I was fortunate enough with my pregnancy to not have morning sickness too bad. I mean during the entire first trimester I felt sick, but thankfully I never threw up. Many of my friends were not as lucky. One of my friends lost a ton of weight right at the beginning of her pregnancy because she couldn’t keep any food down, and she says looking back now, she wished she'd had more research on what to eat when pregnant with nausea. Because some foods are definitely better than others when it comes to eating while feeling sick.
In addition to what to eat when pregnant with nausea, I asked Dr. Idries Abdur-Rahman, OB-GYN and one-half of the Twin Doctors for TwinDoctorsTV, why some women have pregnancy-related nausea more than others. And he says it has to do with hCG and estrogen. “Specifically, hCG increases steadily until about 10 weeks gestation and this is when nausea is at its worse,” he tells Romper. “After 10 weeks, as hCG levels fall, nausea tends to also improve. One woman may experience extreme nausea at a hormone level that in another causes little to no nausea. Every woman’s brain responds differently to hormones.”
Additionally, the baby’s gender actually can determine how sick you’ll be during pregnancy. I thought it was an old wives' tale, but all of my friends who had bad morning sickness had girls — and this is not a coincidence. “Believe it or not, there is actually some science to support the fact that the gender of the fetus can affect mom’s level of morning sickness,” says Abdur-Rahman. “Remember we just discussed the correlation between hCG levels and morning sickness? Well, studies have found that pregnancies with a female fetus have higher hCG levels, so it would stand to reason that carrying a female fetus is in fact associated with a higher frequency and degree of morning sickness, a fact borne out by multiple studies.”
Abdur-Rahman says in addition to this list of things to eat when pregnant with nausea, it’s important to start your day slowly. “Morning sickness is made worse by sudden movements, especially in the morning. I always tell patients to set their clock for 15 minutes before they actually need to be up and to start their day slowly, preferably with saltines and ginger ale at the bedside.”
1. Bland Foods
Foods such as chicken soup, broth, plain baked potato, toast, and bananas should be easier to keep down. "Food digests more slowly during pregnancy, increasing pregnancy-related nausea/vomiting as well as heartburn. Eating a blander diet lower in fat helps to speed digestion reducing nausea and vomiting," says Abdur-Rahman.
Abdur-Rahman says anything with peppermint in it can help curb nausea. Peppermint candies, peppermint tea, you name it. Maybe even thin mints? One could hope, right?
3. Bread & Whole Grain Cereals
Bread and whole grain cereals — such as oatmeal and wheatgerm — and brown rice are foods high in B6, which is good for treating nausea. "Vitamin B6 has been proven to reduce nausea and vomiting during pregnancy," Abdur-Rahman says. "Supplementing with up to 50mg of B6 daily works wonders for many women."
4. Beans & Legumes
Whole grains aren't your only source of B6, as BabyCenter reported: Nuts, green beans, carrots, cauliflower, and potatoes are "good sources of this vitamin, which has been shown to ease nausea in some women."
5. Poultry, Lean Beef, & Lean Pork
The National Health Institute UK noted that poultry, lean beef, and lean pork are really good sources of B6, the nausea-curbing vitamin. Maybe that's why I craved and only wanted to eat fried chicken my entire first trimester?
6. Cold Foods
Believe it or not, the temperature of your meal can play a part in whether or not it will turn your stomach. "Eat more cold foods," Dr. Mehmet Oz told Parents, adding "hot foods may trigger nausea as they are more likely than cold foods to have an aroma."
"Anything with ginger helps to reduce nausea and vomiting. This can be ginger ale, ginger tea, and ginger candies," Abdur-Rahman says.
I know most people don't eat lavender, even though it goes great in lemonade or roasted potatoes, FYI. But Abdur-Rahman says, "Smelling lavender has been shown in study after study to reduce nausea during pregnancy." So if you'd rather smell it than eating it or drinking it, that's also an option.
You can't have a list of foods to help with nausea and not include saltines. Every '80s mom "Stay At Home Sick from School Kit" includes saltines, Campbell's Chicken and Stars Soup, ginger ale, and The Price Is Right. Saltines help nausea because they're high in starch and they absorb gastric acid, according to Everyday Health. The Price Is Right was just an added bonus.
I know sometimes looking at something green like an avocado may not seem like it will help with nausea, but it has lots of B6, and are high in potassium and fiber, according to a Woman's Day article.
If the nausea really is a problem and you can't keep anything down, you may need to go the medicinal route. Abdur-Rahman says, "Diclegis is the only FDA-approved medication specifically for pregnancy related nausea and vomiting." He adds that "prescription strength anti-nausea medications like Reglan and Zofran are reserved for more severe, difficult-to-treat cases."
Dr. Idries Abdur-Rahman, OB-GYN, TwinDoctorsTV
Editor's note: This post has been updated from its original version.