Pregnancy is a time of our lives when we ask a lot from our bodies. Not only are we supporting ourselves but we’re growing a baby! (Never mind the energy we need to take care of our other kids if we have them too!) It can take a toll on our bodies if we aren’t careful and sometimes give us some not-so-fun side effects, from morning sickness to stretch marks to back aches.
With each of my six pregnancies, I’ve learned a little each time about preparing my body. As a result, each one has gotten easier, and my symptoms have significantly decreased.
My Morning Sickness Experience
In my first few pregnancies, the smell of some food would leave me running for the nearest bathroom. But the worst part was the fatigue. During the first few months, I’d lie on my kids’ bedroom floor and play with them or read to them. Then I’d fall asleep any chance I got.
I should say that I never had morning sickness to the level that several of my friends had. I never had severe nausea or came close to going to the hospital, though I didn’t eat much during the first few months. If you experience severe morning sickness, or hyperemesis gravidarum, you’ll want to see a healthcare provider to get support.
As I learned more and boosted my health and nutrition, I felt a huge difference in my last two pregnancies. I was a little more tired than I was pre-pregnancy, but not like I was during my previous pregnancies. Some mornings I didn’t feel like eating right away, but I wasn’t repulsed by food. With my last pregnancy, I didn’t experience morning sickness! I felt so good that I was really glad to hear a heartbeat to make sure I was, in fact, pregnant.
Building up our body’s stores of protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals helps us start our pregnancy with some reserves. That way, we aren’t as likely to face a deficit of nutrients when our body is working hard to support a new baby. This gives us a better chance of feeling less tired or sick.
Of course, there are times when we can’t plan and prepare before because sometimes it just happens (any surprise pregnancies out there?). But if you’re planning to get pregnant, preparing your body before is a great way to avoid some of the symptoms. Pregnancy doesn’t have to be a hard thing, especially if our body is ready for it.
What Is Morning Sickness and Why Does It Happen?
First, I’d like to say that morning sickness doesn’t only happen in the morning. It can happen at any time of the day or even all day long! I’m still not sure why doctors call it “morning” sickness.
About 70-80% of women experience morning sickness at some point in their pregnancy. Symptoms of morning sickness range from mild to severe.
Doctors still don’t know the exact causes of morning sickness. There are several factors they believe play a role in who gets sick and to what extent. It can be caused by fluctuating pregnancy hormones or low blood sugar. Stress and fatigue can also play a role in morning sickness. And, of course, certain foods might set off a bout of feeling nausea. Sometimes travel can trigger it, especially if you’re prone to motion sickness.
Some of the most common pregnancy sickness triggers are animal foods, strong tasting foods, and caffeinated foods. Some researchers believe that this is one way our body protects our very young baby at a vulnerable time from potential pathogens. Before refrigeration was a thing, these foods could have posed a danger to a developing baby.
When Does Morning Sickness Start and End?
There isn’t any specific formula for when your morning sickness might start or end. Typically it starts in the first trimester, around six to eight weeks of pregnancy. It can last for a short time, or it can last for the entire pregnancy. Usually, pregnant women start feeling better around weeks sixteen through twenty, in the second trimester.
How to Avoid Morning Sickness
Since morning sickness isn’t fun, wouldn’t it be great if you could avoid it? Being the health nut that I am, I kept food and supplement journals from my pregnancies. I tried several things but found that some worked well while others didn’t have much impact on how I felt.
Here are my recommendations for ways you can avoid morning sickness before it starts:
- Using magnesium oil on your skin
- Increasing fatty fish like salmon or sardines or 1-2 teaspoons per day of cod liver
- Drinking bone broth daily
- Increasing daily protein and healthy fat intake
- Avoiding processed foods, unhealthy fats, and sugar
There’s also some evidence our vitamin B6 levels play a role in morning sickness. One 2012 study found that women with morning sickness had less circulating levels of B6 than women without this symptom. Other studies showed mixed results with supplementing vitamin B6. Some women found relief, while others had very minimal (if any) results.
