by Noa Miller, RDN
If you’ve ever been pregnant, you can probably relate to the struggle of managing long-term nausea and fatigue. Though the specific symptoms vary per person and pregnancy, chances are that you have struggled to meet your nutritional needs at this important developmental stage.
I hope that these tips will help support improved nutrition for any current or future queasy mamas!
1. Take your pills:
Prenatal multivitamins are important in order to provide folate and more to mom and baby. (Look for a supplement with methylfolate instead of folic acid, as many people can only absorb the methylfolate.) Take your supplement with food containing fat. Note that there is one vitamin that EVERY pregnant mom should take in addition to the prenatal: Vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 can significantly reduce nausea, and a 25 mg pill can be taken every 6-8 hours. Prenatal supplements typically contain 20 mg, and you can take 3 more B6 daily. (Up to 100mg is safe). If nausea/vomiting is still debilitating, talk to your doctor about medications for nausea. It might very well be worth it to help you keep your food down.
2. If meat makes you moan:
It’s ok if you can’t tolerate much meat and chicken. Try to replace the iron and protein with beans, peanut butter, eggs and fish. Fun fact: Vitamin C increases iron absorption, so drink a cup of OJ with your iron-rich food. If you cannot tolerate the smell of meat, limit your family to dairy/fish/egg-based dinners. Here are some more meatless meal options.
3. Make space for takeout:
Food prep is necessary but can often increase queasiness and lead to loss of appetite. The solution? Outsource meal prep to someone non-pregnant whenever possible. Buying takeout and prepared frozen food is often worth the expense. Let your family know that food prep is hard for you and plan for ways they can help ease the burden. If you don’t have enough support, find out if there are volunteers who can come over and help.
4. Settle for simple:
Moms will often have a few simple, bland, easy foods that they can tolerate that help get them through this period. Some popular options are cereal and milk, oatmeal with PB and chocolate chips, yogurt and granola, protein bars, and toast with cheese or eggs or avocado. Try to add fruits and veggies in to your meals as tolerated, and change things up with some fish or meat whenever you can.
5. Keep your food down:
For many, this is easier said than done. But here are some ideas that might help:
a) Nibble saltines before getting out of bed
b) Sip liquids throughout the day and don’t drink too much at once
c) Eat smaller, more frequent meals
d) If you are nauseous after eating, take deep breaths and recline (don’t lie down flat)
e) Avoid smells that trigger nausea
6. Listen to your body
You may not realize how hard pregnancy can be on your body. Pay attention to symptoms such as rashes, weight loss, fatigue, dizziness, depression and anxiety. Your body might be telling you that it is physically drained and needs more TLC. Call your doctor’s office whenever you have a concern.
7. Honor your cravings:
Cravings may be your body’s way of telling you that it needs the nutrition in a certain food. If you crave salty pickles or chips, you may need more salt (which is important to keep you hydrated). One odd craving that mom’s might have is ice– which can be a symptom of iron deficiency.
8. Don’t get too hungry
Allowing yourself to get too hungry can make nausea worse. Instead, eat smaller, more frequent meals and snacks. Even though it’s hard to eat when nauseous, many people find that their nausea goes away after eating – so push yourself.
9. Keep calm:
Stress often makes nausea worse, which is one more reason for you to chill out. Whether it’s taking time off from work, hiring cleaning or babysitting help, delegating chores, or just letting go and taking a nap, consider whether there is a way for you to relax more. If you (like many) are suffering from increased anxiety or depression, talk to your doctor about managing your mood. Reaching out for help is worth it. Your body and baby will thank you.
For more on how stress may impact your appetite, click here.
10. Carry on:
Every day that you survive brings you closer to your nausea-free self. You will get through this. And if you have future pregnancies, you may experience totally different patterns of nausea (such as reduced severity, or afternoon/evening nausea vs morning nausea). If you need individualized support for your eating, reach out to your dietitian for help. You've got this!
Important note: This post does not address hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), a pregnancy condition characterized by severe nausea. Individuals with HG require a treatment plan beyond the scope of this article.