Morning sickness (which can actually strike any time of day or night) is a common but challenging ailment of pregnancy. Seventy-five percent of all pregnant women experience some degree of morning sickness—aptly called Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy. Many women experience a general feeling of nausea, while half of all pregnant women feel sick enough to vomit.
Morning sickness often develops at 4 to 6 weeks and resolves around 14 and 16 weeks, although few women experience intermittent or continuous symptoms throughout pregnancy. Hyperemesis gravidarum is the name for such serious cases.
On a scale from one to five, most women rate their symptoms at about a 2 or 3, which is very uncomfortable but still tolerable. Morning sickness can drastically affect even the simplest daily tasks, as well as diet, professional life, sleep, relationships, and emotional health.
Though the causes of morning sickness are not entirely understood, some believe it actually serves a protective function for your baby. Some evidence suggests women who experience nausea/vomiting have a lower risk of miscarriage (although lack of sickness doesn’t increase the risk). That said, nausea and vomiting can be uncomfortable if not debilitating and should be discussed with your provider.
While any pregnant woman may experience morning sickness, the following are thought to increase a woman’s chances:
- motion sickness, migraines, or birth control-related nausea/vomiting prior to pregnancy
- morning sickness with a previous pregnancy
- carrying twins or multiples
- female family members experienced morning sickness
- carrying a girl (one study found severe nausea to be 50% more common in women carrying girls)
Naturopaths believe that the severity of nausea is associated with maternal liver health.
Here’s how to cope:
- Choose high-carb, high-protein, low-fat, easy-to-digest foods.
- Salty foods can help some women
- Avoid greasy, spicy and fatty foods if they aggravate your symptoms
- Yeast supplements and products can aggravate morning sickness
- Eat small, frequent meals and snack often—an empty stomach can aggravate sickness; eating small amounts often can help maintain blood sugar levels, thought to ease nausea. Dried and fresh fruits and nuts are good snacks to have on hand.
- Some women swear by eating dry foods, like a few soda crackers, a piece of dry toast, whole grain ginger biscuits, or rolled oats upon waking in the morning
- Eat slowly
- Avoid “trigger” foods or smells—while nutrition is important in pregnancy, be kind to yourself, listen to your body, and stick to foods that appeal to you and don’t aggravate your symptoms.
- Take prenatal vitamin with food or at night if it seems to upset your stomach, Health Foundations carries prenatal supplements that are generally well-tolerated
- Sip water often, mostly between meals (especially if you have been vomiting)
- Some women find lightly carbonated, electrolyte-containing, or sour drinks to be helpful
- Water with lemon promotes a balanced alkaline system
- Sip broths, barley water
- Ginger tea and other forms of ginger can allay nausea
- Peppermint, chamomile, fennel and raspberry leaf tea can also reduce symptoms and provide nutrients (caution: peppermint can aggravate heartburn)
- Avoid coffee and orange juice, they can aggravate symptoms and strain the liver
- Get fresh air and exercise (even though it may be the last thing you want to do, even a short brisk walk can help)
- Try not to lie down right after eating
- Sleep or rest as much as you can, this can reduce symptoms
- Determine and avoid your non-food related “triggers”: such as a warm room, strong odors, changing positions quickly, flickering lights, car rides, etc.
- Aromatherapy—place a few drops of lemon, ginger, or peppermint essential oil on a cloth/tissue and inhale
- Deep diaphragmatic breathing can improve liver and gall bladder functioning. You can also massage under the base of the ribcage for pressure relief
- Avoid stress as much as possible
OTHER HELPFUL TREATMENTS
- Vitamin B6 supplements can help ease nausea and vomiting
- Acupuncture/acupressure (sea bands) may help
- Hypnosis has some proven benefit in alleviating nausea
- PrimaBella: available at Health Foundations, this FDA-approved device, which is worn like a watch, has helped many women
- Medications: if your symptoms are severe or persistent or your nutrition is greatly compromised by morning sickness, don’t be afraid to speak with the midwives about medication options that can help
When to call the midwives:
While you should definitely speak with the midwives about your nausea and vomiting, the following are cause for a more immediate call:
- Nausea or vomiting is severe
- You feel dizzy or faint when you stand up
- You pass only a small amount of urine or it's dark in color
- Your heart races
- You vomit blood
- You can't keep down liquids
Remember, as bad as morning sickness can be, this too will pass, sweet mama!