15 Stomach-Friendly Tips
Many mothers are rewarded with “well windows” – hours of the day or even whole days when they feel well enough to function normally. As your pregnancy progresses, keep your perspective positive. The good days will get better, and there will be fewer and less intense bad days. Sooner or later, the morning sickness will pass.
Dr. Linda Holt, co-author The Healthy Pregnancy Book, notes:
I could identify no rhyme or reason to my own morning sickness. I had very little with my first pregnancy, a boy, and almost none with my third, a girl, but was violently sick practically all of the first few months with the middle pregnancy, also a girl. This was completely unrelated to my stress level, which was consistently high during all three pregnancies.
How to Manage Morning Sickness
1. Begin the day in a stomach-friendly way.
If you start the morning off sick and don’t take the appropriate measures, you are likely to stay sick all day. Instead, give your stomach a friendly start by eating something before you go to bed so it won’t be empty when you wake up. You can also stash an assortment of easy-to-digest favorites at your bedside. (The classic favorite is salty crackers.) When you trek to the bathroom in the middle of the night, treat your stomach to a nibble. A good rule is to put food into your mouth before you feet touch the floor. Once you are awake in the morning, give your gut a good breakfast and continue to munch all morning, carrying your nibble pack around with you if necessary.
Sudden transitions often trigger nausea. And what could be more unsettling than being abruptly awakened by an inconsiderate alarm? Ease into your day. Try awakening to soothing music from a clock radio or a noiseless alarm light, which gradually increases brightness at a preset time. If you don’t have to awaken at a set time, don’t. If your partner gets up early, get him his own noiseless alarm, then let him wake you in a gentle way when it’s time for you to get up.
2. Track the trigger.
Keep a list of which foods cause you the most discomfort. While this may change throughout your pregnancy, here are the usual suspects:
- Caffeine-containing beverages, such as coffee and soda
- Foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Fried, greasy foods
- Spicy foods
Besides keeping tabs on your trigger foods, note your favorite comfort foods as well. Many women keep their personal “desired dozen” comfort foods handy to nibble on during the days when they feel the worst.
3. Graze on stomach-friendly foods.
Some foods are just naturally harder on the stomach than others. High-fat, spicy, and some high-fiber foods are hard to digest. Try to follow these easy-on-the-stomach tips:
- Consume foods with nutrients that are easily digestible and pass through the stomach quickly, such as liquids, smoothies, yogurts, and low-fat, high-carbohydrate foods. Avoid hard-to-digest fatty foods and greasy fried foods, such as French Fries, fried chicken, and sausage.
- Eat nutrient-dense foods such as avocados, kidney beans, cheese, fish, nut butter, whole-grain pasta, brown rice, tofu and turkey. If peanut butter doesn’t appeal to you, try a milder-tasting nut butter, such as almond or cashew butter. Spread it thinly on crackers, bread, apple slices, or celery sticks; a large glob of it may be slow to digest due to its high fat content.
- If your prenatal vitamins trigger nausea, try taking them midday, with a meal.
- Foods with a high water content are not only easy on your intestines, but also prevent the dehydration and constipation that aggravate nausea. Try melon, grapes, frozen fruit bars, lettuce, apples, pears, celery, and rhubarb.
4. Grazing is the way to go!
Follow the rule of twos when eating. Low blood sugar, which can trigger nausea, can occur upon awakening or anytime you go many hours without food. The traditional eating pattern of three square meals a day is not meant for pregnant women. A more digestible pattern is six smaller meals, which can be especially helpful when your stomach thinks it doesn’t want anything at all. Grazing on nutritious snacks throughout the day keeps your stomach satisfied and your blood sugar steady. You may find that this is a biologically ideal way to nourish yourself even when you aren’t pregnant.
5. Select the sipping solution.
Sipping on blended food throughout the day provides easy-in/easy-out “good gut” feelings. Blended food is more easily digested, and sipping throughout the day also helps ensure you get enough fluids. Dehydration aggravates nausea, which makes you not want to eat or drink, which makes you more dehydrated, and the cycle intensifies.
6. When it’s good to suck.
Sucking keeps saliva flowing, and if queasy stomachs could talk, they would ask for a steady supply of saliva, which is like health juice for your stomach and intestinal lining. Saliva buffers the acid and coats the esophagus, preventing and relieving the pain of heartburn. Besides, digestion begins in the mouth – the more saliva mixed the food, the better it is predigested. But avoid letting saliva hit an empty stomach, or nausea will soon follow. Most women produce an excess of saliva while pregnant, and even thinking about food can stimulate you to salivate. Lining your stomach with milk or yogurt before eating a saliva-stimulating food (such as salty or dry foods, like crackers) may keep saliva-induced nausea from striking. Many pregnant women claim that peppermint candy or gum helps nausea, but it’s best not to use either on an empty stomach, as these foods increase saliva production but put no bulk in the stomach. Experiment with various all-day suckers, such as lemon drops. Choose what works best for you and tote around a pocketful!
