With my first five pregnancies, I had terrible morning sickness during the first trimesters. Really, it was more like “all day and night” sickness — in fact, sometimes I would even be woken up in the middle of the night with the urge to vomit. My life basically came to a standstill from week seven until week 13 or 14 of pregnancy.
Then, after my fifth baby was born, I made some diet and lifestyle changes that produced amazing results (my diet was basically The Perfect Health Diet with small portion sizes, and my exercise was just jogging around the neighborhood). I lost 35 pounds, and ended up weighing the same as I did when I got married; I got rid of chronic pain issues I’d been dealing with for years; and my energy level went through the roof. Inspired by the tremendous results I’d seen so far, when I found out I was pregnant with my sixth child I decided to tackle the issue of morning sickness. Is there any way that diet and lifestyle could impact it? I was determined to find out.
Long story short, with my new diet and exercise program, my morning sickness symptoms were drastically better. In my previous five pregnancies, on an average day I would rate the way I felt as a 3 on a scale of one to 10. This time the average day was more like a 7, sometimes even an 8 or 9. The only really bad days I had were days after I fell off the diet plan. I still needed more rest than usual and my stomach felt a little sensitive, but I was able to get through my crazy-busy days with few problems.
I basically just followed The Perfect Health Diet, but here are a few specifics that I found to be important:
- NO processed food. This includes basically anything that has been significantly modified from the form it’s in when it’s alive. No crackers, chips, cereal, granola bars, energy bars, tortillas, bread, pasta, yogurt with added ingredients, etc.
- NO grains (except rice). No quinoa, oatmeal, breads, or anything else made from grains (including “whole grain” products). I did find, though, that I tolerated white rice okay.
- NO sweets. This under the umbrella of the processed foods list, but it’s worth breaking out as a separate bullet point because I found it to be so important. Absolutely no ice cream, cookies, cakes, candy, etc.
- No binge eating. This one wasn’t as huge as the others, but I found that if I ate beyond the point of being full, to the extreme of feeling completely stuffed, this would trigger hours of nausea later.
And, unfortunately, there’s no 80/20 rule here. Though now that I’m out of the first trimester I can ease off and not worry about having some of these things here and there, this was not the case during the first trimester. A couple of examples to illustrate my point:
–> I had been feeling good all week. Great, actually. Other than being a little tired, I felt as comfortable as I ever do. Then, one evening, the kids were having these tiny ice cream bite treats we keep in the freezer, and I decided to treat myself. I had only four. Each is about the size of a thimble. The next day, I was floored. I felt so sick I could barely function, and even had to call my husband to come home early from work so that I could crawl into bed (where I stayed for the rest of the evening).
–> After another good spell, I had a day where I was terribly nauseated. I had to keep running to the bathroom every few minutes, and let the kids watch insane amounts of television while I laid on the couch and moaned. I was perplexed by this turn of events, since everything had been going so well, and I hadn’t eaten anything bad. Then I remembered: The night before, I had had a small bowl (about 1/2 cup) of Rice Crispies with a few blueberries in it. That small amount of sugary cereal was enough to knock me out for an entire day.
This happened three other times, where I would make a seemingly insignificant exception from my eating plan, and it would have severe repercussions. What I found was that when I went off plan at all, it would take about 20 hours to regain my equilibrium.
To give you an idea of what my eating habits looked like, here are a sample day’s meals:
- BREAKFAST: Eggs scrambled with tomatoes and mushrooms with a side of sausage. A small cup of coffee, heavily diluted with whipping cream.
- LUNCH: Palak paneer (an Indian spinach and cheese dish) with white rice.
- DINNER: Crock pot beef stew with potatoes, onions, and carrots.
So that’s what worked (and didn’t work) for me. Everyone’s system is different, and I’d imagine that each woman would find that her list would look a little different from everyone else’s. (For example, I found that I could have a small cup of coffee with lots of cream in the morning, but a friend who also struggles with morning sickness had to put that on her “first trimester forbidden foods” list.) I offer these tips mainly as a place to start, in the hopes that other moms may be able to enjoy the beginnings of their pregnancies a little more.