Baby on board: What to eat to keep morning sickness at bay

Operation Transformation’s Aoife Hearne offers tips on how to get through the bouts of morning — and all-day — sickness

AS I move fast and furious through the second trimester and almost reaching the third trimester, those early weeks seem like a distant memory — thank God.

The first trimester means only one thing for me and many other women: ‘morning sickness’. A phrase that could only have been coined by someone who was never pregnant. For me, it was more like all-day sickness, reaching for all sorts of foods (carbs in general) to soothe that horrible feeling. Of course, nothing really works.

This time in desperation I bought those travel-sickness bands to see if they helped. They did for about two hours and then I was back to the same constant nausea. It was debilitating at times. After Celebrity Operation Transformation I’m ashamed to say I did nothing for a whole week except watch daytime TV.

A few things were going against me this time around — I wasn’t coming from a full bank of sleep thanks to my darling daughter and, let’s be honest, I’m older. It’s well and truly a geriatric pregnancy this time around (technically women > 35). Another term that does little for your self-esteem. And then, like magic, the 16-week marker hit and it all just disappeared and I felt back to myself.

Good nutrition during pregnancy ensures both you and your baby get all the nourishment needed at this important time. In fact, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, what you eat during pregnancy can impact on the health of your baby for the rest of your baby’s life.

You don’t have to be perfect with your eating, however, it is a great time to get into some good eating habits. If you do experience nausea just get through those early weeks as best you can. I found having a snack by my beside to eat before I got out of bed in the morning helped a little. Take your folic acid supplement, drink fluids, snack on bland foods (little and often is best) if you can, and anything after that is a bonus. Rest assured that your baby will pull many of essential nutrients needed from your stores. It does pass for most, so hang in there.

Let’s look at what is happening in the first trimester and what are those power nutrients that are important to eat when you are feeling good or if you are one of the lucky ones who don’t experience nausea (See graph, below).

There are lots of myths about what you are not to eat when pregnant and many women restrict what they eat/drink unnecessarily. I remember a healthcare professional telling me I couldn’t eat shop-bought mayonnaise. This is absolutely not true.

Many women also mistakingly believe they need to give up tea/coffee during pregnancy because of the caffeine content and risk of miscarriage. The results from studies carried out in this area are unclear and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, along with other organisations around the world, agree that small amounts of caffeine are still safe to consume during pregnancy. It is recommended to limit caffeine intake to 200mg /day, the equivalent of two cups tea/coffee (12oz in total). Just keep in mind that caffeine can also make nausea worse, especially in the early weeks, so if this happens switch to decaffeinated for a while.

The other foods often mistakingly cut out of the diet while pregnant are nuts. Avoiding allergenic foods (nuts, gluten, eggs etc) during pregnancy does not decrease risk of food allergy in your baby. Research from 2013 of more than 8,000 children in the US suggests eating these foods during pregnancy will provide a protective effect and reduce risk of food allergy in your baby.

The big risks during pregnancy are any foods that may pose a food safety risk. Listeriosis is a foodborne illness caused by eating foods contained with listeria monocytogenes bacterium, found in soil and water. Listeriosis is a serious infection and can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth. While toxoplasmosis picked up from contaminated and unwashed raw fruits/vegetables can cause mental retardation and blindness.

Food/drinks to avoid:

Soft cheeses, deli meats, hot dogs, unpasteurised milk/cheese, uncooked or undercooked meat;

Raw eggs/foods containing raw eggs (homemade mayonnaise fits here);

Unwashed fruits/vegetables;

Green/oolong tea (ECGC, a substance found in green and oolong tea, can negatively affect metabolism of folic acid and should be avoided during early pregnancy);

While there are mixed messages about alcohol consumption during pregnancy, it is important to note that there is no safe level of alcohol intake during pregnancy.

The last myth to bust this week is to remember that as tempting as it is, you are not eating for two, in fact, there are no extra calories need during the first trimester.

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