Call us today 0330 390 3960

How to Deal with Emetophobia During Pregnancy

Pregnant person in red dress holding their belly
Image source: freestocks (via Unsplash)

For many people, getting pregnant is a reason to celebrate. It’s a major life milestone that lots of us imagine is in our future. However, for those suffering with emetophobia, pregnancy can be an incredibly daunting prospect. Depending on the severity of your phobia, you may even assume that it is not something you are able to experience. 

Thankfully, it is entirely possible to have a happy, healthy pregnancy whilst also dealing with emetophobia. Join EmetoGo as we explain how emetophobia can impact pregnancy, and provide a number of useful tips that can help you cope with (and maybe even enjoy!) having a baby.

What is emetophobia?

Before we jump into dealing with emetophobia during pregnancy, let’s first cover exactly what emetophobia is. People with emetophobia have an extreme fear of vomiting. More specifically, emetophobes experience intense anxiety when faced with any or all of the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Seeing vomit
  • Watching someone else vomit
  • Being ill
  • Vomiting in public
  • Hearing or talking about vomit
  • Visiting places where vomit may be present (like hospitals)

Those with emetophobia will often resort to obsessive and avoidant behaviours to deal with their phobia. For example, they may wash their hands excessively to prevent illness, only eat “safe foods” to avoid nausea, or refuse to go to places where people drink alcohol due to the risk of seeing vomit.

Emetophobia and pregnancy

For people with emetophobia, pregnancy understandably brings with it a lot of mixed emotions. You might be thrilled that you were able to conceive, but also terrified that the symptoms of pregnancy will be unbearable.

After all, certain phases of pregnancy commonly involve nausea and even vomiting. Then there’s the issue of food. When dealing with cravings and eating for two, you may not be able to stick to your preferred “safe foods”. On top of this, being pregnant involves lots of health check-ups, which may require you to visit hospitals on a regular basis. Finally, once the baby has been born, you will be responsible for keeping it safe and healthy, which unfortunately means cleaning up baby vomit. 

For these reasons, emetophobes who desire to have children may put it off for many years because they cannot face the prospect of confronting their fears head on. When you step back and think about this, it is incredibly sad. People are denying themselves the experience of creating a family over a potential few months of sickness. This is how powerful phobias can be—if left untreated they may start to completely control your life.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

A big worry for many pregnant people with emetophobia is hyperemesis gravidarum, a rare disorder that causes severe sickness during pregnancy. However, that’s exactly what it is: rare. In fact, it is estimated to affect only 0.5%-2% of pregnant people, so do your best to avoid thinking about it as it is incredibly unlikely it will happen to you.

Tips on managing emetophobia during pregnancy

Person in lab coat holding a pile of small white pills in their hand
Image source: Towfiqu barbhuiya (via Unsplash)

With the right tools and support, people with emetophobia can (and do!) have manageable pregnancies. Let’s explore our top 8 tips to help you deal with emetophobia during pregnancy. These techniques have been gathered from people who have been there and done that—so they’re tried and tested!

1. Check in with reality

Keep in mind that not all pregnant people experience morning sickness. Even if they do, it doesn’t necessarily cause them to actually vomit. It might also help to remember that, even if you do experience some kind of sickness, there is an obvious reason for it. Your body is doing a lot of work and so it is logical that you might feel a little “off” occasionally. At least you can remove the fear of the unknown with this type of sickness.

2. Preparation

Even though you might not experience sickness during pregnancy, you can do things in advance that will make it easier to deal with if it does happen. For example, some people find it useful to keep disposable bags in their car just in case they feel ill while out and about. You can also pack these in a bag, along with nausea relief tablets, that you take with you whenever you leave the house.

3. Make use of support systems

The good thing about pregnancy is that you don’t go through it alone. Medical professionals will be keeping track of your health and the baby’s development. Be honest with your doctor and midwife about your emetophobia from the start. Flagging it early will give them a chance to adapt their approach, if necessary.

Take advantage of your support systems at home, too. If you have friends and/or family who offer help, take it! Even if it’s just popping by to check how you’re doing, these interactions can be a great mental health boost.

Got a friend or partner dealing with this condition while pregnant? We have a range of tips on how to help someone with emetophobia.

4. Pack the snacks

If you do experience some morning sickness during your pregnancy, it can feel a lot worse if you are hungry. While it might be the last thing you want to do, try to nibble on some food when the nausea kicks in. Ideally, you should aim to keep hunger at bay by snacking regularly throughout the day. Food and drink options suggested by those who’ve been through it include:

  • Plain crackers
  • Toast
  • Breadsticks
  • Ginger biscuits
  • Plain rice 
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Peppermint tea
  • Mints

Eating little and often is a good approach, because it is easier on your stomach. Not up to eating food? Try sucking on an ice lolly for relief instead.

5. Anti-nausea medication

If nausea is really bothering you during pregnancy, you can take medication to ease the symptoms. Just make sure to check that the ones you choose are safe to take when carrying a baby. Some people also find that acupressure bands are effective at reducing nausea. For severe sickness, you can request medication from your doctor. 

If possible, try to differentiate between nausea stemming from your anxiety and morning sickness. It might be better to respond to the former with breathing techniques, rather than medication.

6. Keep busy

Nausea can feel a lot more intense if it is all you are focusing on. This is really easy to do if your anxiety is tied to vomiting. Keeping busy with tasks or social engagements is a great way to distract yourself from worrying and overthinking about sickness. If you don’t feel up to getting off the couch, watch a TV show or call a friend.

7. A blessing in disguise?

For some people, pregnancy can act as a kind of unintentional exposure therapy. To hear that at the start can be very scary. It’s true, though, that the experience of pregnancy may help you to manage your emetophobia in a healthy way. Indeed, it can be the absence of vomit in your life that makes the idea of it so terrifying. Once you are forced to confront it, you might realise that it’s not as terrible as you thought. Plus, when the baby is born, a lot of people find that their maternal instinct allows them to deal with baby vomit just fine.

8. The bigger picture

As daunting as pregnancy can be for someone with emetophobia, try to look at the bigger picture. You’re bringing life into the world! At the end of those 9 months you’ll have a child, and any sickness or stress you experience is surely worth that. It might even help to really embrace your pregnancy. Throw a baby shower, have a maternity photoshoot, enjoy picking out potential names—just try to have fun with it!

Treatment for emetophobia during pregnancy

Woman in striped top lying on sofa and using laptop
Image source: Mimi Thian (via Unsplash)

The above tips are a great start, but if your emetophobia is quite severe and getting in the way of your pregnancy plans, professional help is available. Whether it’s CBT, hypnotherapy or exposure therapy, talking through your anxieties with an expert can make a world of difference.

At EmetoGo we have a team of friendly, experienced therapists who know how hard it can be to get excited about pregnancy when you have emetophobia. With their help, you can gain the tools and understanding to manage your symptoms and maybe even say goodbye to emetophobia for good.

Don’t let fear prevent you from fulfilling your life goals. Visit our sister site ManageMinds to access online therapy that allows you to talk to a professional from the comfort of your own home. You can start with a single session or request a free 15-minute phone consultation.