CALGARY realtor Rachel Vanderveen’s children were a true labour of love.
Despite crippling morning sickness that lasted well into her second trimester, the Calgary realtor endured four pregnancies in five years.
“At the time, my whole life was consumed by feeling sick and there were times I thought I couldn’t face tomorrow,” she said.
Like so many moms – including the Duchess of Cambridge – who are battling to get through the day in a fog of morning sickness, Vanderveen struggled to find the help she needed.
Family physician Dr. Heather Wrigley, who specializes in obstetric care and is based at Riley Park Maternity Clinic, says the problem is surprisingly common.
“Morning sickness can be hugely stressful, especially for people who are working or have other children,” she says.
Dr. Wrigley and Vanderveen shared the following tips:
1) Get help from family and friends (partners included):
Dr. Wrigley recommends talking with family and friends and asking for support.
“Get as much help as you can. If someone is willing to help look after your other kids, cook meals or do the laundry, that can very helpful,” she said.
The timing can be difficult, though, because often the pregnancy isn’t announced early on.
A partner’s help, therefore, can be vital.
Wrigley says if support isn’t there, it can threaten a marriage.
Vanderveen, a working homeschooling mom, says her husband Clint was her rock.
“I talked to him about my needs and asked him to encourage me,” she says with a laugh.
“I had scripts for him: ‘You’re 13 weeks now, you can do this’.
“It made me feel better to hear him say that.”
2) Barbecue outside if smells trigger your nausea:
Vanderveen said husband Clint barbecued outside a lot in the middle of the Calgary winter because cooking smells triggered her seemingly never-ending nausea.
3) Get enough sleep:
Getting enough sleep is crucial.
Pregnant women feel more tired than usual, so it is important to factor in the extra sleep needed, because nausea gets worse when you’re tired.
4) Eat small frequent snacks throughout the day:
Try to eat small amounts all day long, rather than three big meals a day, to avoid the empty stomach feeling that triggers nausea.
Each day Vanderveen imagined the food that seemed least offensive to her – usually almonds – and ate that gradually through the day.
“I’d visualize quite a lot of different foods to work out which one,” she said.
Wrigley tells pregnant women not to stress about maintaining the perfect diet if they are struggling to keep food down.
“You have to eat what you can manage and when your condition improves, you can focus on getting a more balanced diet,” she said.
5) Try Gravol or other recommended medications:
Dr. Wrigley says Gravol, which is typically used to treat motion sickness, can help ease symptoms and is safe.
Diclectin – a combination of antihistamine and vitamin B6 – is also safe, she says.
The drug is taken daily and works to prevent the onset of symptoms.
Pregnant women may need to temporarily stop taking prenatal vitamins that contain iron if they trigger bouts of morning sickness, but start taking them again when the sickness passes.
It is essential to keep taking folic acid, however, no matter how sick you feel.
Most importantly, the condition is not harmful to a growing baby – and morning sickness can’t last forever.
For Vanderveen, the 22-week mark of each pregnancy provided longed-for deliverance.
“You just feel so grateful when it ends,” she said.
Services at Riley Park Maternity Clinic – a clinic operated by Calgary Foothills Primary Care Network – are available to pregnant women who do not have a family doctor or by referral from your family physician.
Click to find out more about how our Riley Park Maternity Clinic, which serves all of Calgary, can help you during your pregnancy.