Morning sickness has to be one of the worst early symptoms of pregnancy. Especially because it isn’t restricted to the mornings, and isn’t even restricted to early pregnancy.
Struggling with morning sickness? I did too – hopefully you find some gems of information in what I did to cope at home and at work!
I was very lucky in that my morning sickness was quite mild – I certainly didn’t go through anything as horrible as the Duchess of Cornwall has! I can only imagine how awful it would be to have hyperemesis gravidarum.
My experience started about a month and a half into my pregnancy, around the time I found out. I felt nauseous for the better part of the day, but only actually threw up a couple of times. The key for me was working out what would work on each given day. What worked yesterday might make me feel worse today, so I had to accept the fact that it as ok to change my routine as often as needed to get through.
What made it worse
The nausea seemed to revolve around food, as I’m sure it does for many women. As soon as I started feeling hungry, I started feeling ill. The hungrier I felt, the more ill I felt too. You’d think that eating would ease it, and it did initially, but soon after eating it felt like it was the food that was making me feel awful again.
Not eating made me sick, eating made me sick. It seemed like I just couldn’t win.
The traditional suggestion of dry biscuits, or dry toast, or dry anything for that matter simply didn’t work for me. I’ve never been able to stomach dry, tasteless things when feeling sick, so I don’t know why I though it would be different with morning sickness. If anything, eating a dry piece of food makes me feel infinitely worse because I can’t chew it properly or swallow it.
Plain water also makes me feel worse, no matter what temperature it’s at. As much as I hate to admit it, sugary, strong flavoured drinks go down best (and stay down). Water, on the other hand, makes me feel so yuck when I’m already ill, especially on an empty stomach.
Instead I benefit from juicy things, or things with some sort of saucy component. Flavour is important – if it lacks flavour, I just can’t eat or drink it. Over-stimulated taste buds from a spoilt diet perhaps.
Tea. I LOVE tea. Definitely influenced by the year we spent living in London, but it was certainly there beforehand. The problem was, after a few weeks I found I just couldn’t stomach the thought of drinking it. It was such a strange feeling, and quite difficult to explain away to people who didn’t know I was pregnant yet. I think I just went with the stock standard ‘I’ve had so much of it recently that I can’t drink it anymore’ response. Thankfully at about 12 weeks I started to enjoy the smell of it again, and eventually the taste. I’m now back to my usual 1-3 cups of tea per day (though that’s likely to be lessened significantly now we’re heading into a very hot summer!).
Being winter when I found out I was pregnant, I was all for a warm breakfast instead of my usual cereal. I certainly didn’t have the time to cook up bacon and eggs, or pancakes, or any other lovely Hollywood ‘standard’ breakfast. Being a teacher means I’m out the door pretty early, so breakfast I can make and eat in under 10 minutes, 5 if I’m lucky, is ideal.
I started out with what I was regularly eating before the morning sickness kicked in – toast. Yuck. No matter what I put on it, it made me gag. Sometimes I was lucky enough to get a mouthful down, but usually not. I don’t know why I kept trying to persist with this one, but I’m glad I eventually gave up.
I moved on to crumpets, which I usually adore. I love Vegemite on mine (if you’re not Australian, you’re probably wrinkling up your nose about now, but it is delicious if you learn how to spread it properly! It’s not meant to be used like Nutella or jam/jelly – start with a scraping over some butter and add more as you feel like it). I lasted for about a month with crumpets, but then they started to make me gag too. Lovely.
I moved on to cereals at this point, making sure I had a variety in the cupboard. The best ones seemed to be Nutrigrain, Milo, and Sultana Bran. I could make them as milky as I liked, which was great given I couldn’t drink water first thing in the morning but needed to re-hydrate.
I was soon finding that cereal wasn’t keeping me feeling full for very long, so I moved on to porridge. Apple and cinnamon has always been my favourite type, so I invested in a more substantial brand that included seeds, berries, etc in the mix.
Now that my morning sickness has passed, I can eat pretty much everything again, much to my relief! It took a good while before I was brave enough to try toast again (I think I was about 18 weeks, so a good 3 months after I’d gone off it), but I’m happy I’m pretty much back to my normal breakfast options!
