4 Tips for Eating with Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Is it even possible to eat while suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum?
The answer is… SORT OF

With persistent nausea and vomiting, eating is likely the last but also the only thing on a pregnant woman’s mind.  She wants to eat – she wants to eat SO badly!  But she also doesn’t want to eat because eating would mean vomiting and she really… REALLY… doesn’t want to vomit anymore.


*This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.

**Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.

4 Tips for Eating with Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Tip #1: Accept thy curse

The trick to eating while suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum is to accept the fact that nothing you eat will stay down.  But you will need to find ways to get nutrients into your body anyway, in order for you and your baby to survive, and to reduce the need to be hospitalized and fed through a tube.

ACCEPT that you will feel like crap every single day of your pregnancy until the day that baby pops out of you and not one second before.

DON’T expect to feel better after vomiting as if you just ate some bad shrimp.

ACCEPT that no home remedy for morning sickness will help you.

DON’T count down the days until the end of the first trimester, expecting it to go away.

ACCEPT that you are strong enough to do this and that the benefits will greatly outweigh the struggle in the end.

DON’T tell others that you are fine when you are clearly suffering.  Tell them how to help you.

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Tip #2: Every Second Counts

If you can keep something in your stomach for just 5 minutes, then it’s better than nothing at all.

There are three characteristics to look for when choosing a food for this purpose:

Fast absorption:  Liquids absorb faster than solids.  Electrolyte drinks like Gatorade or Pedialyte can help battle dehydration or you can try making your own if you find them too sugary.

High in vitamins and nutrients:  Try to go as healthy as possible.  Meal replacement drinks, protein shakes, fresh made juices, or vegetable soup are good options to try.

If you don’t have the energy to cook healthy food for yourself, you can try a boxed meal delivery service like Hello Fresh which takes care of all the work for you.

Get 3 free plates on your first order at HelloFresh.ca with code: HELLOAFF3FP!

Smooth texture: If it goes down easy – it will come up easy.  It may seem disturbing to have a choose a food based on what it will be like coming back up, but that is exactly what you will need to do to survive HG.

Contrary to popular belief, things like sweet, juicy fruit like apples, berries and melons (which you WILL crave while dehydrated, nauseous and pregnant) may not be the best option.  The natural fruit juices get absorbed very quickly leaving the pulp behind which is extremely unpleasant coming back up.


Tip #3: Avoid Water

Whaaaaaa….????

I know this sounds counter-productive for someone who is battling dehydration but plain old-fashioned water is one of the hardest things to drink with HG.

Water can often induce vomiting when you have an extra sensitive stomach, especially after eating something.  It seems to stir everything up in the stomach and cause more damage than good.

Staying hydrated is essential and some alternatives to water include:
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Natural mineral water: the fizziness sometimes helps, sometimes makes it worse.

Coconut water: try it both cold and at room temperature to see which you prefer, as this can change the flavor.

Popsicles: they melt slowly which can feel better than having liquid go straight into your stomach.  These Pedialyte freezer pops are a great option to help restore your electrolytes and they can provide a cooling sensation if they do come back up.  Beware of flavors that are too sweet or sour.

Ice chips: if all else fails and you’re not able to keep down any liquids at all, then sucking on ice chips is one way to stay hydrated.

It sounds extreme but it’s not at all unusual for a woman with hyperemesis gravidarum to be unable to keep down even a sip of water to take her prenatal vitamins or prescription anti-emetics (I speak from experience).


Tip #4: Tiny Portions

I’m not exaggerating when I say tiny.

Small portions are usually recommended for nausea and vomiting but I’m not talking about “small.”  When I say “tiny” I mean, “itty-bitty-not-enough-food-for-a-mouse”

Try one tablespoon of food or liquid every 10-15 minutes. 

If it stays down, have another and so on.

If it doesn’t stay down, try half a tablespoon every 30 minutes.

Keep experimenting with tiny portions.  It may seem tedious and pointless but one spoonful of food is better than none at all.


I know the pain of hyperemesis gravidarum all too well having battled it with all three of my pregnancies.  It’s easy to avoid eating all together in an effort to avoid vomiting when that’s all you’ve been doing for weeks.  But starvation, dehydration and malnutrition are far worse things to struggle with than vomiting.

Chances are – you will never be able to eat properly throughout an HG pregnancy, instead you will spend the entire 9 months simply “trying to eat.”

11 effects hyperemesis gravidarum has on a pregnant body
There’s more to it than just vomiting…

14 Ways to Help a Woman with Hyperemesis Gravidarum

 

The pregnancy symptom that has recently been making headlines is one that I have personally experienced not once or twice but three times!  It’s more than just an extreme case of morning sickness – it’s a debilitating condition that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.  This intense sickness is so life altering that it affects not only a pregnant woman, but also those closest to her.

While there is very little relief or treatment for women with hyperemesis gravidarum, there are several things loved ones can do to help make her 9 months of hell a little less unbearable…

hyperemesis gravidarum

*This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.

**Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.


1. Don’t call it “morning sickness”

Hyperemesis gravidarum is not just morning sickness on steroids.  Don’t expect to understand what she’s going through even if you had “really bad” morning sickness.  Hyperemesis gravidarum is completely debilitating and women who suffer from it are often unable to function, even hospitalized, so comparing her condition to the nausea and vomiting that 90% of pregnant women experience is kind of insulting.


