By Jen Milligan
It has been 11 years since I experienced my final bout of “morning sickness” and I still shudder at the thought. The term “morning” or even “sickness” didn’t quite cut it. It would be more accurate to call it “24/7 torture for months on end”. If I lifted my head, I would vomit. I had several trips to emergency and on many occasions willed the pregnancy, which I had desperately wanted, to be over.
For some, morning sickness, or ‘hyperemesis’ for those of us that had the more extreme version, can leave us feeling pretty low, sometimes angry, sometimes desperate and sometimes guilty. It was a strange fusion of joy and thankfulness for the precious child growing in me and a deep anguish of persistent nausea, vomiting, social isolation and what seemed to be an endless sentence.
It’s not only normal but totally okay to have these extreme feelings on both ends of the spectrum. It’s also incredibly valuable to chat those feelings through with someone wise and safe as they can often rear their ugly head in the months after your precious baby is born. They certainly did for me, and wise counsel and medical support was critical.
Not all experience hyperemesis, but many still experience the challenges of morning sickness in those first few months. During the first pregnancy, we often push through with day sleeps, restful weekends and a whole lot of crackers. But what happens when there is a toddler to run around after too?!
Here are my top 10 tips for managing:
1. Shop online for groceries. This can help if you find it hard to face a multitude of foods and smells at the shops. Try and do the online shop after you’ve had a good snack so that your family get more than just the crackers and chips that you’ve been craving delivered to the door.
2. There are some great meal kit companies that deliver ingredients to your door for you to then make fresh main meals, e.g. Hello Fresh or Marley Spoon. Your partner can come home and follow the recipe, with the ingredients measured and ready to go. I have been known to stretch a meal designed for 2 to my family of 6 with a few extra veggies. It saves a bundle!
3. Have snacks ready to grab. You will always feel better with a bit of something in your tummy. ‘Small and often’ is the best rule. Crackers by the bed are a win. Have some pieces of carrot, hard cheese, pear, apple, cucumber (i.e. bland food) cut up in the fridge ready to snack on, and crackers and nuts on the bench to eat throughout the day. Often as mums we are good at feeding our little people but not ourselves. By having it there, you will have a healthy snack at your fingertips.
4. Avoid fatty foods, caffeine and acidic foods like tomato, orange and chilli. They are perfectly safe in pregnancy, but if you are feeling unwell or have reflux, they can increase your symptoms.
5. Try having a main meal at lunch time. Nausea and exhaustion often go hand in hand. Often mums can’t face food by the end of the day and the very best thing for their bodies is sleep. Try and get that nourishment in at lunch so that there is no pressure to eat too much at dinner. A toddler generally eats less as the day goes on too. It is great to get the day’s nutrients into a toddler by 4pm as they are often just too tired at the end of the day to eat well. Enjoy your broccoli together at lunch and your cheese and crackers at dinner! It won’t be forever.
6. Sleep! Sleep plays a huge role in relieving nausea. It is very normal for a mum to need up to 12 hours sleep in the first trimester. I found this really hard as I just wanted to spend time with my husband on the couch at the end of the day, but sleep won every time. Again, it’s not forever. It’s also a good idea to grab a nap at lunch when your toddler does. Just lie quietly and ready stories together and you’ll both be asleep in no time! “But I’ve got washing to fold, dinner to make….!” . Try and do these chores with your toddler in the morning and afternoon as activities. Toddlers are great at chopping zucchini with a butter knife whilst you get the rest of the meal sorted. Toddlers can match socks whilst you fold the rest of the load. They LOVE to help and one day it will ACTUALLY be really helpful!
7. Take supplements. Some find ginger helpful, but others find it burns their throat when they vomit, so you may need to give that a miss if you are vomiting. Vitamin B6 is very effective; take 10-25 mg three times a day (healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/J_M/Morning-sickness).
8. Acupuncture and sea bands are very effective for many people.
9. Chat to your GP about medications to stop the vomiting, such as Zofran or Maxolon. Be aware of the constipation that some of these medications can cause, so try and drink as much as you can and chat to your doctor about safe laxatives in pregnancy.
10. If you cannot keep fluids down, you may need to go to the emergency department to get re-hydrated. Good ways to hydrate are lemon and ginger tea, peppermint tea, watermelon, soups and bone broth, and of course water. Taking small sips often is best.
Rest assured that your precious little bundle will be just fine, despite how you feel. The morning sickness is due to the change in hormones and has a lot to do with your placenta, not your baby.
All the very best with your pregnancy and may your nausea pass quickly!
Jen is a midwife with almost 20 years experience in a Sydney birthing unit. She now lives & works on the Central Coast, supporting new mothers as they transition into motherhood.
Ingrid is a birth & postpartum doula, living and working on the beautiful NSW Central Coast.