Of course the one thing you really want is the one thing you know you can’t have. For me it was (is) ham sandwiches. Here in Australia we are advised against eating deli meats during pregnancy because of the risk of Listeria – a bacteria that can cause infection with little or no symptoms, and result in completely unexpected miscarriage or still-birth.
That meant my go-to work lunch was out.
The foods I could eat were not necessarily the foods I could tolerate, and this tolerance changed daily.
I made sure to have a stockpile of different foods in my draw at work – soups, noodles, crackers, anything that would keep if I couldn’t stomach the thought of eating them that week.
I ate a whole load of cheese sandwiches during my morning sickness period, and still do now. Sometimes it’s cheddar cheese, sometimes a vintage tasty, sometimes good old Kraft cream cheese. I usually ate/eat them plain, but occasionally would add a bit of salad or different types of mustard, or used fancy bread or rolls to keep it interesting. As other teachers will know, half the time you are eating lunch on the go, so a simple sandwich is a good option once you learn what you can stomach.
I’ll admit a few times I caved and ate foods off the ‘naughty’ list – things from the canteen, salami (from a roll at least, not in slice form from the deli), that sort of thing. Bub and I have had a perfect bill of health throughout though, so oh well!
If I got hungry, I got sick, so I had to keep snacking throughout the day to keep the worst at bay.
What I was able to tolerate for a snack changed as often as what I could tolerate for lunches. As such, I built up a bit of a stockpile of snack foods along with my lunch foods.
Fruit was always my best choice. I kept it in the fridge because I prefer it cold, and it ticked the boxes of being flavourful and juicy. And nobody questions you suddenly increasing your fruit intake!
Chocolate milk was a very welcome suggestion from my mother in law. Again it’s flavourful, and it sits heavy in the stomach, giving the illusion of fullness in a short amount of time. I love milk and dairy products, so this was a real boon for me!
Muesli bars that were nut-based sit heavier and keep you fuller for longer than cereal-only bars. I cheated a little and bought ones with a chocolate drizzle and/or fruit in them as well, just to increase flavour. There are great at work because I could scoff one down between classes quickly and with no funny looks from students or other teachers.
I couldn’t quite do the saltiness of chips, but little packets of mini-pretzels worked wonders. They were just salty enough when I had a bit of a craving, and substantial enough to last as long as a muesli bar.
Lollies. Woops. Defintiely ate way too many of them during my morning sickness. Lollies have always had a was of making me feel better when my stomach is upset, when I have a headache, or when I’m downright sick. It was no different with morning sickness, as I quickly discovered! Luckily my staff room has a well-stocked lolly jar, so it never seemed odd for me to munch on a couple throughout the day.
This one was as tricky as the lunch situation, but at least I wasn’t trying to hide my pregnancy at the dinner table!
The trickiest part was the fact that by dinner time I was desperately hungry, no matter what I ate throughout the afternoon. Even worse was the fact that as soon as I’d finished eating dinner I’d feel worse than I did beforehand. Evenings were definitely the worst for me on the sickness scale.
I tried to keep our weekly menu flexible and have options ready so that I could cook what I felt like I could eat on the day. Thankfully my husband was very accommodating!
Carb-heavy meals worked the best for me, so anything with a lot of rice, pasta, potato or bread was usually on the table. Funnily enough eating too many vegetables made me feel really ill, so a stir-fry that was veg-heavy was out, but a giant plate of mashed potato was in (and indeed that was my dinner a few times). I’m not sure why fruit settled my stomach but vegetables made it worse, but there you go.
The key to coping
Definitely keep your options open, and don’t force yourself to eat something that is making you feel worse. Talk to your husband/partner/family/people you live with and make sure they understand that you will really appreciate some patience and flexibility while you work through this difficult time. If it ends up that you are preparing two different menus so that you can keep your food down, so be it. It’s worth it to make sure you’re staying nourished and feeding that tiny little bubba growing inside you! If you’re worried you’re not getting enough nutrients, talk to your doctor or midwife about getting some blood tests done, and if you have the money maybe even talk to a dietitian (who has an actual degree in food nutrition and science, as opposed to a nutritionist who doesn’t need any qualifications at all to use that title).
How did you get through your morning sickness? Any suggestions for other who are reading this post? Or if you know someone who is currently trying to work through their own morning sickness, make sure you share this post with them and hopefully something in here gives them a bit of help!