During the first 15 weeks or so of my pregnancy, I was sick. Like, really, really sick. Sicker than I’ve ever been in my life. Morning Sickness is quite a common occurrence in pregnancy, and, according to the NHS, around 80% of all pregnant women experience nausea of varying degrees during their first trimester of pregnancy. This, however, was something else. I was throwing up between 10 and 15 times a day, couldn’t even keep water down, was shedding pounds like nobody’s business and, most days, was too ill to even get myself to the toilet to be sick on my own. There is tonnes of information on the internet about how to cope with and improve pregnancy-related sickness, and you can find lots and lots of information on the NHS website, which I urge you to read if you’re experiencing any sort of pregnancy sickness, morning or otherwise. But here’s a little secret: none of this advice worked for me. I just kept throwing up more and more. In the end, my GP put me on medication, which still didn’t stop the vomiting, but significantly improved my condition so that I could at least function more or less normally.
For these reasons, this post won’t be giving you much advice on how to stop your pregnancy sickness. Instead, I’m going to tell you about five things that helped to keep me sane throughout almost three months of severe sickness.
1. Talk to your GP
This is the very first thing you should do if you feel like you can’t cope anymore. Being pregnant is rough under the best of circumstances, and if you have severe sickness to add to the list, it can get really overwhelming really fast. In addition to being physical torture, the impact of being sick multiple times a day over several months or weeks can totally screw over your mental health. See your GP, and, if you see no improvement whatsoever, be persistent and go back. I was in my GP surgery three times a week at one point before I started getting any better. You are responsible for two people’s health now, trying to wait it out and getting severely dehydrated in the process is not worth it.
2. Don’t be strict with yourself
So this is a little controversial for this blog, but it’s important to me to be honest. During pregnancy, I haven’t been sticking to a 100% vegan diet. This isn’t because veganism isn’t good enough, or because there are any health risks involved, or because the baby ‘needs’ certain foods – you can have a totally healthy pregnancy on a balanced, completely plant-based diet. The truth is that being so sick and completely starved all the time, I let myself eat whatever I craved in the hopes that it would stay down and help keep the awful hunger cramps in my chronically empty stomach at bay. It’s not necessarily something I would recommend, and I do feel guilty, but I’m also not perfect and I was so tired and so desperate for relief. Here’s another secret: it didn’t help at all and I was still sick as a dog, no matter how much I had wanted the food before I ate it. But there were a few foods that I could stomach better than others. At the top of that list were, bizarrely, soft pretzels and rye bread with margarine.
Don’t beat yourself up over falling off the wagon if, like me, you do on occasion. These are exceptional circumstances. It’ll get better.
3. Allow yourself some pampering
The photo at the top of this post is from my pregnancy massage. While I had this massage when I was feeling a lot better and I don’t recommend going for a spa treatment if there is a high chance of you throwing up over the edge of the treatment table, you will notice that the constant heaving results in unbelievable tension in your whole body, which can be really painful. Take warm baths with pregnancy-safe pampering products, ask your partner to rub your back (daily occurrence in my household) and, whenever you can, really look after yourself. You might not feel like a face mask and deep condition are very high on your list of priorities, but I always felt better after pampering myself a bit.
4. Don’t set any expectations
I am the absolute worst for this. I felt so guilty that Jake was doing all the housework, cooking, shopping and looking after me all the time that I kept trying to do things like tidy or clean and was constantly telling myself that I needed to start getting out of bed and getting shit done. As you can imagine, this resulted in tonnes of stress for me and very little actually being achieved. I was so ill that I couldn’t even watch TV for longer than 20 minutes, hoovering was absolutely not realistic. You are ill, and it will take a while to get better. Don’t demand anything of yourself. Accept any help that is offered, and otherwise do the absolute bare minimum that you can get through the day with. Everything else can wait.
5. Take time to bond with your baby
Because your belly is still flat in the first trimester (and even more so if you’re chucking up all your food) and you can’t feel the baby yet, it can be a little hard to believe that all this sickness is coming from growing a little person rather than just being ill. I was constantly getting frustrated with people telling me ‘it’ll all be worth it’ in the end and, even though I’m sure that that’s true, I still think that it’s possibly one of the least helpful phrases ever, especially if you have two trimesters still to go. It’s okay to feel sorry for yourself, and it’s okay to feel annoyed and unhappy that you’re feeling so rotten. Believe me, I understand. But I also think that it’s important to take some time to be happy about the little person your body is busy growing. If you’ve already had a scan, take some time to look at the pictures, maybe even frame them. Use your time in bed to plan a fun baby announcement, or a last weekend getaway as a couple to go on when you feel better, if that’s in your budget. Go on pinterest and pin all your favourite baby inspiration, even if it’s completely unrealistic. Play the name game with your partner – this is a great time to do it: you’re so ill that they’re not allowed to argue with your choices ;).
I know this is a really tough time. Pregnancy in general hasn’t treated me very well and I have nothing but sympathy for you if you’re also struggling. But I promise that, sooner or later, it will get better. Hopefully sooner.