I joke with my friends that now that I’m pregnant, I only think about two things – sleep and food. It’s not actually that far off from the truth. Due to my changing body, I need to eat small amounts of food throughout the day and I need more sleep (at night or through naps).
Even with all the eating tips and tricks I’ve learned, I still experience nausea, vomiting heartburn (sometimes all 3 at once!). I don’t say that to discourage you, but to be honest. Some of these things may help you, but if you continue to struggle with extreme heartburn or nausea (or both!), talk with your doctor and see if there are stronger options you can try.
People keep telling me that my symptoms should decrease in the second trimester, or by week 16. Hopefully it will get better. But if not, I still have some things I can do that help relieve some of the symptoms, sometimes. To be perfectly honest, even with all of these tips and tricks, I still feel -ick- a lot of the time.
I actually had to write this post over the span of 4 days (instead of the planned 2) because the two days in the middle of writing, I couldn’t keep down food or water except at nighttime with the help of some B6 and Unisom. So believe me, I know how sucky this stuff is cuz I’m right there with you.
Foods that Help Decrease Nausea and Heartburn
The most frequently given advice I’ve received is to keep food in your stomach at all times. That may seem a bit counterintuitive if you’ve been having a lot of nausea. But it can actually help. Unlike when you have the flu, you may experience nausea when your stomach is needing food.
This advice can also help with heartburn. When you eat food spread out in little snacks or meals throughout the day (instead of 3 large meals), that helps keep your stomach from being overly full and encourages better digestion.
Snacking on protein throughout the day can be especially helpful. However, I’ve found that easier said than done. Between aversions, cravings, nausea, and an overactive nose, eating enough protein throughout the day can be a challenge. Here are some good food ideas to try.
Dairy – especially cheese, has been my go to protein. String cheese, mac and cheese, cheese snacks, cheese cubes, cottage cheese and Greek yogurt (especially mixed with granola and/or fruit) have been my favorites. Keep in mind that these ideas do require refrigeration.
Nuts – If there are any nuts you really love, now is a great time to add them into your regular snack routine. I am partial to almonds, cashews, pistachios, and macadamia nuts. I like to pair these with dried fruit and cheese but you can also eat them with pretzels or by themselves.
Eggs – Hardboiled eggs have been a life saver for me. I like to take two with me to work and space them out as snacks between my shifts start, scheduled meal break, and shifts end. You can also try scrambled eggs, or fully cooked fried eggs (see the note below in the foods to avoid section on raw/partially cooked eggs).
Fruit – Having a sugar aversion this pregnancy has meant that fruits are my go-to way to get natural sugar into my system without causing extra issues. I like fresh fruits like strawberries, grapes, bananas, apples, and watermelon. I also have really enjoyed dried fruits such as apricots, cranberries, and pineapple.
Potatoes – Before being pregnant, I did not appreciate baked potatoes nearly enough. They are amazing! You can also put toppings like cottage cheese on top which helps add to your daily probiotic intake. My favorite baked potato has: butter, salt, pepper, cottage cheese, and some shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese on top. Mmmm, delicious!
Another helpful thing is to make sure you are drinking plenty of water. How much water? Well, for me, if my pee is clear (no yellow at all!) then I am drinking enough water. That ends up being about 96 oz of water a day on average. My doctor recommends drinking even more, but I have found that I’m able to push myself to 3 large bottles of water a day but can’t get a lot more in due to work schedule and desire.
If you like tea, making a fresh batch of ginger tea is another way to help nausea. You take a 1 to 2 inch piece of ginger and cut off the outer skin of the root. Then chop the ginger up into small pieces. Bring some water in a pot to a boil. Once it’s boiling, add in the pieces of ginger root. Boil for about 5 to 7 minutes. Strain out the ginger pieces or ladle the tea into a mug. I like to add in a drop or two of lemon juice and a spoon full of honey.
One other drink that may help, is to warm up some milk and mix in honey (and optionally cinnamon). I don’t recommend drinking a lot of milk (as this can actually make the heartburn worse in the long run), but a small amount can help with heartburn and nausea.
Foods to Avoid
Since we are talking about food, I do want to at least briefly mention the most common foods to avoid during pregnancy. The hardest one for me to stop eating has been soft/undercooked eggs. My favorite way to eat eggs is sunny side up with a soft yellow middle.
