Pregnancy Nutrition – Managing Nausea

As moms, we all know how exciting of a time it is to be pregnant. But this time can bring on some challenges related to the surge of hormonal changes going on throughout the gestation period.

It is very common to have food aversions and nausea in pregnancy, particularly in the first trimester. But in the most extreme cases, hormonal illness in pregnancy can cause continuous vomiting and the inability to keep food down. It can get so bad that intravenous feeding is necessary. Of course that is an extreme and rare situation, but it can happen. Here is a quick reference chart that can help you deal with your nausea in pregnancy.

CONSUME

Bland foods. [During extreme nausea and recovering from vomiting] These include white breads and pastas, applesauce, bananas, eggs and lean meats with minimal seasonings. They are easy to digest, soothe your stomach while providing much-needed calories and nutrition.

Focus on nourishing foods. [Light to no nausea] Foods that nourish the body the best are the ones that contain the most nutrients. Lean meats, fish, beans, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats all supply the vitamins and minerals moms and babies need.

Peppermint or ginger. Both are safe in pregnancy and have been shown to decrease and treat pregnancy nausea. Make sure that you get real peppermint and real ginger foods and drinks. Things like commercial ginger ale do not contain the real thing.   Make your own fresh ginger tea by mincing some ginger with 4 cups of water in a teapot.  Bring to a boil and then pour it over a 2-inch piece of fresh ginger in a coffee cup.  Add some honey and lemon for a nice, refreshing taste.  Allow the tea to cool until it is lukewarm for the most soothing effect.

Salty crackers. You read it everywhere and it’s true. They really help. And normally I would say go for the whole grain ones, but in the case of pregnancy nausea, it’s probably best to go for the old saltine-type crackers that get into your system faster.

Food with medication and vitamins. Both increase stomach acid in general so make sure you take them with food unless instructed otherwise. Do not take any medication, vitamins or herbal supplements without telling your doctor first. Strong smells. As you are probably aware, your senses are heightened during pregnancy and that includes your sense of smell.

Enjoy decadent food cravings in moderation. We still need to exhibit self-control in pregnancy because the reality is that we are not eating for an equivalent of 2 people. More than ever, women are exceeding the weight gain goals for pregnancy with implications for both mom and baby. But allowing yourself to eat some of your decadent food cravings will make you feel more satisfied during pregnancy. Most decadent foods may fall into the “avoid” category, so consume only if they do not contribute to feeling ill.

AVOID

Strong smells. As you are probably aware, your senses are heightened during pregnancy and that includes your sense of smell.  An intense smelling food can trigger nausea in the blink of the eye, so be cognizant to those most offending aroma.

Skipping meals. Just as a stomach that is too full can cause nausea, the same is true with an empty stomach. The best way to eat during pregnancy is small, frequent meals.  Keep snacks in your purse and in your car so you can put something in your stomach when hunger strikes without any lapse in time.

Foods that cause reflux. Acidic foods, high fat foods, chocolate and large meals tend to produce more stomach acid. This can exacerbate nausea and also contribute to reflux (reflux also increases as the belly gets bigger due to anatomical pressure).

Drinks with meals. If you really need something to wash your food down, sip on water that is room temperature. Drinking warm, cold or too much fluid can expand your stomach to the point of causing nausea and exacerbating reflux.

Strong smells. As you are probably aware, your senses are heightened during pregnancy and that includes your sense of smell.

All personal food aversions. Each of our pregnancy experiences vary and that is also the case when it comes to the foods that we crave and dislike. Listen to those cues of aversions to avoid an unnecessary illness. If that aversion is high in nutritive value, try a similar alternative, or seek advice from a Registered Dietitian.

If you cannot keep food and/or liquid down without vomiting, contact your doctor. He may prescribe some medication that will assist you during this period. Know the signs and symptoms of dehydration, which include dizziness, weakness, decreased urination, dry eyes, headache and dry mouth or eyes. Discuss your weight gain with your doctor. If either you or your doctor do not think you are gaining weight or are not getting the food variety suggested in pregnancy (see Pregnancy Nutrition: The Basics), it is best to turn to a Registered Dietitian in your area. They can work with you on an individual basis to maximize your nutrition status – for you and your baby’s sake.  Know that this is a phase – and this phase will certainly pass!

Angela Lemond, RD, CSP, LD

 

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