Firstly, let’s open with a disclaimer, I am not a Doctor. Nor am I a dietician or a nurse or any type of medical professional. But I have had hyperemesis quite bad and so here are a few tips – from both myself and a dietician I met with – on how to cope with extreme sickness in pregnancy.
Let’s start with the tips the dietician gave me. These tips are for those that have already started medication and are in the process of starting to eat and drink.
- Don’t force yourself to eat when you feel sick but it is important to keep your fluid intake up to prevent dehydration.
- You may find that clear, cold drinks are easier to tolerate (I can drink iced cold water, not room temperature water).
- Some women find fizzy drinks are okay. I’ve never drank fizzy regularly before but I can actually drink fanta or coke now and again while pregnant – plus, the calories are very much needed! Sip drinks slowly – a straw could be useful. Also, she mentioned that sealed drinks in packets are good that you can drink with a straw, like a capri sun.
- Start with small, frequent meals and snacks. As the sickness subsides, it will be easier to build up to a normal diet.
- Toast and crackers are good for me and I eat them a lot. The same with cereal. It’s my ‘go to’ safe option and less offensive than other foods.
- It’s best to keep a pack of crackers by your bed and eat one or two before you get up as it can help with sickness but also dizziness. At the start when I was recovering from HG (still am), I would nibble on a cracker but now I can gobble one down.
- Salty foods tend to be good like crisps and peanuts. I’ve also tried to eat cheese on my cracker just to increase the calorie intake as much as possible. I can also eat light pasta now whereas before I could’t even go near it. But I am keeping to plain pasta with cherry tomatoes and a little cheese.
- Try to eat light meals of chicken with rice or pasta and plain potato. Mashed potato is something I can actually stomach quite well and I ate this a lot at the start of my recovery.
- You may find ice lollies are welcome – I can occasionally have an ice cream but it’s still too much for me.
- Boiled sweets are good as even though they are tiny, the calories add up.
- Eat slowly and relax afterwards – avoid lying flat for 30 minutes.
- Try not to drink with a meal but have a drink 30 minutes before or after eating. When the dietician told me this, it made so much sense but I hadn’t thought of it. We want to keep the nutrition at a high!
- Nausea may become worse when the stomach is empty so try to eat regular snacks. I have to eat something small (as in literally a small bowl of food) every 2 hours to keep the nausea manageable.
- Cooking smells can be worse so things like sandwiches (ham sandwiches I can eat) work well. With HG it is common that opening a fridge can set your sickness off, trust me it is not nice running to the bathroom each time you open the fridge door, and so sealed foods work well. Try a ham sandwich or food kept in containers that you can open without needing to go to the fridge. The dietician recommended someone making a few sandwiches and leaving them on the side in foil for you to snack on over a few hours.
- Another thing she gave me is a bag of nutritional supplement drinks. For the life of me I can’t remember the name but they’re what they give to frail, elderly people. They don’t taste particularly nice but sipping them slowly with a straw helped me build up calories at my lowest weight. Ask the dietician on your maternity ward (or give them a call) and they can prescribe these for you. *update, I think they are called fortijuice*
- Lastly, when I asked how many calories I should be consuming each day, she wouldn’t tell me as it puts unnecessary pressure on you. She did say that it doesn’t matter too much what is eaten right now as we need to focus on calories and building up the weight – the healthy food can come later! This is honestly so hard for me to take in as generally I eat healthy. But I have given in, I’m eating whatever I can eat right now and know as soon as I am well enough, I’ll get those vege juices going!
Now a few of my tips:
- Don’t think you are out of it and start eating like normal straight away. I did this and it was a huge mistake. The medication gave me a false sense of security into thinking I was cured and there I went to the cheesecake factory, tried and failed to eat a cheesecake, and consumed far too much ice cream. The next day I suffered.
- As above, recovering takes time so have patience. I thought I was better and so stopped taking my medication but it hit me in full force and I felt so poorly. I’ve now started to lower my dose but I need to keep taking them to actually eat.
- Start slow and with plain foods before you try anything adventurous.
- TMI but some sickness medication can make you constipated – so ask a pharmacist for pregnancy-friendly options on how to overcome this. I also found fruit juice helped if you don’t want to take any medicine.
- I could eat the spiciest foods before but now even the smell of spicy food makes me sick – avoid too much ‘richness’ in food at the start. Now, even foods that aren’t spicy in the slightest but perhaps just have a lot of flavour, burn my throat!
- I think my most important tip is to remember that sickness medication will help stop the physical sickness BUT it won’t take away the nausea. I was very naive here. To help the nausea I ensure I’m never in the same room as food cooking, which is my main problem – the smell of food. Also, avoid going places where you know you’ll have to smell food. I still can’t eat anything with flavour and avoid restaurants as it makes the nausea ten times worse.
- Scents. At the start of this HG nightmare, I’d suck on lemons and that helped for a while. Certain scents may work for some but not for others, find what helps you.
- I need to wear loose clothes and nothing tight on my belly at all times. Try floaty tops and dresses if you can – this also helps with high temperatures when feeling sick.
- Since being unwell with HG I have had low blood pressure and I get very off balance and feel faint (the Dr says this is due to being dehydrated). I’ve found that relaxing in bed with my feet slightly raised really helps when I’m feeling faint. But if you are out and about – it happened to me in the mall – just try to remain calm, sit down with your head between your knees and try deep breathing. Low blood pressure scared me at first but now I know how to deal with it, it’s more of a nuisance. It’s getting much better now that I can eat and drink but if you do experience it, finding a way to manage it will ensure you’re prepared and can copy wherever you are.
- HG can be emotionally draining. Honestly, not being able to leave your bedroom for weeks at the start can make you socially isolated and feel terrible. It’s okay and will get better! There were times when I felt so guilty about being sick, crazy when you can’t help it, and I was worried it would harm the baby. But every single doctor I saw reiterated that the baby is taking all its nutrients it needs (we have it stored up in our belly) – it’s just the Mama that feels crap. And it’s true, I lost well over a stone in weight and my baby is a perfect weight! So try not to worry.
- Teeth: I struggled to brush my teeth when HG was really bad and would need to run to the toilet each time. I found firstly using mouthwash then brushing so gently helped and I still do this now as occasionally I’ll gag when brushing. I’m pretty sure my teeth are in crap condition with the acid from sickness and bile, and I’m certain I’ll need a filling or two when I go to the dentist in a few weeks!
- HG can be life-threatening and is a serious condition so don’t be afraid to go to your GP. I am so glad I went back the last time as part of me felt a pain in the arse and almost cancelled the appointment but it turned out my ketones were so high, I needed to be hospitalised. I had tried so hard to ‘cure’ this myself but I had no choice. Also, if you need sickness medication, then you need it! I went 7 weeks without any as so many people warned me of the risks but it can get to the point where you are actually in danger if you don’t have it managed. Controversial I know but listen to your GP!
- Dehydration. When someone tells you to drink like it’s easy, you may want to give them a piece of your mind. Drinking ice cold water in small sips helps me so much! But the dietician also mentioned that it doesn’t really matter at this stage what you are drinking, as long as you are drinking. So find what you can comfortably drink and stick to it!
I hope this has helped – even if one of the above tips is useful, it’s worth posting. I am still suffering with HG, albeit in a milder form now that I am taking medication, but it’s there and it’s not nice.
Since IVF earlier in the year I haven’t had one ‘proper meal’ and that’s draining. The only way I got through this is to stay positive, try laugh it off during the difficult times and actually just focus on the baby. Now to put on weight!
Good luck my HG loves x