Pregnancy can be a most exciting, magical time in a couple’s life, but for 80 percent of women, the beginning is anything but fun.
While nausea and sometimes vomiting can be a good sign that all is going well with the developing baby, it can make the first trimester downright miserable for mom. These seven tips will help you help her through these first few months:
1. Understand that it’s not limited to mornings.
Morning sickness is such a misnomer. The nausea and vomiting that often comes with pregnancy can come anytime, day or night, though it can hit especially hard in the morning. And while morning sickness typically begins around the 6th week and lifts by the 4th month, for 25 percent of women, nausea may be their first sign of pregnancy even before a missed period. And for some women, nausea may last the entire pregnancy.
Just imagine having the stomach flu for weeks or months on end, every day, maybe all day and all night, and you get the idea. So have compassion, because your partner’s nausea and vomiting is a byproduct growing your baby!
2. Reassure her that morning sickness is good, but watch for hyperemesis gravidarum.
The only good thing about morning sickness is that it does usually herald a healthy early pregnancy. It’s caused by the rapid rise in hormones to support the developing baby. So even though its rough-going for the new mom, you can help reassure her that it’s a good sign.
However, be on the watch for excessive vomiting. While rare, occurring in only 0.3-2 percent of pregnancies, hyperemesis gravidarum is diagnosed when morning sickness becomes extreme and women are unable to keep any food down. There are treatments available, though sometimes hospitalization to prevent dehydration and malnutrition is required.
Even without Hyperemesis Gravidum, there may be treatments for your partner’s nausea and vomiting. Wristbands designed to reduce seasickness, ginger-lemon lozenges, and other supplements can give some relief.
As with anything medically related, if you’re the least concerned with your partner’s vomiting, call the doctor. There really are no silly questions when it comes to pregnancy health.
3. Relieve her of kitchen duty, and other chores.
Along with morning sickness, and many other signs of pregnancy, comes a heightened sense of smell. And unfortunately, odors and aromas can trigger increased nausea. Among the common culprit sources of stomach-churning smells is food, particularly cooking food. Heat, such as from a stove, can also compound the problem.
This can be a great time to learn your way around the kitchen if your partner is usually the home chef. Take the opportunity to learn a new skill and get creative. Along with kitchen duty, plan to relieve her of other housework chores like laundry or cleaning, particularly with strong smells involved.
Anything that smells won’t agree with her stomach, plus pregnancy really ramps up the fatigue factor in the first trimester. Stepping up your help around the house shows her your love while helping her to keep her pregnancy health a priority.
4. Cook light.
Serve her with small meals through the day, and encourage her to drink fluids, too, but not at the same time as her meals. Among the rising hormones of pregnancy is progesterone, which slows her digestion, and eating or drinking too much at one time will make her feel overly full and nauseous.
Avoid spicy, greasy, heavy meals. Opt for ingredients that do not have a strong odor. Consider not cooking anything at all — just grab and go, or throw some already cooked ingredients together. Some meal ideas include:
- Cold sandwiches, salads, raw vegetables and fruit, and other dishes that don’t require cooking
- Baked chicken, broth soups, baked potatoes, steamed or baked vegetables, and other bland dishes
- Lentils, soybeans, chickpeas, and other legumes as they are rich in vitamin B6, which has been shown to reduce morning sickness.
No matter how tempting it may be, encourage your partner not to skip meals. Low blood sugar will only make nausea worse. Thankfully many women find some foods that help settle their stomachs enough to eat a meal. Here are a few foods to try:
- Salty potato chips
- Peppermint tea
- Ginger ale or ginger tea
- Soda crackers.
Sometimes smelling lemons or ginger can also help reduce nausea. The aromas that work may be as individual to the new mom as the foods. For me, sniffing cinnamon through the day did the trick.
5. Give into cravings.
My early pregnancies were long stretches of all-day, all-night sickness but nearly every day, I would have specific cravings for certain foods. And when I ate these foods, they rarely made me sick. Some of these were healthy cravings, like tomato soup or a dill pickle or watermelon; others were not, like a fast-food milkshake. But I quickly learned to cave in to my cravings because those were foods I could stomach at that moment.
There is some theory that cravings represent foods that contain certain nutrients your body is lacking at that point. I’m not certain what nutrient a dill pickle gives you, but I could agree with the other foods. Because of my nausea, I wasn’t always getting my prenatal vitamin down.
Regardless of whether its true or not that cravings help to fulfill nutritional needs, it’s okay to let your partner give in to her cravings. This doesn’t mean that you need to drive to the grocery store in the middle of the night to pick up mint ice cream and sardines. But just know that if her cravings aren’t as healthy, its OK for her to indulge. She’ll welcome food that she can enjoy eating.
6. Provide midnight snacks.
At least part of the reason that nausea and vomiting tend to be worse in the mornings is because of low blood sugar after an all-night fast during sleep. With my second baby, I would wake up hungry in the early morning hours so I got into the habit of keeping a box of granola bars or crackers on my bedside table. Once I started those midnight snacks, I found my nausea to be much less pronounced in the mornings.
Perhaps the biggest lesson here is to encourage your partner to eat when, and what, she feels like eating. Her body is giving her signals through her cravings and hunger, no matter the timing, of what and when to eat. Nausea, particularly when associated with low blood sugar, is a late cue.
7. Let her sleep, but watch out for anemia.
Worse morning sickness is often linked to sleep deprivation, which takes on a whole new meaning during pregnancy. Your partner needs a lot more sleep. She’s growing a baby after all! If possible, she should be going to bed early, sleeping in, and still taking naps as needed through the day. This will also help reduce her nausea.
Exercise and physical activity are important for her health, but so is resting as needed.
However, if it seems that she just can’t get enough sleep, consider calling the doctor. It may signal an iron deficiency. While its common to have mild anemia during pregnancy, lower levels of blood iron can cause excessive fatigue and other symptoms, and may require a more specific diet or other treatment.
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