2. Know the symptoms

The symptoms will be the same as those of morning sickness at first.  But if she starts vomiting more than 10 times a day and is unable to keep down any food at all then it’s a warning sign.  Watch for signs of dehydration, anemia and low blood pressure which could all indicate that she’ll need additional treatment.

For a complete list of the signs and symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum check out Web MD or The American Pregnancy Association.

3. Believe her

A lot of people believe that nausea is a “mind over matter” situation.  And while the embarrassing thought of vomiting in a public place is enough to cause any women severe anxiety, it’s not the reason why she’s nauseated.  Don’t assume that she’s just being dramatic.  Believe that her pain is real and don’t expect her to suck it up and go on with her day.


4. Don’t offer her crackers and ginger ale

Whatever home remedy you can think of for nausea and vomiting – she’s tried it.

Caroline @ Swaddles n’ Bottles shares some more great tips in case you haven’t tried them all already…

5. Choose unscented

Women with hyperemesis gravidarum have an extremely heightened sense of smell and anything that’s too strong (even if it’s their favorite scent) will make their nausea worse.  Switch to unscented products or skip them all together.

[I like Dr. Bonner’s Pure Castile Soap made from olive oil & the unscented products from The Honest Company]

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6. NO SMOKING

The smell of cigarette smoke is the most offensive one for a women with hyperemesis gravidarum.  You may think you’re being kind enough by not subjecting her to second hand smoke but bear in mind that some women with hyperemesis gravidarum can smell it from 100 feet away depending on which way the wind blows.  They can also smell it on your clothing, skin and hair so if you’re smoker – either consider quitting (recommended) or keep your distance.

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7. Keep stinky foods away

While salami and blue cheese might be your preferred bedtime snack, it’s a death wish for a women with hyperemesis gravidarum.  Any foods that have a strong smell should be kept out of her house or wrapped tightly enough that she doesn’t detect it.  The smell of cooking, especially frying, or anything with onions, garlic or heavily seasoned foods is also a big no-no in the home of a women with hyperemesis gravidarum.


8. Hide while you eat

If you can’t cook or bring home your favorite foods then what’s a person to do?  Just because she can’t eat doesn’t mean you don’t have to – just don’t do it in front of her.

Despite the fact that she can’t eat and that all food and the smell of food makes her vomit – she can’t help but fantasize about all the food she wants to eat.  She is starving but still experiencing all the same pregnancy cravings, so watching someone else eat food that she so desperately wants is just plain torture.

Eat in the car, eat before you come home or while she’s sleeping but please, don’t eat in front of her!

Skip the takeout & opt for something fast AND healthy!

9. Make her fresh juice to drink

Keeping down food while suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum is next to impossible.  The trick is to find things that are high in nutrients and can be absorbed by the body quickly so that even if she can keep it down for a few minutes before vomiting, she will still experience some of the benefits and hopefully stave off dehydration.  While soup sounds like a great option, hot foods can irritate the stomach and cold soup just isn’t appetizing.

The best solution?  Fresh juiced vegetables and fruit.  The store bought juices often contain too much sugar which also irritates the stomach, but if you have a juicer or blender, make her some out of vegetables and fruit.  Play around with combinations that appeal to her – some women find lemon and citrus very soothing for nausea – while others can’t handle the acidity.

[The Breville Juice Fountain is my personal favorite]

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10. Let her sleep

If I could have crawled into a cave and hibernated for 9 months while growing my babies that’s what I would have done.  Sleeping and vomiting are the only two constants while battling hyperemesis gravidarum.  Most likely she will be taking some type of anti-emetic medications that will make her extremely drowsy.  Factor in that she will have absolutely no energy thanks to her zero calorie intake and sleep will be all that she will be able to do.  Even sitting upright and watching television will require energy that she doesn’t have to spare.   So let her sleep – because at least if she’s asleep, she’s not vomiting.


11. Give her a massage

With all of that time in bed and the fact that she’s on the verge of dehydration, she will find her muscles in a state of atrophy.  This often results in leg cramps and back spasms.  A massage every once in a while will help with blood flow.  There are also several acupressure points that can help ease up nausea.  If you’re not great with your hands, then you can book her a pregnancy massage with her favorite spa!

11 effects hyperemesis gravidarum has on a pregnant body
Want to know all the gritty effects HG has?

12. Avoid the road less traveled

Nausea is nausea whether it’s motion sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum.  If you’re driving her around take care to avoid bumpy roads and sharp turns.   Even if she’s never had motion sickness before – the now delicate state of her stomach will make every movement feel like an internal earthquake.  Make sure to pack vomit bags for the car ride and prepare to have to pull over several times.

Get a 12 pack of these awesome travel nausea bags on Amazon!

13. Stand by her

Literally.  Standing up for any amount of time is a bad idea for a woman with hyperemesis gravidarum.  Low blood pressure, low sugar levels and near starvation almost definitely means she will faint.  If she needs to stand, stay close by and give her an arm to lean on for support.  If she feels faint, elevate her legs to help the blood rush back to her head.


AND THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE OF ALL…

14. Clean the toilet

This is where a woman with hyperemesis gravidarum will spend the majority of her time.  Some women can vomit up to 100 times in a single day.  And the absolute last thing she will want to do after all that is clean.  There is nothing, I repeat – NOTHING, more meaningful to her than to have someone else clean the toilet.

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For more information and support, visit the HER Foundation [Hyperemesis Education & Research] at www.helpher.org.
H.E.R. Foundation
www.helpHER.org
Ways to Help a Woman with Hyperemesis Gravidarum