Nutrition Before, During, and After Pregnancy

Morning sickness, constipation, heartburn, and swelling

Handling the Discomforts of Pregnancy
Because of the many changes that are going on in your body during pregnancy, you may feel the occasional discomfort of morning sickness, constipation, heartburn, and swelling.

The first discomfort most pregnant women experience is morning sickness. For many women this is not just something that takes place in the morning. Many women feel sick all day long.

There is no exact known reason why some women get morning sickness so much worse than others, or why women get morning sickness at all. For some women, but not all, the feeling of nausea will gradually begin to improve at around twelve to fourteen weeks of pregnancy.

If you know for sure that your nausea is normal morning sickness, you can follow some of these tips to help ease your discomfort:

  • Eat small, frequent meals, every two hours (even through the night, if you can).
  • Eat a snack before going to bed at night, such as cheese and crackers, peanut butter on bread, or cereal and milk.
  • Eat starchy foods such as dry crackers, graham crackers, dry cereal, or plain toast before getting out of bed in the morning, and get out of bed slowly.
  • Eat a high-carbohydrate diet with foods such as dry toast, fruit, bagels, baked potato, pasta, whole-grain breakfast cereals, rice, vegetables, and other easy-to-digest carbohydrates. Nibble on small amounts of these foods throughout the day.
  • Avoid strong smells, strong food flavors, and spicy foods. Pregnant women often have an exaggerated sense of smell, making strong odors unappealing.
  • Some women find cold foods easier to tolerate than hot foods.
  • Avoid high-fat and fried foods. They can sit in your stomach longer, making your nausea worse.
  • Nausea is worsened by fatigue, so make sure you're getting enough rest at night, and try to take naps during the day.
  • If you are taking any type of vitamin or mineral supplement, take them with meals or snacks. If you are taking iron pills, try taking them with a light snack, or take them two hours after a meal with some ginger ale or juice.
  • Listen to your body, and let taste and tolerance be your guide.
ALERT! If you begin to experience episodes of vomiting more than twice daily, contact your doctor immediately.

Constipation can be another discomfort that is very normal during pregnancy. Hormonal changes relax muscles to accommodate the expanded uterus, and this can cause a slowdown in the action of your intestine. This as well as iron supplements can be the culprits of aggravating constipation. To help ease this discomfort, try the following:

  • Drink plenty of fluids. In addition to water, include other fluids like milk and juice.
  • Eat a diet rich in fiber. Consume at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily; eat whole-grain breads, cereals, rice, and pasta; and try including legumes or dry beans at least a few times per week.
  • Try foods that have natural laxative effects, such as dried prunes, prune juice, and figs.
  • Be as physically active as possible with activities such as walking and swimming. Regular activity can help stimulate normal bowel function. Talk to your doctor about safe activities and exercise.
Heartburn and acid reflux can be other nagging discomforts of pregnancy, especially during the last three months. Heartburn usually occurs because the baby is putting pressure on the digestive organs. Acid reflux happens because the valve between your stomach and esophagus becomes more relaxed, making it easier for food to occasionally reverse direction.

To help relieve these discomforts, try these tips:

  • Eat small, frequent meals every few hours.
  • Relax and eat your food slowly.
  • Go easy on spicy or highly seasoned foods, as well as rich, fried, or fatty foods.
  • Limit fluids with your meals, but increase your fluids between meals.
  • Cut down on caffeine. For some women, caffeine can cause nausea and heartburn.
  • After eating, walk or stay seated to help gastric juices flow in the right direction.
  • Sleep with your head elevated.
  • Wear clothes that are loose and comfortable, as opposed to tight and restricting.
  • Keep a log of the foods you eat to help you track certain foods that may be triggering your heartburn.
  • Do not take antacids without first consulting your doctor.
Swelling can also cause some discomfort during pregnancy, especially during the last three months. Your body retains water primarily in your feet, ankles, and hands, as a reservoir for the expanded blood volume.

To help relieve some of the discomforts of water retention, try these tips:

  • Lie down and elevate your feet on a pillow.
  • Wear comfortable shoes, and try not to stand for long periods.
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothes.
  • Do not limit your fluid intake; continue to drink plenty of fluids, including water.
  • There is rarely a need to reduce your sodium intake unless you are consuming much more than the recommended levels of 2,400 mg per day.
If your swelling is excessive, it could be a sign of complications like eclampsia or toxemia. With these conditions you may have other symptoms such as high blood pressure, sudden weight gain, headaches, and abdominal pain. Consult your doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms.

excerpted from:

Copyright © 2002 by Kimberly A. Tessmer. Excerpted from The Everything Nutrition Book: Boost Energy, Prevent Illness, and Live Longer with permission of its publisher, Adams Media Corporation.

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