It could be a faint whiff of cilantro in a salad, a taste of Thai leftovers in the fridge, or even some stinky smells in a hot and crowded subway car. Whatever triggers it, morning sickness—the waves of nausea millions of pregnant women get—is no fun.
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"It's something most women don't think about until it happens to them," says Frances Largeman-Roth, R.D.N., nutrition expert and author of Feed the Belly: The Pregnant Mom's Healthy Eating Guide. In reality, morning sickness—which can strike any time of day—affects most pregnant woman, and about a third have vomiting along with nausea. Here are some tips that can help ease the queasiness, including foods to eat—and some to skip.
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"Probably the biggest mistake women make is thinking they shouldn't eat because it will make them sick," says Largeman-Roth, a mom of three who struggled with morning sickness herself. "But it's better to have something in your stomach." Try to eat a light meal or snack every 2 1/2 to 3 hours, she says. Pack high-protein snacks (think nuts or cheese cubes, or peanut butter on apples or celery sticks), and keep some crackers by your bed so you can nibble on them first thing in the morning.
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While everyone is different, these foods have been proven to help many women:
•Lemons: A small clinical trial of 100 pregnant women found that the scent of lemons can help ease nausea. Breathe it in: keep freshly cut slices on hand in your kitchen, sip some lemonade or iced tea with lemon, or try aromatherapy oils. Eating something lemony may also help with dysgeusia, an unpleasant metallic taste some women get early in pregnancy.
•Ginger: An analysis of several studies suggests that ginger, a common remedy for motion sickness, may help with morning sickness, too. You have to use the real stuff, though, says Largeman-Roth. Try a few sips from sodas made with real ginger, like Reed's Ginger Brew or Boylan's Ginger Ale. Or tuck some yummy crystallized ginger in your bag. You can also buy ginger treats like Preggie Pops, Preggie Drops and hard candies made by The Ginger People. Or try these healthy recipes with ginger to help settle your stomach.
•Crackers: It's not so much the cracker itself but the salt that can help settle an upset stomach, Largeman-Roth says. "If you've been vomiting, you may be dehydrated, and a little sodium can help you feel better," she says. Try a cracker made with whole grains to get some beneficial fiber as well, or rice crackers for a gluten-free option.
You probably know that super-greasy, fatty or fried foods and foods with strong, pungent odors, like kimchi, can make you feel worse. But pay attention to what other foods might be behind your morning-sickness misery. Even seemingly innocent foods can turn on you. "One woman told me how just the scent of almonds on her husband's breath made her feel sick," says Largeman-Roth.
"When the stomach is empty or when you're dehydrated is when you're going to feel the nausea the most," says Largeman-Roth. Cold, clear drinks seem to go down best for most pregnant women. Sucking on frozen-fruit pops or drinking through a straw can help, too. Sports drinks, if they don't upset your stomach, can help replace lost electrolytes.
You may have to rely more on others while you give your extra-sensitive nose and stomach a break. Ask your family to help with food prep, or consider a meal delivery service for a few weeks. If you have a dog, let someone else take over poop patrol. For Brooklynite Largeman-Roth, it was the stinky subway that sent her stomach reeling. She carried lavender-scented sachets that she could slip out of her bag for a few calming whiffs.
Most morning sickness is fairly mild, and usually ends after the first trimester. But some women do get severe cases. If you're vomiting several times a day, feel dizzy, or can't keep down fluids for more than 24 hours, it's time to see your doc. You could have hyperemesis gravidarum, a condition that begins earlier and lasts longer than morning sickness. (If you do have hyperemesis, you're in royal company—Duchess Kate Middleton suffered from it during both her pregnancies.) Hyperemesis is serious. You may need IVs or a hospital stay to get it under control—so don't wait to get help.
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