7. Eat out.
Not necessarily at a restaurant, but in the great outdoors. There will be days when it’s a chore just to get moving and you’d rather be a couch potato. But it can be well worth the effort, physically and mentally, to get up and go. One of the keys to overcoming nausea and other pregnancy discomforts is to get your mind off them. Your gut is called the second brain for a reason: it is richly supplied with nerves and neurohormones that trigger emotions. Getting outside and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature helps your head brain overcome your gut brain. If you work in an office and normally eat lunch at your desk, for example, go out and nibble while you walk.
8. Sniff ahead.
If you know what aromas trigger your nausea, it makes sense to arrange for detours around those things. If cooking odors bother you, consider precooking and freezing foods on days when you feel well. Or you might lower your standards temporarily and buy more convenience foods. If you are invited to another home for dinner, offer to bring a dish you know you’ll be able to eat. When you’re at work or running errands, be sure to carry your reliable edibles with you; when a hunger surge hits, the nausea is sure to follow if you don’t have a tried-and-true snack handy.
Your brain and stomach share nerves, so when you are upset, your stomach can be, too. Many mothers get stuck in a stress-nausea cycle. The worse they feel, the more stressed they become, and then they feel worse. Because you and your baby are so hormonally connected, you want to spare your baby a steady barrage of stress hormones. If you job is giving you lots of stress and little satisfaction, you may need to negotiate some changes in hours or responsibilities. Spouse and kids excluded, rid your home of unnecessary stressors. Learning to reduce stress now is good practice for maintaining serenity as a new mother. Remind yourself that what your baby needs most is a happy, rested mother, both before and after birth.
10. Dress comfortably.
There is absolutely no reason to continue wearing clothing with zippers, buttons, or snaps that make you feel tight, constricted, or uncomfortable. Just because it still fits, doesn’t mean you have to wear it. Instead, go for comfort as soon as you desire! Many pregnant women find that anything pressing on their abdomen, waist, or neck is irritating and nausea-triggering.
11. Sleep it off.
It’s fortunate that the increased need for sleep coincides with the morning sickness phase. At least you can count on sleep to bring some blessed relief. So precious is this rest that you will want to ensure that sleep goes on for as long as possible. For some women, though, bed rest doesn’t help. They need to do something mind absorbing to get their focus anywhere but on their queasy stomach. If you have a toddler running around, you will not have the luxury of staying in bed or sleeping in.
12. Try acupressure.
Both Eastern and Western medical practitioners describe a pressure point on the forearm about 2 inches above the crease, on the inner aspect of the wrist, that, if stimulated, may relieve nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy and other conditions (such as seasickness). Acupressure bands, available without prescription as pharmacies and marine stores, are meant to be worn around one or both wrists. Each band contains a button that presses on the nausea-sensitive pressure point. A study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology compared the incidence of morning sickness in pregnant women who wore the real band with that of women who wore a placebo band, one on which the button had been blunted so as not to exert pressure on the adjacent point. Around 60 percent of women felt better during the three days they wore the actual acupressure bands, while only 30 percent in the placebo group felt better. The physicians who organized the study concluded that this method of acupressure was both safe and effective. Acupressure and Sea-Bands work by stimulating the pressure points that dampen the hypersensitivity of the nausea center in the brain.
13. Keep your eye on the prize.
Surround yourself with encouraging and supportive people and try to emphasize the positive parts of pregnancy to your children. When you’re having a day when you can’t keep anything down, remember, this too shall pass.
14. Position yourself for comfort.
As if nausea and vomiting were not enough, many women experience heartburn as part of the morning sickness package. This burning feeling, which is caused by reflux of stomach acids into the lower esophagus, occurs more frequently during pregnancy than at other times. This is on more ailment attributed to those pregnancy hormones, which relax the stomach walls. For heartburn, gravity will be your best remedy. Keep upright after eating. Sleep on your left side to keep the inlet of your stomach higher than the outlet, allowing gravity to lessen reflux. You may need to sleep propped up 30 degrees on a wedge.
15. Monitor treats that relieve nausea.
Stress can cause nausea, and eating sweets can trigger the brain to release stress mellowers, such as serotonin. So, many mothers will occasionally be tempted to ignore the nutritional label on the food and just eat what stops the nausea. Keep a log of stomach-friendly sweet treats that are not too junky and not eaten too often.