Hormonal changes with pregnancy mean you might also be experiencing nausea, food cravings, a heightened sense of smell and differing tastes.
It’s not unusual to change your mind about food from time to time, but you might find your palate changing a lot during pregnancy. This is due to hormonal changes – you can experience a whole range of cravings during pregnancy. It should settle down once you’ve given birth.
A lot of women will experience a heightened sense of smell during pregnancy, and since aroma can shape taste, you might find this affects what you feel like eating.
A surge of pregnancy hormones arrives in your first trimester. Unfortunately, this can trigger a feeling of nausea, commonly called morning sickness. It generally peaks around week 10, and it should settle down by week 14. Although there are some mums-to-be who experience morning sickness right through till the very end of their pregnancy.
While it’s named ‘morning sickness’ it can actually hit you at any time of the day. You might find yours is more like ‘after lunch’ or ‘early evening sickness’. Try to remember – usually morning sickness will pass.
Everybody is different and what you can eat and drink will largely depend on what you feel like, what you can hold down and the health and medical needs that are particular to your situation.
In the meantime, here are a few tips on ways to try and help reduce the nausea:
- Easy does it – if you feel sick in the morning, get out of bed slowly so your body doesn’t change position too quickly.
- Try a plain snack - like a cracker or piece of toast before getting out of bed because morning sickness can be made worse by low blood sugar levels.
- Rest up - being really tired can sometimes make your nausea worse. Try to get plenty of sleep - if there’s ever been a time to take it easy it’s when you’re pregnant.
- Hydrate – drink enough to keep you well hydrated, it will help you feel better and also replenish lost fluids if you have been vomiting. Cold water, sparkling water, diluted juice, electrolyte drinks can be good choices.
- Small meals and snacks - eating small meals and snacks over the day (so you always have a little food in your tummy) can help improve feelings of nausea.
- Hold your nose - avoid smells that make you feel worse such as cooking odours, perfume and cigarette smoke which are common triggers for morning sickness.
- Get a kitchen helper – if you can, have someone cook for you when you’re not feeling so great.
- The blander the better – if you’re having trouble keeping food down, go for plain carbohydrate options like pieces of toast, crackers, breakfast cereal, plain pasta or rice dishes. Be wary of spicy, fatty and highly flavoured meals as they can make you feel worse
- Grab a bite before bed – having a light, plain snack before you go to bed can sometimes help. Don't overdo it though as late meals (especially if large) can also give you a bit of heartburn.
- Get your stretchy pants on – go for comfort all the way and wear loose waist bands. Clothing that’s tight around your middle can worsen nausea.
A few foods and drinks that might help relieve your morning sickness:
- Ginger containing food or drinks may be helpful (e.g. ginger ale, ginger biscuits)
- Ice-cold water, sparkling water, diluted fruit juice, electrolyte drinks
- Milkshakes or fresh fruit smoothies
- Plain toast or crackers
- Natural yoghurt
- Plain biscuits
- Raw vegetables like carrot and celery sticks
- Frozen ice blocks or frozen fruit juice.
Even if you can’t eat much, it's important you stay hydrated. Your baby will take the nutrients they need from you even if you don't manage to eat much solid food. Keep sipping on drinks throughout the day and taking in small amounts of food.
If your morning sickness is concerning you, or you’re being sick several times a day, or you can’t keep any decent amount of food or drink down, talk to your doctor or midwife for advice.
Constipation can be common in pregnancy. There are several reasons why, including higher levels of the hormone progesterone which relaxes your digestive tract making food pass through it more slowly. Another factor is the pressure from your growing uterus, and also constipation may be a side effect if you’re taking iron supplements.
Make sure you have a balanced diet with plenty of food high in dietary fibre. Drinking plenty of water (nine glasses a day) can help. It’s a good idea to keep active on a daily basis and go for a walk, a swim or even try some yoga – gentle regular exercise can help get your bowels moving.
Tips for including more fibre in your meals:
- Choose wholegrain cereals like wheat biscuits, muesli or porridge
- Choose wholegrain bread, pasta and rice instead of white
- Snack on nuts and seeds, a small handful is a handy source of fibre
- Legumes – dried peas, cooked beans and lentils. You can use these in soups, casseroles or even salads, be creative!
- Bulk up your dinner with vegetables and salads (just wash thoroughly). Have plenty of frozen veges on hand, these are convenient and quick to add to cooking.
- Add fruit to your breakfast and snacks. Sliced banana on wholegrain bread is delicious. Try kiwifruit for a snack.
If you find you’re still having problems, have a chat to your doctor or midwife.
Heartburn and reflux are very common in pregnancy, more so in the later stages. For many women it feels like an uncomfortable burning sensation due to acid passing up the stomach into the esophagus (food tube). This is mainly due to hormonal changes which relax the valve to your stomach so acid can pass back into your esophagus.
Your growing uterus pressing against your stomach can also increase the symptoms of heartburn, especially in your third trimester. It’s more likely to strike you after a meal, but don’t be surprised if it sneaks up on you at other times too.
Heartburn isn’t dangerous to you or your baby, but that doesn’t make it comfortable! It can be painful and it can make it difficult for you to relax and get a decent night’s sleep. There are a few tips to try to ease it, but if it’s a problem ask your doctor or midwife for advice.
In the meantime, try these tips to be more comfortable:
- Perfect posture – sitting up straight while you’re eating and not lying down soon after eating can help by taking pressure off your stomach.
- Take a break from rich food – things like fried or spicy foods can trigger heart burn, try foods with less fat and spices.
- Graze – try eating smaller meals more often, rather than three big meals a day.
- Raising the head of the bed – raising the head of the bed by 10-15cm can sometimes help.
National Health and Medical Research Council (2013). Australian Dietary Guidelines. Canberra: National Medical Research Council.
The materials published on this website are of a general nature and have been provided for informational purposes only. Always consult your medical practitioner or a qualified health provider for any further advice in relation to the topics discussed.