Top Nutrition Tips for Common Pregnancy Ailments
Written by Claire Glazzard, Specilaist Public Health Nutritionist
Congratulations you are pregnant! There are so many wonderful experiences during pregnancy. Some days may not go to plan…nausea, sickness, tiredness, heartburn, constipation and everyday life can get in the way and these can have an impact on your food intakes during pregnancy. This is good time to look after yourself and your baby by eating healthily and keeping active. Here are some of my top tips for some of the most common pregnancy ailments.
Nausea and sickness
Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy is usually called morning sickness, but it can happen at any time of the day. Although this can be worrying and unpleasant, it is a normal part of pregnancy and is unlikely to cause problems in the longer term. It is most likely due to an overwhelming change in hormones and it usually settles by 12 – 14 weeks, although in some women it may last longer. Everyone woman is different.
- Some people find eating carbohydrate rich foods helps to curb the feelings of nausea
- Eating small amounts regularly through the day may also help (cold meals may be more easily tolerated if your nausea is smell-related)
- Choose energy dense plain foods such as crackers or biscuits on your bedside table so that you can eat something before you get up
- Cold, bland, non-greasy foods are often better tolerated
- Listen to your body and eat when you can
- Try ginger-rich foods or drinks
- Sip on small amounts of water throughout the day
- Try to rest as much as possible
Some women do experience very severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy (known as hyperemesis gravidarum) and in this case should consult their GP or midwife, as this can lead to dehydration (excessive loss of water and salts from the body) and serious weight loss.
Indigestion (also called heartburn or acid reflux)
This is most common from 27 weeks of pregnancy and over, it is likely that the pressure on the stomach could be one of the reasons for indigestion and heartburn, but also pregnancy hormones are also responsible for creating havoc and your digestive system perhaps getting a little sluggish. You are most likely to get indigestion if you are very full.
- Having smaller meals more frequently, rather than large meals and trying not to overeat
- Staying away from any super spicy/fatty or acidic foods that can trigger heartburn and stick to plain foods more often. If you notice any specific triggers, avoid them completely too
- Avoid eating too close to bed time (within 3 hours) and choose milk and or water as your main fluids
- Keep upright. Prop you back up on pillows when you are eating, so you are more likely to sit up straight
- Cutting down on drinks containing caffeine can also ease symptoms
- Avoid alcohol. It is not safe for your unborn baby to drink alcohol during pregnancy. For further information see my Blog: Nutrition whilst Planning for Pregnancy
- Prop your head and shoulders up when you go to bed can stop stomach acid coming up while you sleep
- Stop Smoking. When you smoke, the chemicals you inhale can contribute to your indigestion
Stop smoking advice
It is never too late to quit smoking. Whether you are planning a pregnancy, just found out you are expecting or already pregnant, the sooner you quit, the better.
Couples who are trying for a baby are also advised to stop smoking, as smoking (including passive smoking) may reduce the chances of conceiving and can harm the baby.
You already know that smoking is harmful to health. Nicotine is an addictive substance and it is hard to quit.
Everything you breathe in passes through to your baby (including secondhand smoke). Each cigarette contains more than 4,000 chemicals. When you smoke, carbon monoxide and other harmful toxins travel from your lungs, into your bloodstream, through your placenta and into your baby’s body. When this happens, your baby struggles for oxygen. When your baby can’t get enough oxygen, this affects their development.
There is lots of help available, so you do not have to do this alone. Your local stop smoking service offers free, one-to-one advice, support and encouragement to help you stop smoking. You can also talk to your GP or midwife – they can talk you through the best treatments available.
Hormonal changes during the first 12 weeks can make you feel tired, even exhausted, nauseous and emotional. In later pregnancy, you may feel tired because of the extra weight you are carrying and as your bump gets bigger, it can be difficult to get a good night’s sleep.
- Try to stick to normal routine as much as possible
- Make time for you, to relax and rest – have a hot bath, read a book
- Make sure you eat enough food during the day and eat healthily (see my advice on Eating Well During Pregnancy Blog)
- Sip water regularly throughout the day to stay hydrated
- Gentle exercise can also help
Hormones produced during pregnancy often make the muscles in the bowel relax slightly, and this can cause constipation and sometimes diarrhoea in pregnant women from very early on. It also can happen due to less movement in general throughout pregnancy, especially in trimester 3.
- Eat food high in fibre. For example wholemeal bread, cereals and pasta, fruits and vegetables, and pulses such as beans and lentils. Try adding one or two more portions in a day
- Doing some gentle exercise – it might help getting your digestive system working again
- Keeping well hydrated, drink plenty of water (approximately 2 litres of fluid a day)
- Avoid iron supplements, which can make you constipated. Ask your doctor if you can manage without them or change to a different type
This makes total sense as your body is simply carrying extra weight that it is not used too. If you are fairly big, it can be a lot of pressure on your spine and on your legs too, so it makes sense that you are going to be a little less comfortable for a while.
For this it is about resting as much as possible and trying to take it easy. Sometimes this really isn’t realistic, but as much as possible rest while you can!
Gentle exercise can help, so make sure you carry on with some light walking and also do some stretching and/or exercise such as yoga and pilates which can certainly help with back pain. You might not feel like exercising at this point, but as long as it’s gentle and you do as much as you can without pushing yourself, movement can actually be really beneficial.
Book in with the physiotherapy team at CoActive Physio for an assessment and support.
If you would like to discuss any of the above information in more detail, get top tips specific to you and your pregnancy, ask personal questions or seek advice join Claire for a one hour webinar: Healthy Eating During Pregnancy on Monday 8 June at 10am or book a one hour one to one online appointment using our online booking system.
- British Nutrition Foundation (BNF). (2016). Pregnancy and Preconception. Available at:https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritionscience/life.html
- Gordon, J. (2019). Pregnancy and Diet: Food Fact Sheet. British Dietetic Association. Available at: uk.com/foodfacts
- National Health Service (NHS). (2020) Start4Life. Available at:https://www.nhs.uk/start4life
- National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) (2010) Public Health Guideline (PH27) Weight management before, during and after pregnancy. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ph27