Updated: Dec 10, 2020
Everyone wants to eat well during pregnancy, after all, it's not just you that is nourished by what you're eating. As a pregnancy nutritionist, I felt this more than anyone. I also knew that I could expect to feel a bit of nausea and maybe experience morning sickness during the first trimester. And so I planned ahead, looked at what foods to avoid, researched what foods might help with morning sickness relief, thought about strategies for staying hydrated and well-fed.
I was not prepared for the overwhelming feeling of nausea that I felt from 5am until around lunchtime from 5 weeks pregnant. It would wake me up it was so powerful, and the strength of feeling that sick made it very difficult to get up and move around, or to lie still, or to sit on the sofa - literally no position helped at all, and so I struggled through the first few months before telling anyone other than my husband that I was pregnant. Working full time with an hour or more commute each morning made it 10 times harder. Add to this the fact that I started going off foods and drinks I previously loved, had an internal heater keeping me red hot 24/7, and had a craving for cold, acidic tastes, and I found eating what I had previously thought to be an 'optimal healthy pregnancy diet' nigh on impossible to manage.
Instead, I found myself reading a lot about intuitive eating and taking on some self-care practices, being kinder to myself and my body, and giving myself permission to eat what felt right in the moment - even if I could only manage a couple of oatcakes, I knew that these were a great source of energy, fibre and B vitamins that my body, and my baby needed. In the end I came away with some far more practical tips for getting through the first few months of morning sickness which I'm going to share here.
Carbohydrates are your friends
Try having a carb-rich snack in the morning, when you get out of bed or even whilst you're still lying down. Oatcakes or whole grain crackers, are a good source of energy, fibre and B vitamins, all of which are important for you and your growing baby. Keep some snacks in a little container ready to nibble on, alongside a glass of water. Another symptom of pregnancy is being unable to sleep, and I would often wake up at 5am in the first trimester, unable to go back to sleep and feeling incredibly nauseous - I found having a bath, nibbling on some toast or oatcakes, was the only way to start my day for about 3 months.
Avoid feeling too hungry
I know it sounds a bit counterintuitive when you are finding it hard to eat, but nausea can often be triggered or made worse by hunger. Aim to eat before you feel too hungry, having small, frequent meals every 2-3 hours. They don’t have to be big meals, make up snack pots of mini meals - hummus and veg sticks, nuts & fruit, toasted tea cakes, malt loaf, yoghurt & fruit, granola bars - all nutrient dense but simple.
Smells from the kitchen turning your stomach?
If the smells from cooking are affecting your nausea stick to cold foods, or choose ready prepared options that can be microwaved - like lentils, quinoa, frozen veg, all easy and quick to prepare without spending time in the kitchen. You can find the nourishment you and your baby need from these foods, without resorting to spending too much time in the kitchen. If you have a partner or someone at home, this is the perfect time for them to be creative in preparing food for you.
I'll drink to that!
It's SUPER important to stay hydrated and drink between meals, especially if you’re actually being sick as well as feeling nauseous. You might find that you've lost your taste for drinks you liked before (for me it was goodbye tea, hello ice cold water), and sometimes cold drinks can be preferred to hot drinks. Many people find that they have a real desire for something fizzy - sparkling water flavoured with fruit is a good option, but if you’re craving a can of Coke then that’s ok too, just be mindful of the amount of caffeine you consume and possible energy spikes and dips.
Keep it simple
Spicy, hot or fried foods can often make nausea worse, so try taking it easy for the first few months and have more plain foods. Simple rice, pasta or potato dishes with veg and a protein food, minus any sauces or too much flavouring can see you through the early weeks. This isn't the time to be adventurous - if your body is telling you to go easy with activity, then apply this to food as well. Simple home comforts can feel all the more nourishing when you're tucked up on the sofa, so don't push yourself to try new foods.
The first few months of pregnancy can be really tough as you are often managing nausea and tiredness, whilst trying to go about your daily life. Where you feel able to tell people around you how you are feeling then I would encourage you to do so - managing expectations of what you feel up to doing, and asking for help with staying fed and hydrated are important.
For some people, sickness and nausea can become extreme, resulting in Hyperemesis Gravidarium. If you are unable to keep down any food or liquids, please go and seek medical assistance. The charity Pregnancy Sickness Support has a wealth of information and guidance for those who need it.
Working with a pregnancy nutritionist can give you the reassurance that you are getting the nutrients you need, and help you to identify ways to bring other foods into your diet, whilst managing nausea. I work with women from all stages of pregnancy and can support you through online coaching and email. To schedule a free 15 minute discovery call, head over to my booking page here. Or to read a bit more about how I might be able to help, you can look through my pregnancy support packages here.