Pregnant woman

Nausea, heartburn & constipation

Nausea, heartburn and constipation are typical conditions affecting many pregnancies. We offer some tips to manage & prevent each, but if you have specific concerns or feel your symptoms are more severe, please talk with your health care provider.

I have been having a lot of nausea and vomiting during my pregnancy. Is there anything I can do to stop it?

Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy is the most common medical condition in pregnancy. It affects more than half of all pregnant women. For most women, nausea and vomiting of pregnancy will resolve by the 16th week of pregnancy.

Here are some tips to manage and prevent nausea and vomiting of pregnancy:

  • Drink plenty of water, at least 2 litres a day
  • Eat small frequent meals ever 1-2 hours, consisting of bland foods throughout the day to avoid having an empty stomach
  • Separate food from drinks – have your drink before or after your meal, not with your meal
  • Avoid large meals and fatty foods
  • Avoid strong tasting, odorous foods (e.g., spicy, metallic tastes)
  • Try eating ice chips, popsicles and very cold beverages to help reduce metallic taste
  • Try eating crackers or biscuits before getting out of bed in the morning

Food ideas to help relieve nausea include:

  • Salty: rice crackers, pretzels, chips
  • Tart/sweet: pickles, lemonade
  • Earthy: brown rice, mushroom soup, peanut butter
  • Crunchy: celery sticks, apple slices, nuts
  • Bland: mashed potatoes, gelatine, broth
  • Soft: bread, noodles
  • Sweet: cake, hard candies, sugary cereals
  • Fruity: fruity popsicles, watermelon
  • Liquid: juice, seltzer, sparkling water, ginger ale, slushie
  • Dry: dry toast, crackers.

Is there anything I can do to relieve and prevent constipation during my pregnancy?

Constipation is very common in pregnancy. It happens for four reasons:

  1. The hormone progesterone increases during pregnancy and this slows digestion
  2. More of the water that comes from food and beverages gets absorbed from your intestines
  3. As your uterus grows it puts more pressure on your rectum
  4. Iron supplements can cause constipation and are often prescribed during pregnancy for anemia

To help relieve and prevent constipation you should:

  • Eat plenty of fibre – this can be found in vegetables, fruit, whole grains and legumes (beans, chickpeas and lentils). The recommendation for fibre during pregnancy is 28 g every day. Most Canadians do not meet their daily fibre requirements
  • Bananas, applesauce and rice may be binding, so you may want to limit these foods if you’re constipated
  • Drink plenty of fluids – water, milk and soup are all included. Pregnant women should aim to get about 10 cups of fluid every day
  • Be as active as you can, as long as your doctor has not told you to avoid activity
  • If you are still constipated after trying all of these tips, speak to your doctor before trying any laxatives

I have heartburn. What can I do to manage it while I’m pregnant?

Heartburn occurs when there is a back-up of stomach contents into the esophagus. Heartburn may result in a burning or painful sensation around the breastbone and extend up the throat

To manage heartburn try the following:

  • Eat smaller meals, avoid large amounts of food at one time
  • Avoid eating 2-3 hours before going to bed
  • Avoid certain acidic or spicy foods (e.g., spices, peppermint, chocolate, citrus juices, onions, garlic and tomatoes)
  • Choose lower fat foods (e.g., lower fat dairy products, lean meats and poultry or meat alternatives)
  • Drink fluids between meals
  • Limit drinks with caffeine (e.g., coffee, cola, caffeinated tea)
  • Avoid tobacco and alcohol
  • Chew gum, as this stimulates the salivary glands and can help neutralize the acid
  • Sleep in a more upright position
  • Wear loose fitting clothing.

If you still have heartburn after trying these tips, speak to your doctor before trying any antacid medications.