For those who follow my blog, you may be wondering where I’ve been the past few months. The answer is: pregnant! We are happily expecting baby number two. I took a break from writing to deal with my first trimester symptoms: namely morning sickness.
If you’re like me, the first trimester is grueling. With my firstborn, I was nauseated around the clock. “Morning sickness” started about week 6 and lasted until nearly week 16. The vomiting didn’t start until week 10 or so, but nothing seemed to bring relief. I began to resent the suggestions to eat crackers before getting out of bed and to try lemon drops and ginger ale. None of it worked! The nausea was severe and constant.
With this pregnancy, the nausea started around the same time, and the vomiting came soon after. In my view, the term “morning sickness” is not only inaccurate, but detrimental. I think it minimizes the experiences of women like me who are disabled by it. There was a five day stretch when I vomited daily, up to three times a day, with no relief from the nausea. It was more severe than the first pregnancy. I was sick from the moment I woke up until I fell asleep. When I thought about the possibility that it could last two solid months, I cried. I have a full time job and daycare expenses. I didn’t know how I was going to keep working, and I was in no shape to care for my daughter if I didn’t work.
Fortunately, the nausea and vomiting subsided around week 12 this time. Unlike my first pregnancy, the vomiting was more frequent but the nausea was less constant. After that five day stretch, I was able to get 4 hour windows most days when the nausea was manageable enough to work through. It is true what they say: every pregnancy is different.
So when all the common advice fails, what else can you do? My first recommendation is to ditch the bad advice. Much of it is conflicting anyway. Try it all once and then do what works for you. You may be told to eat small meals and sip water throughout the day. Another source will suggest you don’t eat and drink at same time. How can you avoid drinking while eating when you are nibbling all day and need to stay hydrated? Impossible.
If you can barely keep anything down, just do the best you can. Try a variety of foods and stick to those that seem to work. Don’t avoid anything deemed safe in pregnancy until or unless you have an aversion to it. For me, the smell of cooking chicken would turn my stomach. Instead, I ate tofu. I am not normally a tofu eater, but it was what my pregnant belly could tolerate.
Crunchy things like apples, carrots and pickles can be refreshing. Drinking your calories with Ensure, Carnation instant breakfast or V8 juices can help you get nutrients. That was huge for me because I would actually get tired of chewing when I was sick! Bananas, applesauce or oatmeal with raisins are typically easy to tolerate. I liked putting a little cinnamon in my oatmeal, too. It helped when I got sick of all the bland foods. The key is to always have plenty of snacks available in case your tastes or tolerances change.
Some people say that flat ginger ale soothes their upset tummy. I actually prefer bubbly water because burping would give me a few minutes of relief from nausea. I kept bottles of San Pellegrino and carbonated Poland Spring water in the house for the first trimester. If you drink ginger ale, make sure it has real ginger, which is the stomach-soothing ingredient.
Another trick that helped me was using Amazon Prime. Going to the store was torture, seeing and smelling all the food. I actually got sick in the supermarket parking lot at one point! If possible, have someone else do the groceries. Order paper products and pantry items to be delivered. Prime’s two day delivery was so helpful we still use it now for diapers.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! This might mean breaking the “12 week rule”. So what? Chose someone who would support you no matter what and let them know what you are going through. Maybe they can cook for you and bring over freezer meals. Maybe they can help care for your younger children while you rest. If your boss is understanding, talk about temporarily modifying your schedule or working conditions.
It might feel like it is all just too much. It might seem like nothing helps. Remember that you are not the only one to feel this way! Don’t worry about what other women can tolerate. Forget social pressures and expectations. Listen to your body. Be your own advocate. Insist on getting help from your ob-gyn if you need it.
When all else fails, it may be time to ask your doctor about prescription solutions. Mine first suggested B6 and a half tab of a certain kind of Unisom. This is a common suggestion, but be sure to talk with your ob-gyn to clarify specifics. Your provider may or may not believe this is the right solution for you. Preggie Pop Drops are available with B6 if you can’t tolerate another pill in addition to your prenatal vitamin. I did try this remedy for both pregnancies, but never found it sufficient to ease my nausea.
A common prescription for morning sickness in the US is Zofran. My doctor’s office stopped prescribing Zofran a few years ago when studies suggested a link to birth defects such as cleft palate. A new drug called Diclegis is essentially the same active ingredients as B6 and Unisom. It is similar to a drug previously on the market in the US for many years, so there was a large sample size for research. Knowing this, I felt comfortable with its safety, but didn’t feel it would work for me. Ultimately, I was prescribed Phenergan (also known as Promethazine). This is more common in the UK and Australia than in the US.
Discuss prescription options with your provider to ensure you are comfortable with what you are taking. Some have more extensive studies in pregnant women than others. Ultimately, you will need to weigh the potential benefits against the potential dangers or unknowns. If you experience hyperemesis gravidarum, for example, it will be critical to avoid losing too much weight. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You may not need to suffer if you can work with your doctor to find a safe, suitable treatment. Suffering and sacrifice are not what make you a good mom. Doing the right things for yourself and your baby are.