At five weeks pregnant, I woke up at 1 a.m. in a dash to the bathroom, where I continued to get sick for the next four hours. I wondered with dread, could this be morning sickness? If so, I thought, I’m in for a rough first trimester. But pretty soon my temperature spiked. Looks like a stomach bug.
Since your immune system is suppressed during pregnancy, it’s not uncommon to get a bug such as the one I experienced. However,gastrointestinal distress is not usually a call for alarm. But don’t hesitate to call your health care provider, because every woman and pregnancy is different. Here are some standard things to remember:
- Your top priority should be to stay hydrated. Dehydration can cause early labor and be dangerous to your developing baby. So, make sure you are forcing fluids, such as water and electrolyte juices. If you are having a hard time keeping these down, consider sucking on ice chips.
- Skipping a few meals will not harm your baby. When you feel ready to eat, start with a bland diet, such as toast and broth.
- If your fever is high, make sure to let your health care provider know, because this could be dangerous during early pregnancy.
- Stay in bed. Rest is the key to a quick recovery.
- Try ginger. I chewed on ginger candies and found it helped slightly with the nausea.
- Talk to your health care professional about what over-the-counter medications are safe.
Pregnancy & Stomach Flu
Having the stomach flu is NEVER fun. But having the stomach flu, aka viral gastroenteritis, during pregnancy can be dangerous If not treated quickly and dehydration sets in.
Because the immune system can be suppressed during pregnancy, you may be more susceptible to viruses. The stomach flu will not transmit or affect your baby directly, but dehydration CAN affect your pregnancy.
In light of my very fun-filled weekend of our family passing the stomach flu around, I wanted to share some natural methods to help ease the discomfort until the virus passes that I was able to use at 34 weeks along.
Treating Early Symptoms of the Stomach Flu
If you are just beginning to feel the symptoms (nausea, chills, diarrhea, decreased appetite, abdominal cramps and fever):
Remember those ginger chews you took during your first trimester? Now is the time to bring them out again. Long known as a natural digestive aid and nausea remedy, ginger can help alleviate some of the symptoms before vomiting hits. Aside from chews that can be purchased at natural health food stores, home-made ginger tea can be just as effective. Here’s my recipe:
Homemade Brewed Ginger Tea
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated gingerroot
- 1 1/2 cups boiling water
Place grated ginger into a 2-cup glass measuring cup. Fill to the 1-1/2 cup line with boiling water. Let it sit for about 10 minutes and strain into a mug. If the taste is too strong, add more boiling water to dilute. DO NOT ADD ANY SORT OF SUGAR.
Like ginger, peppermint also helps fight an upset stomach and studies have found that it can also ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Drinking peppermint tea can help fight a sour stomach.
The virus gastroenteritis can kill many of your good bacteria in your digestive system, and since 75% of our immune system is found in our gut, it’s a good idea to replenish them and bring your system into balance. Foods like yogurt and kefir often contain probiotics, but make sure you have the correct dosage and the right kind of bacteria.
Look for at least 10 billion colony of Bifidobacterium bifidum and L. acidophilus. Continue to consume daily for the duration of the illness and at least two weeks after. The probiotics will help boost your immune system to fight off other diseases.
Managing Your Stomach Flu
If you are already vomiting and experiencing heavy diarrhea – wait at least 1-2 hours before consuming any liquids, even water or electrolytes. Your stomach needs to heal itself and the spasms need to end. Sometimes introducing liquids too quickly can force your stomach to reject it automatically.
Instead of purchasing those electrolyte drinks at the store or pharmacy that are filled with chemicals, refined sugars and dyes, make your own at home that is just as effective and safer on your digestive system. What exactly are electrolytes and why is it better than water?
Your body has a balance, and has “ionic solutions” called electrolytes that keep your body, muscles, and nerves functioning properly. During the stomach flu, you lose a lot of these ionic solutions in vomiting and diarrhea and in order to regain your energy, strength and stamina, you will need to replenish all of the electrolytes lost. You can try this homemade recipe – your body will thank you, and you will start to regain energy again.
Easy Homemade Electrolyte Drink
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 cups of filtered water
- 2 -4 tablespoons raw honey, to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon unrefined salt (to taste)
Mix all ingredients in a blender until smooth.
During the stomach flu it’s important to avoid high sugar and fat content. Do not drink flat soda, fruit juices or ginger ale, despite old wives’ tales, since the high sugar content can actually aggravate your symptoms and make it worse.
The stomach flu should subside within 48 hours, but as in any health concerns, contact your health-care provider if you think you are becoming dehydrated or symptoms persist for more than 2 days.
What you need to know:
Gastrointestinal bugs can be hard to differentiate from morning sickness, especially in the early weeks of a pregnancy. If your nausea and vomiting are accompanied by cramps, fever, or diarrhea, you may be dealing with a stomach bug. The other possibility is that you’re suffering from food poisoning, the symptoms of which are the same as a stomach bug.
What you can do:
Whether your stomach is churning from pregnancy hormones, a virus, or from egg salad that sat on the lunch cart too long, the treatment is the same: Get the rest your body’s aching for, and focus on fluids — especially if you’re losing them through vomiting or diarrhea; they’re much more important in the short term than solids. If you’re not urinating frequently enough, or your urine is dark (it should be straw-colored), you’re in danger of becoming dehydrated.
Force fluids: water, diluted juice (white grape is easiest on the tummy), clear broth, weak decaffeinated tea, or hot water with lemon (which can cut through gas as well as any over-the-counter preparation out there). If you can’t manage to sip, suck on ice chips or Popsicles.
Follow your stomach’s lead when it comes to adding solids — and when you do, keep it bland, simple, and fat-free (white rice or unbuttered toast, cream of rice cereal, applesauce, bananas). And don’t forget that ginger’s good for what ails any sick stomach. Take it in tea or in flat ginger ale (best if it’s the real ginger ale), or try some ginger candies. (See Foods for Cold and Flu During Pregnancy).
If you can’t get anything down, talk to your practitioner. Dehydration is a problem for anyone suffering with a stomach bug, but especially problematic when you need to drink enough water for two. You might be advised to take some rehydration fluid (like Pedialyte).
If you do need to reach into your medicine cabinet (assuming your practitioner says it’s okay), know that antacids like Tums and Maalox are generally considered safe to take during pregnancy, as are gas relievers like Gas-X and Mylicon. Your practitioner may also say you can take certain antidiarrheal medicines, but probably only after your first trimester is safely past. But as always, check with your practitioner before taking anything (better safe than sorry).
And sick tummies take heart:
Most stomach bugs clear up by themselves within a day or so.
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