Dealing with that Pesky Nausea

You’re pregnant, you’re happy, you’re excited…you’re nauseas!

No worries, these are all normal ways to start off your pregnancy, but that last one, the nausea, can really get in the way of that excitement and happiness.  The good news is that it doesn’t have to control your life.  Despite the common name of “morning sickness”, nausea doesn’t always strike in the morning.  You may find that you are experiencing this at any time of the day and it can come on without warning.  If there is one thing I have learned from working with moms-to-be it’s that not everyone is the same and no two pregnancies are alike. 


While that may be true, it doesn’t mean that these 5 basic guidelines won’t help you beat the nausea. 

  1. Stay Away From Strong Smells- It shouldn’t surprise you that things with strong smells may stir up unwanted discomfort from your stomach.  This is heightened in pregnancy, and things that you may think won’t bother you, turn out to really have an effect.  By avoiding strong smells you can keep the nausea at bay.  This means strong food smells too.  You don’t want to start feeling nausea just as you are about to provide your body with delicious food and important nutrients.  One way to avoid strong smells is by eating room temperature (or cold) foods.  Hot foods have more intense odors.
  2. Be Bland- Has someone already told you to try plain crackers?  Chances are you have heard this before.  The reason for this is that those bland crackers can really settle your stomach.  This also means that a bland diet will keep your stomach from doing somersaults.  Watch out for seasonings and spicy condiments.  Besides crackers, try plain brown rice, oatmeal, whole wheat bread, and even plain pasta.  Also along these lines, you will do best if you avoid fatty (oily) foods, even the heart healthy ones.  It’s one thing if you can tolerate those heart healthy oils, but there is a good chance that fat, any kind of fat, will set your stomach off. Too much oil can make your nausea kick in double time.  It’s just not as easy to digest as some other foods. 
  3. Small, Frequent Meals- This is a good idea for a few reasons, but the most important one to mention now is that this can help reduce your nausea.  By not putting too much into your stomach at one time, you limit the chances of feeling sick to your stomach.  Spreading meals and snacks throughout the day helps make sure you get in all the calories you need for the day without feeling stuffed, which can make your stomach feel a little more at ease.  You won’t have that extra feeling of too much strain around your midsection. 
  4. Fluids Between Meals- You need to stay hydrated during pregnancy, but too much liquid at meal times can aggravate your sensitive stomach.  Sometimes liquids and solids just don’t mix well!  This is a common, but easily overlooked tip, to cut back on nausea.  In between meals and snacks consume your beverages.  You will want to avoid high calorie beverages as these can add up quickly, leading to unwanted weight gain, and those high in fat (like milkshakes and whole milk) can do more damage in terms of nausea than they can to quench a craving.  Carbonated beverages may be another that bothers you.  If you are a fan of fruit juice, choose 100% juice without added sugars and dilute it with water.  Water is a good choice, but tea and ginger ale may work to settle your stomach. 
  5. Hide Your Favorites- This probably sounds backwards to you, but in reality, not getting sick from eating your favorite foods will benefit you in the long run.  Have you ever gotten sick after eating a food and then never really felt the same way about it again?  It happens, and if it happens in pregnancy, there is a good chance when your “morning sickness” days have passed, you won’t feel the same way about those foods that made you sick, even if they have always been your favorites. 

Now that you know how to keep your nausea in check, you can relax and enjoy your pregnancy.  Just a few simple tips is all you need to make sure you are feeling up to eating nutritious foods that keep you and the baby healthy.  This is a great time in your life, so don’t let an unsettled stomach get in your way of your happiness.

By Melinda Boyd, MPH, MHR, RD

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