Being Dad

Expectant Dad Guide – Be a Pregnancy Sickness Hero

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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

As an expectant dad, sickness experienced during pregnancy can leave you feeling a little bit useless, but there are actually some easy ways you can help your partner out.

Sickness and Nausea are regularly referred to as ‘Morning Sickness’, but plenty of people are now moving away from this term, which suggests that the symptoms only occur in the morning, when actually they can happen at any time and often last all day.

It is most common to suffer with morning sickness in the first twelve weeks of the pregnancy and the nausea can often disappear between weeks 12 – 14. For some women, the sickness can actually last throughout their pregnancy. If your partner is struggling with nausea, but has times during the day when she is more able to keep down fluids, try getting her drinks which contain lots of electrolytes as these are great for preventing dehydration.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG), which has recently been brought to light by the Duchess of Cambridge, is not usual pregnancy sickness, but instead a very severe form of sickness in pregnancy that usually requires hospitalisation. Dehydration, the resulting electrolyte imbalance and ketosis can mean that intravenous fluids are needed. Women suffering with HG will require medical help including anti-sickness medication and may struggle to keep anything down resulting in weight loss.

Some research has linked HG to low birth-weight, but is unlikely to harm your baby. As a dad, it can be difficult to watch your partner go through something so horrible, but being supportive is the most important thing you can do. If your partner has HG, they will be unable to continue with normal day-to-day life and it will mean you need to make sure you’re on top of any household responsibilities.

Although you can’t stop your partner feeling awful during pregnancy sickness, you can both find things that work for her and reduce the level of nausea she feels. Pregnancy sickness is very individual and women find different remedies that work specifically for them – though there are certain things that seem to help a little more often than not.

“Feed me grapes”

… Or more specifically crackers! Commonly throughout pregnancy sickness, eating little and often helps a lot and going a couple of hours without food can result in feeling very sick. After sleeping, women often wake feeling very weak and nauseous, so it is recommended they eat some toast or crackers before their head even leaves the pillow – this is where you come in!

Bringing your partner breakfast in bed (something high carb, low fat like toast) will help them feel brighter when they rise. Heightened sensitivity to taste and a sudden dislike to certain foods means that bland foods may be the only thing on the menu so crackers, crisp breads, plain rice and pasta are useful things to stock up on. If she has a craving, indulge her! If the craving is unhealthy then moderation is the key, though if she is struggling to keep food down or not finding anything appealing, then let her eat what she wants!

Don a Chef’s hat

During pregnancy your partner can become highly sensitive to smell as well as taste, and – more often than not – these smells will make her nauseous. Even women who loved to cook before may find that smells they once found appetising, become suddenly stomach-churning.

Now is the time to learn to cook if you haven’t before, particularly if she has a sudden aversion to a particularly strong smell. You will find that with a new baby around, you’ll probably need to split the cooking anyway. Every dad should know how to cook – there is no excuse for feeding your children on take-away pizza for a week when mum’s away and luckily many dads have realised this, becoming better than their partners at conjuring up delicious meals. If you’re complaining that it’s not as good as when your partner does it, there’s a simple solution: cook more often – the more you do it, the better you’ll get!

Become a Domestic God(ess)

Not only is doing the cooking useful, but if you don’t already, you’ll probably need to do more than your share of the housework too – especially if your partner’s nausea is very bad or long lasting, and definitely if she is still working. Fatigue is easy to underestimate when you’re not pregnant, but we’re not talking about feeling a bit sleepy – we’re talking aching all over, can barely keep your eyes open and can’t think straight, dizziness inducing exhaustion.

Your partner may well be needing an afternoon nap as well as going to bed at 8pm (no exaggeration) – remember she is growing a brand new little human in there and that’s tiring business! If she is working or struggling a lot with the nausea, help her by keeping on top of housework. It’s horrible living in a dirty house and any strong smells like bleach or rubbish bins are likely to trigger sickness which makes household chores harder to do. Try to notice things that need doing – Is the floor more bitty than usual? Whip-round with the hoover. Do the kitchen sides need a quick wipe? It’s also great practice for helping more when there’s a new-born around!

Yin and Yang

Ginger is often recommended as a remedy for pregnancy sickness. Many women swear by ginger ale and ginger biscuits, though some say not enough ginger is contained in those products to make a difference. Ginger root, ginger tea and ginger supplements from the Chemist are all ‘must-haves’ and have helped women to feel better. This actually stems from Chinese medicine where Ginger is suggested as an anti-nausea remedy. Those who need heat in the form of a ‘Yang’ remedy will probably feel cold with their nausea, plus introverted and depressed and just want to be wrapped in a warm blanket.

For those who feel hot with their sickness, have heartburn, are irritable and short-tempered and need cool drinks, peppermint (or spearmint) is suggested as the ‘Yin’ remedy. As well as peppermint tea, mints to suck on are often helpful. Chewing gum should be avoided as the chewing can trick your body into thinking it’s eating – this causes stomach acid to be produced, making the sickness worse. Ask your partner her symptoms and suggest she tries these remedies – she’ll be really pleased you’ve done the research!

Whilst pregnancy sickness is common, due to the surge of hormones your partner’s body is experiencing, the remedies can really differ from woman to woman. Your partner will find things that work for her, so help to make sure those are available. If ice cold water helps, make sure ice is ready and waiting! If she needs to nibble on some crackers every hour, then make sure she doesn’t run out!

However happy and excited your partner is about being pregnant and having a baby, it’s a really difficult time. She’s likely to be feeling unwell and emotionally vulnerable, so making things that bit easier for her and being patient, supportive and kind can really make a big difference.