After nearly two years of trying to conceive, the day my husband and I discovered we were expecting was a wondrous day. About a week later when I had my first bout of morning sickness, I was actually happy to be sick. As joyful as I was to finally be pregnant, eight weeks of almost constant nausea and daily vomiting were exhausting and not very fun. Some days were better than others and the success of the various remedies I sought out seemed to vary day by day. If you find yourself in the same situation, I hope the following ideas will give you some ways to get through what some consider, the most trying part of pregnancy.
First, let’s start with some general information. For many women, morning sickness is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy (it usually starts around 6 weeks) and although the morning is the most common time, women may feel ill at any time of the day, or even all day. So what causes it? According to The American Pregnancy Association, the nausea (which may or may not be accompanied by vomiting) is thought to be caused by the influx of hormones required to nourish your growing baby and sustain your pregnancy. Though these hormones increase in all pregnant women, only about half of them experience some degree of morning sickness. It may also vary from one pregnancy to the next, so if you’re reading this between bouts of sickness, you may luck out with future pregnancies. That’s my hope, at least!
So you find yourself in the “nauseated” half of all pregnant women; now what can you do about it? The following remedies are based on my own experience, advice from my midwives, and these resources: March of Dimes, American Pregnancy Association, and the NIH. We all know that every pregnancy is unique, so what works for one person may not work for another. Be sure to discuss any morning sickness you may be having with your provider to make sure the remedies you choose are safe options for you and your baby.
- Eat small, frequent meals. This seemed to work the best for me, even though eating frequently was really the last thing I felt like doing. As long as I kept something on my stomach, it helped to keep the nausea down, but if I went too long, it was as if I had crossed an imaginary line and became too nauseated, which often led to vomiting.
- Stick to bland foods. Avoid very spicy or fatty foods because they may upset your stomach and be harder to digest.
- Increase your protein intake. Protein takes longer to digest, so your stomach will be fuller for longer. Common protein choices include white meat, fish, eggs, nuts and nut butters, milk, cheese, yogurt, beans, and soy.
- Eat before getting out of bed. Try having a small snack, such as crackers, before you get out of bed in the morning. Also, give yourself some extra time to get ready in the morning. Lots of movement can make nausea worse and you may be more likely to skip breakfast if you’re in a hurry.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water. You can try lightly flavoring your water if plain water makes you feel sick with things like lemon, lime, kiwi, or watermelon. It may also be helpful to separate drinking fluids from mealtimes.
- Try ginger. Ginger helps neutralize stomach acids and calm the muscles that line the stomach. (Read more of exactly how ginger works.) You can add ginger to your diet in a variety of ways: ginger tea, ginger snaps, ginger ale (make sure it contains real ginger), capsules and extracts. Typical use is up to 1,000mg per day.
- Teas. In addition to ginger tea, several other teas can be hydrating and alleviate nausea and vomiting for many women such as mint, peppermint, and red raspberry leaf tea. Remember to drink teas in moderation, usually 2-3 cups per day. Even taking a few deep breaths of your tea can curve the sickness.
- Vitamin B6. A 2003 study by Jewell and Young found that B6 (maximum dose of 100mg per day) helped to decrease nausea in early pregnancy better than traditional anti-nausea medications and with fewer side effects.
- Acupressure and acupuncture. Many studies show the benefit of acupuncture for nausea and vomiting relief. A licensed provider will know what points to stimulate, and which ones to avoid. “Sea bands,” or acupressure wrist bands can be purchased at most drug stores.
- Homeopathic medicine. Although a homeopathic practitioner or midwife can best advise you on which homeopathic remedies can help you and correct doses for you as an individual, some of the most common ones used for relief of nausea is Nux Vomica and Ipecac.
- Medication. If other methods fail to provide enough relief, you may want to ask your provider about a prescription anti-nausea medication, like Zofran or Phenergan. I was able to manage the sickness when I was home, but took Zofran while I was at work, just so I could function and get through the day. It’s safe during pregnancy, is taken every 8 hours as needed, and does not cause drowsiness.
Typical morning sickness will not harm you or your baby, but if the vomiting is so severe that you are unable to keep down any food or drink, have weight loss, decreased urination, or dark colored urine, you should contact your provider. Hyperemesis Gravidarum is severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy that requires medical intervention to make sure you (and your baby) stay hydrated and nourished.
Like most women, once I was in the second trimester the morning sickness, or in my case, “all day sickness,” finally came to an end. I was then able to move on to more exciting things, like shopping for maternity clothes to show off my new baby bump! So if you find yourself counting down the days until the second trimester, hang in there! You’ll be feeling better before you know it!