Early Pregnancy Nausea (and Finding Relief in Spain!)
What causes early pregnancy nausea?
Known as HcG, one hormone that is often considered mainly responsible for early pregnancy nausea is human chorionic gonadotropin, and it is secreted by the placenta. This is the hormone that pregnancy tests measure, telling a woman if she is pregnant as early as 4 weeks.
Estrogen is also pointed to as a likely culprit of early pregnancy nausea as levels rise higher than ever before.
Of course, like with most things, there is not specific causation that has been discovered between HcG and estrogen levels and nausea since all women have elevated HcG and estrogen levels and not all women experience nausea and vomiting in the early weeks of pregnancy.
When will I experience it and for how long?
Early pregnancy nausea is usually only experienced during the first trimester. It often starts rearing its pesky head around week 5 or 6 and can continue until weeks 13 or 14 of pregnancy. Some women have nausea that lasts longer than this, but it's not the norm for most pregnancies. Some lucky women don't experience any nausea at all!
Notice I am not calling it "morning sickness" because if you've ever been pregnant and had early pregnancy nausea - you know that's, more often than not, a misnomer. Many women actually experience nausea throughout the day and some women throw up or gag often during the day as well.
It can also manifest as serious food aversions. I personally couldn't deal with the smell of bacon or any meat during my first pregnancy - which shocked my husband because bacon is one of my favorite things! These food aversions can again cause nausea, gagging, or even vomiting.
Tips for Nausea Management
During this time, you may feel absolutely tricked by the way society often glamorizes pregnancy because everyone told you your skin would glow and that a healthy lifestyle would as good as guarantee a smooth, happy pregnancy in body and spirit.
Unfortunately, you have very little control over your pregnancy nausea and for some women the reality of everyday life with pregnancy nausea comes as a huge shock. They find themselves exhausted, without appetite, and like even brushing their teeth will make them gag. While it only lasts a few weeks -- a few weeks of this feeling as a constant part of your life can feel very, very long.
So what can you do?
Here are some things you can try:
Eating more often in smaller quantities
This might mean five small meals spread out over the day or this might mean eating snacks every hour or two. Anything works as long as it's helping you feel better during early pregnancy. Heavy meals and spicy foods make many women feel worse these first few weeks.
Eating something right when you wake up
Keeping some small food next to your beside and popping it in your mouth before you even get out of bed is a trick many women swear by. In Spain many people recommend a "galleta" by which they mean a "galleta María" and in the US everyone recommends a salted cracker. The main idea is that you eat something that will sit well on your stomach and not make you feel worse. Someone I spoke to recently said she swore by cherry tomatoes which felt light but were acidic enough to have an impact on nausea. It's a bit of trial and error, but many lean toward eating something full of carbs first thing.
Sucking on or eating sour candy (chuches con pica pica in Spanish)
I used to struggle to find appropriately sour candy for my tastes here in Madrid, but I'm happy to say you can find some really sour candy in most grocery stores nowadays. Why does sour candy help nausea? There doesn't seem to be conclusive information on why, but what's clear is many, many women say this was an absolute must for relieving pregnancy nausea. It's definitely worth a try!
Consuming ginger drops and ginger tea
It wasn't until my third pregnancy that I heard all about the wonders of ginger for nausea. I tried some ginger drops (caramelos de jengibre in Spanish) and I found them to be very helpful! Ginger tea (té de jengibre) is also a common remedy recommended by many. This is safe during early pregnancy in low amounts like 2-4 cups of ginger tea per day. You are more likely to find these at herbolarios than pharmacies.
Peppermint candy and peppermint tea
Like ginger, peppermint is well-known for its tummy soothing properties. Peppermint tea (té de menta) and peppermint candies (caramelos de menta) can be easily found at most grocery stores throughout Madrid.
Acupressure wristbands like the brand Sea-Bands are one more item that some women swear by. The concept is that the bands exert a light, but steady, pressure on the wrist right on an acupressure point that alleviates nausea of all kinds whether it's caused by seasickness, pregnancy, or anything else. These can be found online and in some herbolarios. You can also ask at a pharmacy or herbolario if they might be able to order it for you. Acupressure wristbands are called pulseras de acupresión in Spanish.
When you're asking yourself, "Is this really right?"
If you're vomiting all day and can barely keep water down, or you feel your nausea/vomiting is extreme, you can ask your midwife or doctor for their opinion. They will be able to determine whether you have a condition called Hyperemesis Gravidarum which is a medical condition also referred to as simply Hyperemesis or HG. This is a rare complication that sometimes requires the pregnant person to be hospitalized to received IV fluids for a time.
In less severe cases, doctors often prescribe a combination of Vitamin B6 and a medicine called Unisom. Doxylamine is the active ingredient which can be found under the same name here in Spain.
Anytime you're in doubt if something is normal, it's always worth a visit to the doctor to find out!
The bright side...
Many women do report feeling wildly better as they enter into the second trimester of pregnancy. In fact, pregnant people often say they're full of energy and vivacity during the second trimester. If you're suffering from early pregnancy nausea, you will likely begin to feel better soon.
In the meantime, feel free to wallow and be a bit negative and just eat whatever your body is asking for - even if that's just all carbs all the time. Your experience, whatever it is, is a valid one and it's a-okay to not love being pregnant. Pregnancy is a constant discovery - of yourself, a new experience (each time), and of your baby. Not all discoveries will feel awesome and blissful. And that's just fine. Be gentle with yourself as you go through this trying time.
If you are dealing with early pregnancy nausea right now, hopefully one of the above tips will help with nausea and you'll be feeling less blah soon! You can also search for support from friends and in the New & Expecting Moms in Spain Facebook Group!
Giving birth in Madrid or a new mom in Madrid? Looking for support on the wild ride called parenthood?
Look no further - book a free discovery call with me (Madison - doula in Madrid) today and let's chat about how together we can work to make your experience a positive one! And be sure to check out the Madoula homepage. If you're looking for doula support during your pregnancy, birth, or postpartum please be sure to contact me for a free consultation!
Giving birth is one of the most vulnerable moments in a person's life. There are many factors to consider at all times. The support of a doula from home to hospital adds an additional layer of support for both the birthing person and partner. Continuous care and individualized support both increase the likelihood of satisfaction with one's birth experience, regardless of the birth outcome (C-section, instrumental birth, etc).