Morning sickness is the bane of early pregnancy for the 33 percent of pregnant women who actually vomit; nearly all experience some nausea. Worse, the name is often a misnomer; morning sickness can last all day or worsen at night. Rising hormone levels and blood sugar drops appear to cause morning sickness. From one aspect, morning sickness can be seen as a positive sign that your hormone levels are rising appropriately. But that's no reason to just accept the discomfort, as what and how often you eat can help. Choosing high-protein snack foods might help reduce morning sickness in some cases.
The time-honored recommended foods for morning sickness tend to be complex carbohydrates, such as dry toast or crackers. But protein snacks might actually be just as beneficial. Nuts, legumes and seeds are all high in B6, which might help reduce morning sickness, as well as protein. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends taking vitamin B6 as the first-line treatment for morning sickness. Eating high-protein snacks will also help you meet your increased need for protein during pregnancy; most women need around 60 grams per day.
Low-fat, high-protein snacks are likely to settle better than protein foods that include large amounts of fat. Limit your intake of dietary fat, including butter, mayonnaise or fried foods, if they seem to worsen morning sickness.
Timing Your Meals
Eating small amounts every one to two hours might reduce nausea and vomiting more effectively than eating a large meal three times a day. Include a bedtime snack; eating protein at bedtime or even eating a small snack as you pass through the kitchen on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night will help you avoid the drop in blood sugar that might contribute to nausea in the morning. In the morning, a small snack of peanut butter on crackers, followed by breakfast in a few hours, might work better than eating a big breakfast first thing in the morning.
Listening to Your Body
There's no point in trying to eat a certain food just because it's supposed to make you feel better. What works for one person might not work for another. You might crave spicy foods and find them easier to retain than a nice bland boiled egg. Just thinking about some healthy protein food choices, such as runny sunny-side up eggs, might make you sick. Listen to your body; you're unlikely to crave something that's going to make you really ill.
Having snacks already made and ready to eat without a lot of fuss makes eating something every few hours a lot easier. Foods such as hard-boiled eggs are not only easy to make ahead, but are also extremely portable. You can make up little bags of peanut butter on crackers or apples. Cutting up cheese is easy; if you buy cheese sticks, you don't even have to cut it up. Nuts and trail mix are also easily bagged and thrown into your purse for a snack on the go. Leftover cut up chicken or lean beef also serves as a quick pick-me-up in the afternoon.
When to Call the Doctor
If you find yourself vomiting several times a day every day, to the point where you're becoming dehydrated, lightheaded, dizzy or weak, see your doctor. You might have hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe form of morning sickness. In this case, eating nothing by mouth while receiving intravenous fluids and nutrition might be necessary for a short time period.
Suzanne Robin is a registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology. She also has extensive experience working in home health with developmentally delayed or medically fragile children. Robin received her RN degree from Western Oklahoma State College. She has coauthored and edited numerous books for the Wiley "Dummies" series.