Have you ever heard those stories about women who didn’t know they were pregnant until they were in labour? Having experienced nausea in the first trimester, those stories baffle me!
Mild to moderate nausea in pregnancy affects 70-80% of women and approximately 50% experience vomiting. Don’t let the term ‘morning sickness’ fool you, because only 17% of women actually have symptoms that last only the morning (sorry!). These symptoms generally pass after the first trimester and that is what this article is focused on. If severe vomiting is present (hyperemesis gravidarum) it is important that you seek professional treatment and management.
Many women think that nausea and vomiting during pregnancy is a given, and while in a lot of cases it is, there are a few theories as to why you may experience it:
- Pregnancy hormones are thought to be a contributing factor in nausea and vomiting. When you’re pregnant, there’s an increase in hCG, oestrogen, progesterone, and thyroid hormones (T3 and T4). That is a lot of change in a short amount of time, so it’s no wonder you feel queasy.
- Evolutionary adaptation is believed to be a protective mechanism where the body develops an aversion to foods that may contain things that are dangerous to consume during pregnancy such as teratogenic or abortifacient chemicals, or pathogens, hence while some foods make you feel nauseous… isn’t the human body amazing!
- Another important consideration in the development and severity of nausea and vomiting are physiological factors such as stress, lack of social support, negative relationship with your own mother and women on a solo-parent journey. Find your tribe ladies, not only is it important in the early stages of pregnancy, but you’ll be wanting that support during the fourth trimester.
Morning sickness can be debilitating at times; however, it is not all doom and gloom and is considered to be part of a healthy pregnancy and not associated with other pregnancy outcomes. In saying that, I want to leave you with a few things to have up your sleeve in case it is affecting your day-to-day functioning. Here goes:
The best defence is offence
What that means, in this case, is preparation, preparation, preparation! Any naturopath will tell you that for preconception care we like to see a couple AT LEAST three months before trying to become pregnant (for optimal sperm and egg health and maturation). This also allows us to meet nutritional requirements and assess overall gastrointestinal (GIT) function, which includes ensuring optimal liver detoxification, which may prevent nausea and vomiting.
Vitamin B6 is our go-to for nausea and vomiting. Numerous studies have shown it to be effective in reducing the severity of symptoms. Speak to your naturopath or visit a reputable health food store for advice.
Zingiber officinale (ginger) has traditionally been used in Chinese and Aryuvedic medicine for nausea in pregnancy. Super cheap and easy to find, buy yourself some ginger tea or slice some ginger, steep it in boiling water, and sip as needed. Capsules and tablets are available for those who don’t enjoy the taste.
If you are taking prenatal herbs or supplements, make sure you don’t take them on an empty stomach. Nobody wants to feel nauseous after a dose of cod liver oil!
Eat less, more often
While it may seem counterintuitive, eating smaller and more regular meals, with a focus on the protein component, may help reduce symptoms. This helps to regulate blood sugar levels and prevent getting hungry, which often triggers nausea.
So, there you have it, knowledge is power. Preparation is key, sort out any pre-existing nutritional deficiencies or conditions, and get your body in tip-top condition before trying to conceive. Remember that it is a normal occurrence in the first trimester and should pass as you enter the second trimester. If it does continue, or if your vomiting is severe, please seek professional help to look after your and your baby’s health.
Enjoy the ride, mamas.
Expert author: Renée Lynch
Renée Lynch is a qualified clinical Naturopath and Holistic Nutritionist with a Bachelor of Health Science (Naturopathy)
Renée offers a gentle and realistic treatment approach and believes in building a strong foundation to health by addressing key pillars such as the food we eat, spiritual and emotional wellbeing, sleep, movement, lifestyle and gut health.
She has worked with clients to address PCOS, endometriosis, thyroid conditions, preconception care, pregnancy and postpartum support, postnatal anxiety, adrenal insufficiency, PMS/PMDD, adult acne, autoimmunity, gut health and her own postnatal depletion.