I Will Never Eat a Leafy Vegetable Again: Nausea and Pregnancy

Most people attending my prenatal yoga class are women in their 2nd and 3rd trimesters.  They share stories of insomnia and weird dreams, gastrointestinal distress and swelling appendages.  They also delight in first movements, anatomy scans and eating ALL of the Halloween/Christmas/Valentines/Easter/insert-given-holiday-chocolate-here.  They are usually fairly obvious in their pregnancy and make requests for poses that will help alleviate hip and lower back pain, ease leg cramps, open the shoulders, help them sleep. 

Every so often, someone will show up still in disbelief at the two lines that recently appeared on a pregnancy test.  It still seems really improbable to them that, 7 or 8 months from now, they will also share similar stories, with similar bellies, with these women who seem to hold a different kind of space.  There’s often reverence there.  Reverence, mixed with a bit of fear and a decent amount of disbelief.  While they may not totally relate to those in their 27th or 38th week of pregnancy, there’s also comfort in sharing the space with these women.  Many choose not to share news of pregnancy until after the 1st trimester, when the greatest risk of miscarriage is over and so this news, so exciting and new, is often quite a secret.  To be in a space where the news can be shared openly, and celebrated, is no small thing.  We are always happy to welcome them.  They are, after all, every bit as pregnant as any other woman in the room.

Then, 8 or 9 weeks pass. 

Often, they’ll reappear again at week 13 or 14.  When their turn arrives at our weekly check-in, morning sickness is more often than not the reason for their absence.  As most people who have been pregnant know, morning sickness is poorly named.  Fortunately, the medical establishment has finally recognized that and now refers to this side effect (impacting 80 – 90% of women during pregnancy), as nausea and vomiting during pregnancy (NVP).  Regardless of how you refer to it, it’s no fun.   Every winter, when the stomach bugs rolls around and someone in my family falls victim, I recall feeling nauseous for months on end and wonder how anyone survives something that is clearly so horrific that it should inflicted only in 24 hour periods.  With years of time in between.  Alas.  Months on end it is. 

Numerous home remedies abound to help quell the waves of nausea that are the hallmark of the first trimester.  Wrist compression bands, sour-ish candy, ginger chews, constant nibbling, different tea varietals, Vitamin B and unisom.  One incredible yoga teacher I know suggested keeping raw oats by the side of my bed to eat before getting up in the morning.  I assumed by “raw oats” she meant “bagel” and found her advice helpful. 

Rest and time also help.  For a majority of women, nausea eases gradually as the second trimester progresses.   Fatigue follows suit, and the decrease in these symptoms increases attendance in my yoga classes in the second and third trimesters. 

Until then, though, many wonder if there are any yoga poses that can possibly be added to the list of home remedies.   There are.  If you’re loathe to give up your yoga practice, but the idea of your head being below your heart sounds like a terrible idea, try the following gentle sequence instead.  It’s not a cure-all, but it won’t exacerbate 1st trimester symptoms, and it might even help.   If it doesn’t, the couch and simple carbs will always be there. 

  • Start in supine baddha konasana.  If you don’t have a bolster and blocks at home, you can either come into a regular cobblers pose, or use a few pillows to prop yourself up.  Bring your feet together and allow your knees to fall out to either side.  Be here for as long as you'd like.  
  • When you're ready, come up to sitting, and make your way into Virasana (Hero's pose).  You can sit on as many pillows/rolled up towels/blocks as is comfortable.  Bring your sitting bones between your heels and press the tops of your feet firmly into the ground.  It can sometimes be helpful to raise your arms above your head, bending your elbows and placing your hands on your head.  
  • If your seat is not elevated on blocks, you might come into a reclining variation of the pose.  Lower first to your forearms and, perhaps, all the way on to your back.  Your arms can come down by your sides or extend out and back behind you.  
  • To finish, come into Viparita Karani (Legs up the Wall), elevating your hips on a bolster/pillow/blanket and stretching your legs up the wall.  Stay here for a few minutes/as long as you need/until you fall asleep or decide that a bed is better.  

 I know.  It really feels like forever.  And it is way longer than any 24 hour bug should be.    Think about the delight you take in food after a stomach virus.  Multiply that by 367.  And hang in there.