them too sugary and they left an aftertaste in my mouth. I try candied ginger only once and found it disgusting! Ginger tea was good, but I soon got very tired of the taste of ginger, so stopped drinking it most of the time.
My most preferred form was St. Francis Ginger tincture I could take in a bit of water as needed.
5. Homeopathic remedies for nausea of pregnancy
Finally, the strategy that helped me most when everything else was still not enough was to always have on-hand a couple of go-to homeopathic remedies to take in times of need.
Keep in mind that which remedy works for YOU may be radically different than what worked for me or someone else. To figure out which remedy is best suited to your individual symptom picture, see a Naturopathic Doctor or homeopath who can take your case and prescribe appropriately.
I found that Sepia worked best for me most of the time as it fit my symptoms very well. But sometimes, with more intense nausea, I tried Ipecac and that did the trick.
Remedies for nausea of pregnancy:
- Cocculus: nausea that is worse from motion (like motion sickness), may also have metallic taste in mouth
- Colchicum: sensitive to odours (especially smell of food), worse from smell of cooking food (especially meat, fish, eggs), therefore cannot prepare meals
- Ipecac: nausea not relieved by anything, no relief from vomiting, may also have increased saliva
- Nux-vomica (aka Colubrina): worse in the morning, hyper feeling, insomnia, better from vomiting, may also have retching without vomiting
- Pulsatilla: worse in a stuffy room, better from fresh air, worse from overeating, worse from fatty/rich foods
- Sepia: worse thinking/smelling food you normally like, worse fasting/empty stomach, better eating small amounts, generally feeling irritable or indifferent