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  • Writer's pictureNutured Birth Ottawa

Doula Tips for Morning Sickness


Woman experiencing morning sickness. Leaning over a toilet in anticipation of vomiting.

Morning sickness. It’s one of the most common early pregnancy symptoms. We see it in movies and hear about it from friends, but nothing prepares you for the overwhelming and often lasting nausea that can accompany those first few weeks (and sometimes longer) of pregnancy.

I can remember my first wave of nausea. Honestly, at first, I felt excited about it! It was my first obvious pregnancy related symptom. Those first few weeks of pregnancy can feel so surreal that, at times, you can start to doubt that you are pregnant at all! Was the test wrong? That first bout of nausea was confirmation that yes, I was pregnant and this was proof! The excitement quickly dissipated when I realized how blah I felt. Fortunately for me, I only actually threw up a handful of times over the course of my 3 pregnancies. But the on and off nausea that I had for those 12 weeks was challenging to say the least. When my morning sickness ended abruptly at 3 months I felt like I was coming out of a fog. I was so relieved to feel like myself again.


It is important to note that not everyone has this challenging nor this easy of an experience. Some women don’t experience a day of morning sickness while others experience it their entire pregnancy. It is also important to note that morning sickness differs from Hyperemesis Gravidarum which is extreme and persistent nausea and vomiting that is often debilitating and can have risks to both mother and baby.


During those months there were a few dietary, supplement and lifestyle changes that I implemented which lessened my symptoms and improved my ability to cope. As an Ottawa and Gatineau birth doula, these morning sickness tips and tricks are suggestions that I share with my clients during our prenatal appointments. (This is one of the reasons it can be so helpful to hire a doula early in your pregnancy!)


Before I share my most helpful morning sickness tips, let’s get into the details of what morning sickness is.


What is morning sickness?

Morning sickness is nausea, and sometimes vomiting, that occurs during the first few weeks (typically the first 6-12) of pregnancy. While it’s called “morning” sickness it can occur at any time of the day. Morning sickness is experienced by about 50% of pregnant people.


What causes morning sickness?

While it’s not completely understood what causes morning sickness, there are different theories that suggest it stems from changes in maternal hormone levels, increasing levels of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), or perhaps the most fascinating, the evolutionary protective mechanism of rejecting most foods to prevent the baby’s exposure to anything that could possibly be toxic.


Conventional treatments for morning sickness

Fortunately many health care provider will suggest natural treatments for morning sickness. However, for many their recommendations focus around eating crackers first thing in the morning to settle the stomach or the prescribing of medication. The most prescribed medication for morning sickness is called Diclectin, which has been used in Canada since 1957.


While there is nothing wrong with medication should you need it, there are also many natural ways to manage morning sickness that can be used on their own or as an adjunct to medication.


Doula tips for morning sickness

1. Stay hydrated! This is a big one and is often forgotten about. Dehydration can exacerbate morning sickness symptoms. Refrain from guzzling large amounts of water, which can make nausea worse. Instead, take many small sips over the course of the day.


2. Eat many small meals instead of three large ones, and don’t be afraid to snack. Eating frequently was incredibly helpful during my first few weeks of pregnancy. I tended to feel most nauseous on an empty stomach.


3. Emphasize dietary protein! This is key. Studies show that dietary protein reduces prenatal nausea and vomiting and supports gastric motility (the process by which food makes its way through the digestive tract) which can slow down during pregnancy. Choose from animal protein, eggs, Greek yoghurt, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds.


4. Reduce sugar and emphasize complex carbohydrates over refined. Added sugar and processed carbohydrates can cause blood sugar ups and downs which can leave you feeling nauseated. Instead, opt for naturally sweet fruits or complex carbs such as quinoa or baked squash which come packed with fibre to balance blood sugar.


5. Try ginger tea! Ginger has long been known for its stomach settling properties. Studies show that, compared with a placebo, ginger provides significant benefit for reducing nausea in pregnant people. Boil a few slices of fresh ginger in a pot of filtered water for 5 minutes before straining and drinking. If it’s too strong it can be diluted. You can also try a bagged ginger tea as well. Ginger tea can be consumed hot or cold.


6. Emphasize foods rich in B6. Studies show that B6 is beneficial for reducing pregnancy related nausea. Foods rich in B6 include salmon, chickpeas, dark leafy greens, eggs, carrots and sweet potatoes. In some cases a health care provider may recommend supplementing with B6. Please speak with your doctor or midwife before introducing any new supplementation.


7. Swap out your prenatal! Some prenatal vitamins may contribute to nausea. Swapping them out for another brand or form may help! As a prenatal nutritionist I work with my clients to find supplements that they can tolerate well and that contain the most bioavailable nutrients.


8. Try sucking on a lozenge, hard candy, or ginger chew. Many pregnant women report that this can lessen nausea and reduce the strange taste in the mouth, which can sometimes occur in early pregnancy.


9. Banish bad smells by using essential oils! If a particular smell in your environment is making you feel nauseous, consider diffusing an essential oil that is safe for the first trimester! Remember, never use oils topically during the first trimester. Also, please check with an aromatherapist (such as Nurtured Birth’s Michele Appleby-Clarida) to find out exactly which essential oils are safe to diffuse during the first 3 months of pregnancy.


10. Acupressure or Acupuncture. Both are very effective in reducing the incidence and severity of morning sickness. Seek out a practitioner who specializes in prenatal acupressure or prenatal acupuncture to ensure that your service is customized to your specific needs.


Did you know that, as an Ottawa prenatal nutritionist, I offer nutrition services that customize recommendations to the individual? I work with clients experiencing morning sickness by providing dietary, supplement, lifestyle and meal planning services to reduce nausea and support the nutritional needs of both the pregnant person and growing baby.

This post was written by Ottawa Doula, Julia Davie. Her approach to birth work is heart centered, holistic and inclusive. She is honored to support families in Ottawa, Gatineau, and the surrounding areas.

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