Tips to Help You Feel Better During Pregnancy

pregnant woman holding her stomach with nausea

During pregnancy, there can be times when you don’t feel well. You may experience nausea and vomiting, heartburn, constipation, a decrease in appetite or swelling in your feet and ankles. Below are some tips to help you manage or avoid some of these uncomfortable feelings.

Nausea and vomiting and pregnancy

Over half of all women suffer from nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Feeling sick is most likely caused by changes in your body such as high levels of hormones in your blood.  Nausea and vomiting usually go away after the first trimester. For some women it can last longer, sometimes until the end of pregnancy. 
Don’t worry if you can’t eat well for a few weeks. This will not harm you or your baby.  Do your best to get enough fluids and eat foods that appeal to you when you feel hungry. 
Get help from your dietitian or health care provider if you are so sick that you miss meals day after day or you are losing weight very quickly.
To help you cope:

  • Eat small, frequent meals and snacks.  Try to eat every two hours so that your stomach does not become empty.
  • Choose high protein meals and snacks. Try pita with hummus, cheese and crackers, a small bowl of rice and beans, or yogurt with granola.
  • Take small sips of fluid often during the day.  Try to avoid cold, tart or sweet drinks like juice, fruit drinks or lemonade.
  • Keep foods and drinks separate. Avoid drinking fluids just before, during or right after a meal. 
  • Keep crackers at your bedside. Eat a few crackers and rest for 15 minutes before getting out of bed. 
  • Use ginger.  Try fresh or ground ginger, ginger ale or ginger tea.  You can also take ginger capsules in doses up to 250 mg four times a day. Larger amounts may not be safe.  Choose a product with a Natural Product Number (NPN). 

If these changes are not enough to help you feel better, talk to your health care provider about medications or other treatments such as acupressure or acupuncture.

What about my prenatal multivitamin? 

If you feel that your prenatal multivitamin makes your symptoms worse, do not stop taking it. Try taking your multivitamin with food or just before bed. Ask your dietitian or health care provider to suggest pills that are smaller or have less iron (since iron supplements may make you feel worse). 
If this does not help, take a folic acid supplement (0.4 to 1.0 mg) by itself until you feel better.

Heartburn and pregnancy

The pressure of your growing baby and hormone changes can cause heartburn. Get tips to help you cope with heartburn here.
Do not use antacids without talking to your health care provider first.  Not all antacids are safe while you are pregnant.

Constipation and pregnancy

Food passes through your body more slowly while you are pregnant so you can absorb the extra nutrients that you and your baby need.  This may cause you to become constipated.
To help you manage:

  • Drink plenty of fluids.  Drink at least 2.3 litres (9 and a half cups) of fluids like water, milk, juice, soup and caffeine-free coffee and tea.  Warm or hot fluids may be especially helpful.
  • Eat more high fibre foods. You need at least 28 grams of fibre per day while you are pregnant. Add high fibre foods slowly to your diet to avoid gas, bloating, cramps and diarrhea. Try these high fibre meal and snack ideas.
  • Have prunes, pears and apples.  These fruits have a laxative effect and may help to make your stool softer and easier to pass.
  • Be active.  Daily physical activity can help keep you regular. It also is important for a healthy pregnancy.  Walking is an easy and safe way to be active every day.

Do not use laxatives without talking to your health care provider.  Laxatives may start labour contractions.

Poor appetite and pregnancy

There may be times when you do not feel like eating while you are pregnant, especially if you are not feeling well or are constipated. In addition, as your baby continues to grow, your stomach can’t hold as much food causing you to feel full quickly. 
To help you meet your energy needs:

  • Eat small, frequent meals and snacks. Smaller amounts of food can help prevent you from feeling too full.
  • Enjoy drinks that are high in energy and protein. Make smoothies with milk or fortified soy beverage, yogurt, skim milk powder (for extra protein), banana, peanut butter, puréed silken tofu, frozen berries and nut butters.
  • Enjoy high energy foods. Try unsalted nuts and seeds, dried fruits, avocado, salmon, cheese and nut butters.
Try these recipes
Banana Nut Smoothie
Mini Mushroom Omelettes
Energy Bites
Mango Chicken Wraps
Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal
Yogurt Banana Split
Chicken and Corn Chowder

Swelling and pregnancy

You may notice some swelling in your feet, ankles or your hands.  Water retention is normal while you are pregnant. 
To help reduce swelling:

  • Drink plenty of fluids.  It is important to drink plenty of water while you are pregnant, even if you are feeling bloated. Water carries nutrients to your body and to your growing baby, takes away waste products from your baby and from you, keeps you cool, helps prevent constipation and helps control swelling. White milk and unsweetened fortified plant-based beverages are also healthy drink options.
  • Limit high salt snack foods, fast foods and convenience foods.  You do not need to restrict your salt intake while you are pregnant, but too much salt can contribute to water retention Check out this article for tips on lowering your salt intake.
  • Put your feet up when you are sitting. Sleep with extra pillows under your feet. Avoid crossing your legs or feet.
  • Be active.  Daily physical activity can help reduce swelling. It is also important for a healthy pregnancy.  Walking is an easy and safe way to be active every day.
  • Talk to your health care provider if you notice a rapid increase in your weight or swelling in your upper arms or face.

How can a dietitian help?

A dietitian can suggest personalized strategies for overcoming these pregnancy discomforts. Your dietitian will also carefully review what you are eating and drinking to make sure you are getting enough nutrients for you and your baby even when you don’t feel well. Connect with a dietitian today!

Bottom line 

Every woman has a different experience during pregnancy and it is normal to sometimes feel unwell. Talk to your dietitian  if you feel that you are not eating well because of how you are feeling. 

You may also be interested in:

Eating for a Healthy Pregnancy
Fill up on Fibre:  Meal and Snack ideas
Facts on Fluids – How to Stay Hydrated
What Can I Expect When I go and See a Dietitian?
This article was written and reviewed by dietitians from Dietitians of Canada


Last Update – November 19, 2021

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