Of the many things I would have liked to have in common with Princess Kate, severe nausea (Severe Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy or Hyperemsis Gravidarum) would not have been my top pick. Unfortunately, for up to ten percent of pregnant women, this is reality. To be clear, I am not talking about throwing up once or twice in the first trimester. Or even once or twice per day in the first trimester. I am talking about a unrelenting urge to vomit, with or without actually vomiting, that stays with you throughout your day, every day, from the first month, sometimes, until you give birth. Triggers are inescapable. Everything sets off waves of nausea, often so consuming, that the sufferer has to escape to a dark a smell free room. I couldn’t handle the smell of the stove being turned on – did you know, that the stove has a smell, in isolation of something cooking on it? I couldn’t handle fluorescent lighting, offensive deodorant on people merely passing by (which was pretty much every type of deodorant), restaurants, gyms, or even coffee smell. And I love coffee. But one stroll down tenth street where the Roasterie often delights passersby with the delicious aroma of perfectly roasted beans sent me running to the nearest trash can to relieve myself of my lunch. Every. Single. Time.
Things that don’t help that well meaning friends , relatives and colleagues will suggest include soda crackers, ginger (just the thought of it made me want to puke), a handful of almonds, protein with every meal, small frequent meals, drinking water with meals, drinking water between meals, ensuring you eat before rising out of bed, green apples, cutting out greasy foods (this one was truly confounding given I hadn’t been a big consumer of greasy foods, or really, any fast food, for years before I became pregnant), those ridiculous little wrist bands meant for sea sickness, and peppermint tea. Another thing that sufferers of HG often experience is the general sense that their friends, families, and colleagues just don’t understand, and kind of wish that you will “suck it up” and just move on with your day. You feel like nobody understands. And that is because they don’t. Unless you have experienced the truly awful and all-encompassing feeling of constantly needing to wretch, it’s very hard to understand. So smile and thank them for their advice, and then do whatever it is you need to do in order to get through the day. Here are some of the things that actually helped me;
- Rest. And lots of it. Let go of the need to do everything. I already know most of you are superwomen, employed professionals by day, super mother or wife by night (I’m including our fur babies here). Everyone in your life probably knows you are superwoman. So stop trying to prove it! In my case, I was trying to run a yoga studio, be a social worker from 9-5, and continue to doula, while raising my son, taking care of my large and energetic dog, and maintain my relationship with my partner. No big deal, right? I really do believe that my body was literally putting obstacles in my way so I could no longer continue to drain the precious resources I needed to devote to building my little person. I resigned from the yoga studio, enlisted the support of my doula partner (thank you swellmama), and happily put myself to bed, in a dark room, with the window open almost every night by 8:30. My son, bless his heart, became quite independent taking on many of the chores I could no longer do, and my husband took on the task of cooking. Give yourself permission to engage in marathon netflix sessions. Give yourself permission to nap. It is, afterall, only a short period of time, and I promise you will have many opportunities after that baby arrives to prove just how super you are.
- Grapefruit and pineapple. I’m not sure what it was, but citrus was a lifesaver to me. I never left home without it. My favorites were grapefruit juice and soda, or pineapple juice and soda. I carried a grapefruit in my purse at all times. Never once did I vomit citrus. Never once did it make me gag.
- Fresh air. Better yet, try fresh air combined with a slow rhythmic pace. The school I worked in was built in the fifties and fraught with nausea triggers. I’d even hazard a guess that it would qualify for what we call “sick building syndrome.” When the nausea took hold it was nearly impossible to do any work. So I’d often take myself for a little walk. And it helped. This is probably a good habit for anyone anyway, pregnant or not.
- Simple carbohydrates. I’m aware that this is blasphemy in this day and age of gluten free and ‘Wheat Belly.’ However, you do not have to consume cereal or white bread, there is a healthy way to do the simple carbs. I started my day with millet, lunched on some sort of soba noodle soup, and ate (or didn’t eat) whatever my husband cooked for dinner. I always made sure that when I was feeling good, I got my fare share of fresh fruits and vegetables (the salad bar at Community Natural Foods being my top pick). Occasionally, I’d allow myself a croissant. I swear those chocolate croissants from Sidewalk Citizen Bakery were all I could eat some days. And that’s okay 😉
- Yoga. But probably not the type of yoga you think. On the worst days, a wide legged forward fold combined with deep belly breathing was the best I could manage. The rest of the time I maintained a somewhat vigorous practice I had established well before becoming pregnant with my little girl. If today is a bad day for you, do the forward fold, rest your forehead (your third eye) on a chair or a bolster and tune in to your breath. Allow the breath to expand your belly around your baby and see if you can extend the exhalation so that it is twice as long as the inhalation. This posture is explained here wide legged forward fold
If none of these things work, know that it is temporary. It will pass. In nine months or so. And consider a conversation with your doctor or midwife. There are pharmaceutical options, and they do help in some cases. When I had my son 12 years ago, I wasn’t aware of the pharmaceutical options and I ended up losing weight and being hospitalized twice for dehydration. With my daughter, I discussed it with my midwives right away, and based on their information as well as my own research (motherrisk) decided that it was something I was comfortable using. Each women has to decide for herself. For me, it made the difference between near constant vomiting (followed frequently by dry heaving and hospitalization) and just being on the edge of vomiting. Which might not feel better, but is a lot less messy at work. Finally, if you experience depression as a result of your condition, please seek help. Know that you are not alone, and that depression is a normal reaction to a difficult situation. You don’t have to work through it by yourself.
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