Magnesium seemed to have a huge positive impact on my pregnancies. So, I started researching to see if there was any actual evidence backing my theory. I found several articles by naturally minded doctors and midwives that support the idea. Then I found this post from my friend Heather where she talked about her experience with magnesium. (I always love finding other actual pregnant women who had the same experience!)
I asked my pregnant friends if they increased foods with magnesium in them. Surprisingly they had similar experiences as I did. (Asking your friends how much seaweed and unrefined sea salt they eat every day is totally normal, right?) One person I know was doing the same protocol I was and had virtually no morning sickness either!
Magnesium is a vital mineral for us (it’s used in over 600 reactions throughout our bodies!). When we’re deficient in it, we can experience hormone imbalance, poor sleep, and low blood sugar. All of these things can lead to morning sickness. Using magnesium oil helps regulate hormones and helps you avoid feeling sick.
What Kind of Magnesium?
Since digestion changes during pregnancy, it can be difficult to absorb oral magnesium.
I like to supplement with topical magnesium and magnesium supplements. Since it doesn’t have to go through our digestive system, topical magnesium enters the bloodstream more quickly. If you’d like to make your own, I’ve got a super simple DIY recipe.
I’ve also since found my favorite oral magnesium supplement, Magnesium Breakthrough. It has a broad spectrum of different types of magnesium in a highly absorbable form. After experimenting I’ve found that taking a variety of different types of magnesium has been the most effective for me.
Magnesium is also an important mineral during pregnancy. If you’re already pregnant, it would be worth a try to lessen morning sickness. I recommend this book, The Magnesium Miracle by Carolyn Dean, if you want to learn more about the importance of magnesium in our bodies.
Why Fatty Fish?
Cod liver oil and other fatty fish like sardines and salmon are great sources of vitamins D and A and omega-3s. Vitamin D is essential for our bodies to absorb and use magnesium, which helps the magnesium be more effective. Many women find they feel better when they consume enough healthy fats and proteins in early pregnancy. These options are a great source of healthy fats and protein.
Protein + Fats
One factor that helped me avoid morning sickness was eating more healthy fats and proteins before I got pregnant. Since my protein and fat intake was already up, it supported healthy blood sugar levels before it became a problem. It also helps level out hormones, so there’s less of a chance of fluctuation. Eating healthy protein and fats can also help lower inflammation.
On a typical day, my daily protein intake includes:
- 3-4 eggs
- Some form of healthy, pasture-raised meat at every meal
- 2 cups of homemade bone broth daily
- Coconut oil, grass-fed butter, and coconut cream
- Various other forms of protein and fat, like tallow used in cooking, bison sticks for snacks, etc.
I also try to get three to four cups or more of vegetables each day. I’ve found that I prefer cooked vegetables in early pregnancy anyway, so steamed veggies with butter are on the daily menu.
Ways to Treat Morning Sickness
Despite our best efforts, we might still struggle with morning sickness. There are several natural remedies that you can use to help alleviate the symptoms of morning sickness.
- Vitamin B6 – you can take this over-the-counter vitamin B6 supplement to help with nausea (learn more about vitamin B6 on this podcast)
- Ginger – can help with an upset stomach; you can drink ginger tea or make your own ginger ale
- Peppermint – drinking some tea or sniffing the essential oil
- Eating small meals – this can help keep your blood sugar level
- Avoid spicy foods – bland foods can also help you avoid heartburn and reflux
- Drink plenty of fluids – this is important all the time, but it’s especially during pregnancy
- Acupressure and acupuncture – some women have had luck with acupressure wristbands or going to an acupuncturist. A 2022 study found acupressure effectively improved hyperemesis gravidarum too.
If you’re experiencing severe morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum, you’ll want to visit your healthcare professional
Any time we can support our bodies with better nutrition and more vitamins and minerals, we’re setting ourselves up for a healthier outcome. Although I know this isn’t always possible for every mom and every pregnancy, it’s something to work toward. Not only will you feel better (and hopefully avoid morning sickness), but you’ll be giving your baby a healthier start, too.
Have you tried any of these nutrition changes before your pregnancy? Did it help you have a better pregnancy?