There is nothing more exciting than to see a positive sign on a pregnancy test and know that in 9 months you will be holding a sweet little babe in your arms. You may have a few weeks of bliss and then without warning, you join the ‘Queasy Club’. Studies show that 75% of women will experience what is known as morning sickness. The term is definitely misleading since the nausea and vomiting can effect you morning, noon, night or all three! Every woman is a little different, but being a 3rd time expectant mother and definitely effected by morning sickness, I thought I would share some of my knowledge about the subject. My current pregnancy has definitely been the worst as far as morning sickness which according to different sources is not common. Morning sickness is more common and tends to be more severe in first pregnancies, although generalities never seem to be true for pregnant women and I have found a lot of women are more sick with subsequent pregnancies than they were with their first.
Of all of the remedies, helpful tips, foods to eat or avoid – the best thing that I had during my morning sickness bout was my husband! Wow – how would I have survived without him!?! My best advice to you is to seek support and don’t be afraid to ask for help! As women I think we want to be independent and feel like we can do it all, but sometimes we just can’t and it is OK. It will make a world of different for you, especially if you have other children.
What Causes Morning Sickness?
Unfortunately there is no definite answer to this question. Boo! I guess if there were, then there would be a better remedy! These are the most studied theories:
- High levels of the pregnancy hormone hCG in the blood during the first trimester
- Elevated estrogen levels
- Gastroesophageal reflux (when the muscle tissue of the upper digestive tract relax making digestion less efficient)
- Enhanced sense of smell during pregnancy
Not all women experience morning sickness in the same way. There are all ends of the spectrum from those lucky women out there who may have only occasional queasy moments to women who are almost bed ridden because the nausea and vomiting is so severe. A few theories as to the different reactions include:
- Hormone levels: Women have different levels of hormones. Higher levels may increase morning sickness.
- Sensitivity: Different women’s brains are more effected by hormones and other nausea triggers. If you are more likely to get motion sickness you are more likely to have more severe morning sickness.
- Stress: Emotional stress can trigger gastrointestinal upset
- Fatigue: When you are very tired either physically or mentally it can exacerbate the symptoms of morning sickness
What Can Help Relieve Morning Sickness?
I definitely don’t think there is one solution that will make your morning sickness go away completely (except having the baby!) but I have found there are things that either make the symptoms lessen or help you cope with them better.
Nutrition and Diet
- Eat early. Nausea is more likely to occur when you have an empty stomach. When you haven’t eaten in a while, the acids in your stomach have nothing to digest which can cause you to feel more nauseated. Keep a stash of dry foods in your nightstand (crackers, rice cakes, dry cereal, your favorite trail mix). It may even be a good idea to eat a nibble if you wake up to go to the bathroom during the night so that your stomach always has a little something in it.
- Eat late. This is the same concept. If you eat a light snack with protein and complex carbs (mini muffin and small glass of milk, string cheese and dried fruit) before you go to bed, you may feel better in the morning.
- Eat often. One of the best ways to keep nausea under better control is to keep your blood sugar levels stable. Eat small, frequent meals during the day instead of 3 bigger meals. Some ideas:
- Peanut butter on apples or celery
- Cheese and crackers
- Nuts and dried fruit
- Pretzels and yogurt
- Granola Bar
- Cereal with milk
- Fruit smoothie and toast
- Banana and yogurt with granola
- Carrot or sweet potato chips and dip
- Orange slices and string cheese
- Oatmeal raisin cookie
- Rice cake with peanut butter
- Sliced kiwi and almonds
- Slice of zucchini bread and milk
- Homemade tortilla chips with melted cheese
- Drink a lot. Getting enough fluids is definitely important especially if you are vomiting frequently. Sometimes liquids are easier to get down when you are nauseated than eating whole food. Making smoothies, soups and juices and help you get nutrition when you just don’t feel like eating. Also, sometimes eating foods with high water content can help: melons, citrus fruits, cucumbers.
- Vary your food. If you find something that sounds good and only eat that, it may actually start to trigger nausea. Switch off eating foods you like to avoid this!
- Try Ginger. Several studies have found a benefit in reducing nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. There are a lot of ways to include ginger in your diet:
- In cooking: Muffins, Soups, Cookies
- Steeped into tea
- Crystallized ginger
- Ginger candy
- Ginger soda
- A few other eating tips:
- Suck on sour candies
- Avoid foods that are high in fat and salt (greasy salty foods can trigger nausea)
- Talk to your doctor about supplementing with B6 – this has been shown to relieve nausea in some women
Lifestyle and Alternative
- Avoid Strong Smells. Smells that may have been appealing before pregnancy may now trigger nausea and vomiting. Keep rooms well ventilated and free of strong odors (if you can help it)
- Rest. Getting plenty of sleep and lying down often can help relieve nausea. Both emotional physical fatigue can exacerbate nausea.
- Take care of your mouth. Brushing your teeth or rinsing with mouth wash frequently will help keep your mouth fresh and may help reduce any metallic or other weird tastes that are lurking.
- Consider complimentary medical approaches. Acupuncture, acupressure, biofeedback hypnosis, sea bands, meditation and visualization can help reduce nausea and vomiting.
Talk to you practitioner
There are medications that can help reduce nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Your practitioner can help you decide which may be the best approach for your situation. There are a small percent of pregnancies that nausea and vomiting become so severe that you can’t maintain proper nutrition and fluids. If this seems to be the case, definitely contact your practitioner.
In the end, you may try all of these and still experience morning sickness! With this pregnancy I started feeling sick around week 7 and it didn’t go away until about week 20!! I definitely tried a lot of these approaches to reduce the nausea and some of them definitely helped me. Making sure you are consistent with whatever works and taking care of yourself is important during this time. It seems like it is going to last forever and you just don’t know how you can make it another day, but then one day you will wake up and realize that you feel somewhat normal! Most of the pregnancy information I read said that for most women, morning sickness doesn’t last much beyond 12-14 weeks. If you are experiencing morning sickness I feel your pain!! Sometimes it feels good to commiserate with other women who have or are experiencing the same thing. Drop a comment and I would be happy to commiserate with you! Most importantly – congratulations on your upcoming bundle of joy! Pregnancy is an amazing miracle and it is definitely worth any amount of sickness in the end.
I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.Learn More about Natalie