Before the glow sets in, many expectant mums experience a far less glamorous side to pregnancy.
The kind where a heightened sense of smell turns the supermarket into a battle ground and where you really get to know the finer details of your toilet and bathroom floor.
Melbourne dietician Melanie McGrice says she often sees clients who struggle with morning sickness.
“It’s particularly common in the first trimester so often I’ll talk to them about ways they can still meet the recommendations of folate and iodine,” Melanie says.
“When I see women who are experiencing really bad morning sickness and they are vomiting a lot, we do tend to look at what they can tolerate – usually it’ll be things like juices and crackers so we will try and help them get supplements down.
“Sometimes it may be liquid supplements rather than a big tablet or we look at the different times of day when they can better tolerate taking them – additional supplementation as opposed to eating so much food.”
Melanie says while giving into pregnancy cravings can sometimes be the answer, it’s not always the case.
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“I always ask, what is triggering your cravings – is it emotional or physical?” Melanie says.
“Salty cravings are really common during pregnancy and that is because your blood volume increases so much during pregnancy that you need to drink a lot more fluid than usual, and so the salt often helps just keep you a bit more hydrated. But too much salt for pregnant women with high blood pressure is not a good thing.”
Melanie says women who experience severe bouts of prolonged vomiting need to seek help.
“If it is at the stage where you are actually not keeping food down and it’s lasting more than a week or two, it is a really good idea to see an accredited practising dietician to make sure you are actually meeting all of your nutritional requirements,” she says.
Here are her top tips for battling morning sickness.
1. Smell a slice of lemon
Sometimes it can just take a certain smell to send expectant mums grabbing for the bucket so Melanie recommends having lemon on hand.
“One thing I always tell clients is to cut a lemon in half and smell it because the strong smell of the lemon provides a lot of freshness,” she says. “A lot of our sickness tends to come more from smells than what we eat.”
2. Eat before getting out of bed
What a great excuse for breakfast in bed! Personally the best way to describe the nausea when you’re pregnant and first wake in the morning is the bed feels like a rocky boat and you are feeling more and more seasick.
If breakfast delivered to you in bed isn’t an option, perhaps keep a ready supply of dry biscuits or the like next to your bed to snack on before getting up.
“It just works, I have never seen any research on it but it does seem to make a big difference,” Melanie says.
3. Salty snacks
Melanie says snacking on something a little salty often makes a big difference.
“Biscuits are a popular choice and often the saltier the biscuits are, the better,” she says. “Other salty foods can be good too. This tends to be the reason why a lot of women like potato chips but I don’t usually recommend them – salty biscuits or salty nuts are better choices.”
4. Small regular meals
Melanie says eating smaller portions more regularly throughout the day can also make a big difference to an expectant mum’s nausea.
5. Fresh air when eating
If the lemon isn’t cutting it for you or you don’t want it to get to that, Melanie says a bit of fresh air can help.
“Eating outside or near an open window is another way to help with the smell side of things,” she says.
6. Get someone else to cook
Why put yourself through the torture of all those smells and textures causing you so much grief? Enlisting someone else to do the cooking is a great way to avoid this.
7. Choose cold food over hot
Melanie says heat can also amplify smells that trigger morning sickness.
“When you cook a food, that tends to increase the smell a bit, so something like a tuna salad can often be better than a lamb roast,” she says.
8. Put ginger in your drink
Who hasn’t heard their grandmother spruiking ginger as the ultimate cure for a swirly tummy? Well, it turns out she has a point.
“Ginger is a well known old wives’ tale but there’s also a lot of research behind ginger and nausea,” Melanie says. “A cup of ginger tea or putting a piece of fresh ginger into a freshly squeezed juice can be helpful.”
9. Consume foods with a higher GI
Melanie says juices and foods that break down faster are a better way to go when you’re struggling to keep anything down.
“Juices are a bit higher on the glycaemic index so the fact they break down quite quickly can often help when you are feeling nauseous,” she says.
“Also, rather than having something that is quite heavy on your stomach, having something lighter can be better. Eating a brown slice of toast with Vegemite – so the salty vegemite and that high GI bread – tends to work a lot better than a really grainy slice of toast, for example.”
Melanie has also previously shared some great advice on food safety in pregnancy, with tips on what foods are safe and what ones should be avoided.