Morning sickness affects approximately 80% of pregnant women and its exact medical cause remains unclear. (1) One theory suggests that the high mount of pregnancy hormones (primarily HCG) circulating in the first trimester may be to blame, however this theory remains unproven. (1) According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), pregnancy is thought to cause a Yin deficit in the female body as most of the Yin energies are going to building a healthy baby. This leaves a relative Yang excess. Yang energy rises and is meant to help hold the baby in the womb preventing miscarriage. However, according to TCM this excess Yang energy also may contribute to ‘rebellious’ or ‘rising ‘Qi and is thought to be one of the reasons pregnant women experience nausea, heartburn (rebellious stomach Qi) and headaches. Whatever the cause, morning sickness is often very difficult to deal with, especially with the many responsibilities of modern lifestyles. Here are a few of the tips I give to my patients to help them cope with first trimester nausea:
Ginger has been used traditionally for many generations to help with indigestion and pregnancy associated nausea. 100% organic ginger tea is a great way to help keep pregnancy associated nausea at bay. As with all herbs, especially during pregnancy, never take ginger as a supplement (capsule, tincture etc) without the advice of a licensed health care practitioner.
Feeling nauseous makes even the thought of eating difficult. However, an important tip is to make sure to eat something small every 2-3 hours. Baby making is hard work! In the first trimester the placenta is under serious construction, once you reach the second trimester this structure will support and nourish baby. Allowing fluctuations in blood sugar by waiting too long between meals/snacks really triggers nausea for many people during the early stages of pregnancy. It is equally important to manage blood sugar with healthy snacks and not to pick high glycemic index foods like refined carbs, sweets etc that will cause a sharp spike and fall in blood sugar. Some of my favourite morning sickness friendly snacks are: almonds, cashews, avocado, cheese (if you can do dairy), greek yogurt (or a dairy free alternative if you need it), apples, grapes and pears.
Interestingly, in the TCM five flavours theory, sour foods serve a purpose! The astringency of sour foods is considered a digestive aid and reduces nausea. Try adding some grapefruit, oranges, pomegranate or plums.
While I truly believe that staying active is very important to a healthy pregnancy, not getting enough rest or pushing too hard while your body is still getting used to being pregnant can exacerbate morning sickness. My best advice is to listen to your body. Nap when you feel tired, take a day off when you feel run down; pushing to the limits is ok every now and again, but not while your body is so hard at work creating life. Be gentle with yourself.
If you’re trying to conceive or are currently pregnant and are interested in how naturopathic medicine can help support you through your conception, pregnancy and birth, contact the clinic to schedule an appointment.
Dr. Alison Cockerill, ND.