I recently asked my instagram community what concerned them most during their pregnancy. The overwhelming response centred around uncertainty of nutritional adequacy, especially on the topic of food aversions and tolerance. This to me says nausea and vomiting (morning/all day sickness) not only generates physical stress, but also emotional stress during pregnancy.
I want to help reduce the stress, in particular during bouts of morning sickness. If you are nauseous, I will assume you have researched morning sickness and read about the benefits of ginger and B6 supplementation to reduce nausea (if not, email me or slip into my DMs). But below are my top 5 tips for improving nutritional intake if experiencing morning/all day sickness during pregnancy.
And as a bonus step, step 0, I would say take the pressure off yourself during periods of nausea. Eat what you can to get you through this period. The below ideas are just that, general ideas. If you are really struggling with your intake during pregnancy please reach out and we can work together on a tailored plan just for you. And if you are vomiting regularly and unable to tolerate any food you need to speak to your healthcare provider immediately.
1. Eat smaller, more frequent meals
Hearty meals will take longer to digest, this coupled with an already slower gastrointestinal tract due to the hormonal shifts of pregnancy can increase nausea. On the flip side, an empty stomach is also a nauseous stomach. Grazing over the day may help reduce the risk of an empty or over-full stomach, and it will help to ensure you are still getting food to give you energy to keep you going.
2. Choose whole grains
If you can tolerate nothing more than chicken nuggets then that’s fine, have at it. As a general rule, this advice comes secondary to eating anything you can when you are unwell. But if you can make the nuggets yourself, crumb them with whole grain bread crumbs. Toast and butter? Make it whole grain bread. Dry cereal? Sprinkle on some chia seed. Dry crackers? Make them seedy crackers. This hack is about fortifying the food you can tolerate. Those whole grains are an excellent source of fibre (you want that) and b-vitamins (you need those).
3. Take your prenatal supplement when feel least unwell
Or take them with food. Whatever will help you keep them down. Current guidelines recommend folic acid and iodine supplementation be taken from preconception into pregnancy. If you are feeling unwell in trimester 1 (on onward) you may not be getting enough dietary nutrients, so a prenatal supplement will do just that, supplement your diet. But is it important to assess your your diet for nutrient gaps. A good prenatal dietitian will prescribe a supplement regime tailored to you based on your history to ensure you achieve nutritional adequacy. For example: adequate calcium is associated a reduced risk of preeclampsia, vitamin D is associated with improved fertility outcomes, omega-3s benefit fertility, reduced preterm birth and improve postnatal mental health, b-vitamins are associated with a healthy pregnancy and reduced nausea, iron deficiency is common amongst women of child bearing age and needs to be monitored and so forth and so forth. Key nutrients have a role, and how much you need of each depends on your unique history and diet.
Clinically I have heard water described like: acetone, fuel, unbearable and so on. The idea of water while nauseous can be confronting. But dehydration can exacerbate symptoms and create new ones – like a headache, and that’s the last thing you need when you are already nauseous. Sip water over the day and try adding fresh fruit like watermelon, or fresh veggies like cucumber and ensure it is icy cold. Very cold drinks are better tolerated (in the literature and anecdotally) when morning sickness strikes.
5. Eat cold foods
I touched on this above, but evidence suggests very cold foods are better tolerated while nauseous, likely as they are less aromatic and odorous than hot dishes. And fortify the cold foods you can tolerate with fruits and vegetables, ie: homemade ice blocks with fresh fruit and milk, smoothies on ice with blended veggies, frozen fruit yoghurt, fresh water on ice and so forth.
And don’t forget to congratulate yourself for making to the end of each day. Reduce the guilt around your diet when you feel horrendously nauseous and unwell. If you are vomiting regularly, losing weight, dehydrated or unable to consume any food you need to speak to your healthcare professional immediately.
Please know that these tips are general only. If you are experiencing nausea/vomiting or are worried about your prenatal nutrition, email me. I will improve your food confidence and reduce any pregnancy nutrition stress 🙂