Early pregnancy is an exciting time, however it can also be a challenging time, especially when there is daily nausea. Many women often experience some nausea and in some cases there can be vomiting as well. While this has been known as “morning sickness” most women will tell you that it is rarely restricted to feeling unwell in the morning. It often begins around the 4 to 8 week mark and typically tends to ease off around the 12th-14th week of pregnancy, except when carrying twins, although in some women it can last most of the pregnancy.
For some women, it can become difficult to be around even the smell of food, especially particular foods. For others, eating can ease the nausea, but it can be set off by moving around, or when they are hungry. Every woman’s experience of pregnancy is different, and often every pregnancy in the same woman is different.
What can help?
What might have worked for a friend may not work for you. Nausea during pregnancy is complex and there is usually no one solution that suits everyone. This means that you may need to try a few different things before you find something that provides some relief. Most options will not completely remove the nausea however, they can often make it less frequent, less severe and thus more manageable.
Keep a nutritious snack next to your bed and eat this before sitting up in the morning. For example, some nuts and seeds, or a plain wholegrain cracker.
Eat before you are hungry. Eat small amounts of food, particularly protein, more frequently (perhaps every 2-3 hours). This helps reduce fluctuations in your blood sugar levels which may tend to trigger nausea.
Always keep a healthy snack in your bag, for example nuts and seeds, or wholemeal crackers, hommus and carrot sticks, or a protein bar. This helps you avoid any delays in eating when you are out and about.
Ginger is an age-old nausea remedy and is perfectly safe for the pregnant woman and the developing foetus. Make ginger tea by grating half a teaspoon (or more) of fresh ginger into a mug of boiled water and infuse for 5-10 minutes. Drink this throughout the day. Some women find chai tea to be very settling, as it has ginger as one of the ingredients. You could add a little lemon juice or honey occasionally for a change. You could snack on pickled ginger when you feel nausea rising. Use ginger in your meal preparation when you can. Alternatively ask your Naturopath for ginger liquid extract or tablets.
Other herbal teas such as Chamomile may be helpful. Speak to your Naturopath about whether there should be a limit to the number of cups in a day. Stimulating herbal teas such as peppermint should be avoided. Make sure you source a good quality organic herbal tea for the best therapeutic action. If you use tea bags, make sure they are unbleached.
Try acupuncture. Many women use acupuncture to relieve or reduce nausea during pregnancy. In early pregnancy the body undergoes many changes energetically and hormonally. The usual flow of energy and blood during the menstrual cycle stops as your baby begins developing. One of the body’s meridians (called the Chong meridian in Chinese medicine) is strongly involved with blood supply to the uterus runs alongside the stomach meridian. In early pregnancy the changes in energy flow temporarily create an imbalance in the Chong meridian causing the energy to rise upwards, affecting the energy in the stomach channel which lies alongside it and causing nausea. Acupuncture is used to regulate the energy in the Chong and Stomach meridians and helps redirect the stomach energy downwards to settle the nausea.
If you need even more support, try wearing travel sickness prevention bands from your chemist. They are positioned over acupuncture points on the wrists that reduce nausea. There are also other acupuncture points on the body that can help. Your acupuncturist can show you how to locate these points are and how to use pressure (acupressure) on them.
Talk to your Naturopath about a vitamin B6 supplement. Research supports the use of vitamin B6 during pregnancy to help reduce nausea.
Avoid dehydration. It can be easy to become dehydrated especially if you are vomiting. Some women find even plain water makes them feel nauseous. While it may not appear that drinking relieves nausea, becoming even slightly dehydrated will make any nausea more intense. Dry lips, feeling thirsty and a reduced urinary output are signs you are dehydrated. Make sure you are having small regular sips of water, herbal teas, mineral water or even hydrolyte if you have been vomiting to replenish your electrolytes as well as fluids.
Rest: Make sure you are getting enough rest as being tired can accentuate any nausea you might be experiencing. According to Chinese medicine your body is using a lot of very deep constitutional energy in the early stages of pregnancy and many women feel a lot more tired than usual. This is a message that your body is needing more rest even though you may be tempted to push through with your usual workload.
Keep in mind
If vomiting occurs more than 3 times a day, and this is not relieved or reduced by self-help or natural remedies, then it could be that you have hyperemesis gravidarum. You should alert your GP or obstetrician. Prolonged vomiting can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, weight loss and threaten the health of the mother and baby.
If you have gone off, or are unable to stomach, a lot of different foods it may be worthwhile to consult your Naturopath for a dietary assessment to ensure you are covering all of your nutritional requirements. Naturopaths are often able to suggest alternative dietary options to improve your nutritional intake and support a healthy pregnancy.
by Kathy Harris (Naturopath, Nutritionist) & Tanya Newton (Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine)