Feeling nauseous is often the first sign of pregnancy. The term “morning sickness” is actually a misnomer, as nausea can strike at any time. And the extent of the sickness can range from mild queasiness to hours of bowing down before the porcelain goddess. Up to 85% of moms-to-be experience nausea symptoms during pregnancy, usually starting 4-8 weeks after conception and subsiding in the second trimester.
Though nausea can be one of the most dreaded symptoms of pregnancy, it does not harm your baby and might even be an indicator of a healthy pregnancy. Nausea in the first trimester appears to be linked to the production of the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone (often referred to as the pregnancy hormone), which is produced once the fertilized egg attaches to the uterine lining. As hCG levels rise, these hormonal changes can trigger a domino effect of heartburn, indigestion, and slower digestion. If you’re suffering from a temperamental tummy early on in pregnancy, read on for our recommendations on what to eat, drink, and do to manage your morning, mid-day, or night nausea.
What to Eat
The first trimester of pregnancy can sometimes feel like survival mode, sending you into battle with either nausea or fatigue. Smell aversions might make it difficult to stomach any food, but then an empty stomach can cause a build-up of acid and hunger pangs. Make these smart food choices to ward off nausea:
Bland is Best.
Try to avoid foods that have strong rich flavors and creamy dishes, since they might make nausea worse or even induce vomiting. When you’re feeling not quite right, stick to foods that are metabolized quickly, such as dry, bland starches. For a quick meal, try buttered toast, baked potato, plain rice, salty noodles, or fortified cereals. And for a snack, grab crackers, pretzels, or chips.
Pack in the Protein.
Proteins are loaded with amino acids, which are essential building blocks for your growing baby. Because high-protein foods take longer to digest, they stay in the body longer, making for a happier belly. Snacking on nuts or cheese sticks throughout the day might ward off symptoms of nausea. Eggs in any form - if you can get beyond the smell - are an “eggcellent” meal during pregnancy because they can both keep you sated and confer the cognitively beneficial nutrient choline to your baby.
Try Nature’s Cures.
There are a number of nausea remedies derived from nature that are safe to use during pregnancy. With roots in Southeast Asia, ginger has a long history of use as a treatment for stomach problems. Its bioactive compounds, such as gingerol, paradol, and shogaol, are believed to interact with the central nervous system to relieve nausea. Besides adding dried ginger root to your meals, you can find edible ginger in the form of ginger snaps, ginger lozenges, and crystallized ginger candy. Peppermint is also believed to have therapeutic benefits for the stomach. Mix fresh mint in your water, sniff mint leaves, suck on peppermint candies, or chew peppermint gum to soothe an upset stomach.
Reap the Fruits of Your Labor.
Fruity foods have a mild, sweet taste and are gentle on the stomach. Some women find the smell and taste of lemon to be effective in warding off nausea. Try adding lemon slices to your water, and if you can’t stomach the taste of lemon, sniff fresh lemons or lemon essential oil. Unsweetened applesauce is both a good source of carbs and nutrients and a time-honored treatment for an upset stomach. Packed with potassium, bananas are another easily-digestible, nutritious snack for when you’re feeling sick. Even artificially-flavored fruity treats, such as citrus candies, lemon sorbet, and gummy fruit snacks, tend to ease feelings of nausea.
Stress Less about Nutrition.
Don’t worry if your dietary choices are limited and you aren’t reaching for healthy foods in the first trimester. Your baby doesn’t have significant nutritional needs in this stage of development. As long as you began your pregnancy at a healthy body weight, you should have a sufficient reserve of vitamins and minerals for the both of you. And as your appetite returns later in pregnancy, you should be able to consume more nutritious foods.
What to Drink
While an empty stomach can be nausea-inducing, insufficient fluids can be downright dangerous. Staying hydrated is especially important if your nausea triggers vomiting. Your goal should be to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of liquid each day. But what if water makes you queasy or you have trouble keeping anything down? Try these tips:
Hydrate Outside the Box.
Water will always be the gold standard of drinks in normal times. But when you’re struggling to maintain a healthy level of hydration and feel repulsed by water, practically anything goes in the liquid department (apart from caffeine and alcohol, of course). Try not to drink too much at once, which can bring on vomiting, and avoid large quantities of water at mealtime, which can dilute stomach acid needed for digestion. Experiment with carbonated drinks, such as flavored seltzer water, ginger ale, or regular Coke, and juices, such as lemonade or apple juice, to find what works best for you. The sugar in these drinks might give you a much-needed pep, but don’t go overboard with sugary drinks. If you’ve been vomiting, it’s crucial to replenish lost electrolytes, so try sports drinks, oral rehydration solutions, or coconut water.