Coping with Morning Sickness

by Stefani Nielson

Memories of my first two pregnancies include first kicks as well as vigils by the toilet. With both kids, I remember being nauseous every morning and unable to stomach the smell of oil or beef in the first trimester. Only in the second trimester did culinary normalcy return. With my third child on the way, I would like to think that I’m little bit wiser now if older. I’ve learned to avoid coffee, stick to lemon and peppermint teas, and keep a banana handy.

But what causes nausea and vomiting during pregnancy? Experts aren’t sure, but most believe hormone fluctuations in the first trimester are responsible. The triggers can be anything from an empty stomach to strong food odours, warm air or a lack of water.

Many pregnant women’s food cravings are a response to these hormone changes. Hence the large number who crave salty foods like chips, crackers, pickles and peanut butter; water-rich food such as celery and watermelon; or carbohydrates such as noodles, bread and cereal. All of these foods— and their strange combinations (pickles dipped in peanut butter)—have been demonstrated to curb nausea.

How about a pickle dipped in peanut butter?

Thankfully for the majority of women, morning sickness or what experts call NVP, “nausea and vomiting during pregnancy” since it occurs at any time—is restricted to weeks 6 to 12. For a minority, nausea lasts the entire pregnancy. For an even smaller group, the condition leads to dehydration. However, in the main, obstetricians and gynaecologists confirm that most women take in the necessary calories despite NVP.

Traditional remedies such as ginger ale and carbonated water do provide relief, as does smelling fresh-cut ginger or lemon. I have found that eating what I crave, provided it’s reasonably healthy, helps. But while ob-gyns remind women it’s important to listen to the body’s signals, not all food cravings are justified. That ice-cream sundae might contain calcium but the syrup on it doesn’t. Thus, doctors caution that the best strategy for dealing with NVP is a healthy lifestyle: balanced eating habits, regular exercise, sufficient sleep and reduced stress.

 Easy on the cheesecake and nachos.

For normal bouts of nausea and vomiting, ob-gyns suggest the following approach:

• Wake up slowly in the morning, eat a few crackers and then rest for 15 minutes lying down. Follow this with a normal breakfast.

• Every two hours, eat small meals without drinking large quantities during the meal.

• Avoid spicy and fried foods.

• Choose cold foods as these usually have a milder smell.

• Share cooking duties with a friend or family member.

If a woman suffers from extreme NVP, she should, of course, consult her health-care provider.

Sources:; W. Allan Walker, Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating During Pregnancy (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006)

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