Raw foods in general are something most doctors recommend avoiding while pregnant. Why? Because they may contain harmful bacteria that could harm your baby. For example, if you are eating steak, you’ll want to order well done even if you would have ordered medium rare or rare in the past.
Raw seafood such as sushi, oysters, clams, and mussels can also contain a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. This is the same parasite found in some cats. Which is why it’s not advisable to clean your cats litter box during pregnancy. You’ll also want to avoid eating fish with high mercury levels such as Swordfish, Shark, Orange Roughy, King Mackerel, and Tilefish.
Unpasteurized dairy products – which includes soft cheeses, some yogurts, and some milks. If you check the labels on dairy products while shopping just keep an eye out and purchase items that are made from pasteurized milk. The most common soft cheeses to avoid are: Brie, Camembert, and some Queso Fresco, Panela, Asadero, and Queso Blanco.
Processed meats are another mostly no-go. You can choose to heat lunchmeat, hotdogs, deli meats, etc., until their internal temperature reaches 165°F – at which point the CDC considers it safe for you to eat.
Alcohol and caffeine are two very well known items that pregnant women should avoid or at least highly limit. The current recommended limit of caffeine is 200 mg per day. Although some women drink during pregnancy, it is strongly advised to skip alcohol while pregnant and breastfeeding.
Greasy and spicy foods can also aggravate your stomach and cause an increase in heartburn. That doesn’t mean there’s a rule saying you should avoid them, but I have found that when I pass on those types of foods I notice a lessening in my heartburn symptoms.
Other Options to Try
Food hasn’t been the only way I’ve handled my heartburn and nausea. There are several other options for handling both symptoms – with varying amounts of success.
Unisom & B6
One of the most helpful remedies to the near constant nausea has been to take a Unisom sleep tablet and a B6 supplement right before bed. Unfortunately for me, I also have a very strong gag reflex which can sometimes cause me to throw up after I swallow pills. I typically take the B6 first, and then if I managed to swallow it without choking -or vomiting it back up- then I’ll take the more expensive Unisom tablet.
The only draw back to this solution is that you can only take Unisom once a day and since it is a sleeping tablet, that time of the day is typically in the evenings or at night. The nice part about this solution is that both B6 and Unisom are over the counter medicines/supplements and you will not need a prescription for either.
Preggy Pop Drops
Yes, I know this one sounds a bit silly. However, it can help with nausea. Preggy Pop Drops are similar to a hard candy or a cough drop. You suck on them. I ordered mine off of Amazon and got the mixed variety pack.
The best flavors in my opinion are the Sour Raspberry and Sour Lemon. I’m not entirely sure how much they actually help with the nausea overall, but they do provide a pleasant distraction. The regular Pop Drops have no daily limits, however if you purchase the Plus option (which contains vitamin B6) just be aware that the recommended limit is 6 a day.
Tums, Mylanta, and other Antacids
At the very beginning of my pregnancy, before I even realized I was experiencing heartburn (I honestly thought it was just an odd form of nausea), I was told by several friends to try taking Mylanta. After double checking with my doctor, I started taking this liquid antacid medication. It helped me for several weeks.
Tums are another doctor recommended solution for heartburn. For whatever reason, though, my body detests tums and will actually vomit them up if I attempt to eat them. So, while they are a no go for me, perhaps they will be a good option for you.
Be sure to check with your doctor and/or pharmacist before trying other medications for heartburn. They will probably give you a long list of approved medications when you go in for your first appointment, but if you are experiencing symptoms before that, don’t hesitate to call the on-call nurse just to double check something.
Sea Bands & Dramamine
Prior to pregnancy, I thought that Sea Bands and Dramamine were only for motion sickness. Turns out I was wrong. You can wear Sea Bands to help fight feelings of nausea outside of just when you are traveling. Same goes for Dramamine.
I discovered that I now get quite motion sick when riding on long trips (1 hour+). So having Dramamine and Sea Bands has been a lifesaver.
When All Else Fails…
Even with all the above ideas, I know there will be some days where none of this works. Those are tough. Breathe through them, and just do your best to survive and hang on. Don’t count how many days (or weeks/months) are left in your pregnancy journey. Just think of where you are at today and how far you’ve come. You’ve got this momma! We will make it through the rough days!
And, as always, let your ObGYN know when you are experiencing really bad symptoms. They can offer different solutions that may work better for you when all else fails.
What tips and tricks have worked for you during your pregnancy? I would love to hear about your experiences and your story in the comments below (or you can always email me at email@example.com).