When those two pink lines appeared on your pregnancy test you were absolutely thrilled. You imagined cuddling with your baby and even got excited about the big, round belly that was coming your way. You started shopping and dreaming up the perfect name. Then you started throwing up. And thus the quest to find nausea remedies became an essential part of your day. Pregnancy is a beautiful time, but there is nothing that can put a damper on the excitement of the impending new arrival as much as morning sickness. (For starters, it must have been a man who coined that term, because any woman who has been pregnant knows that pregnancy nausea can last all day or creep up suddenly when you least expect it.) To make matters worse, nausea usually peaks in the first trimester, when you might be opting to keep your news private. Trying to work or even just function while constantly feeling sick adds another level of emotional depletion to pregnancy when emotions are already running high, so finding nausea remedies that work for you is critical to feeling better. While morning sickness is often short lived compared to the 40 weeks of pregnancy, that still means dealing with unending nausea for weeks. Who, besides moms-to-be, would be able to endure that? Fortunately, if you’re spending your days puking in flower pots, running to the bathroom at work, or just feeling constantly queasy, there are some nausea remedies that can alleviate and prevent morning sickness. You can take advantage of these nausea remedies until the second trimester rolls around and brings sweet relief. Here’s everything you should know about morning sickness—and the nausea remedies that can keep it at bay.
What causes morning sickness, anyway?
If you’re like most pregnant women, you’ve probably wondered why you’re feeling your worst when your body needs to be healthier than ever to support a pregnancy. The answer is those pesky hormones. In particularly you can blame human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a hormone that is produced in the placenta and helps your fetus develop. This hormone first becomes detectable in your system about 11 days after you ovulate, and some women might need nausea remedies beginning right then. The hormone peaks around weeks 8 to 11 of pregnancy, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Not coincidentally, this is also when pregnancy nausea is at its worst and women are most in need of nausea remedies. “We think there may be a relationship between high pregnancy hormone levels like human chorionic gonadotropin, estrogen, and morning sickness,” says Patricia Lo, an OB-GYN at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California. “Women with twins or triplets have higher levels of hCG and generally have worse symptoms.” The small silver lining to feeling sick is that it is likely a sign of a healthy pregnancy. Low hCG levels can indicate an impending miscarriage, so higher hormone levels—and the nausea that accompanies them—are generally a good sign that your body is doing what it needs to to help your baby grow. “Women with mild nausea and vomiting during pregnancy experience fewer miscarriages and stillbirths than women without these symptoms,” says Sherry Ross, an OB-GYN and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “So, for me, when a woman is really nauseous and has occasional vomiting, I know she is probably carrying a healthy pregnancy!” Of course the peace of mind is great, but it does little to alleviate the physical symptoms you’re experiencing, so experimenting with different nausea remedies that work for you is still important. If you’re prone to nausea in general or have had morning sickness with a previous pregnancy, you’re more likely to experience it again, Lo says. Some people say that women who are carrying female fetuses are more likely to experience nausea, but experts disagree about whether this is true or merely an old wives’ tale. And if you’re feeling frustrated that your sickness lasts all day, you’re not alone. “Unfortunately, for most women, nausea and vomiting can persist throughout the day. For these women, the term pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting may be a better term” than morning sickness, Lo says. Lo points out that nausea isn’t the only symptom of morning sickness—some women will experience dizziness or lightheadedness or have increased saliva. Although all of that is entirely normal, it certainly isn’t pleasant! Hang in there.
Study your triggers and you might not need nausea remedies.
Since pregnancy nausea differs from woman to woman, the most effective thing you can do to keep nausea at bay is to study your own symptoms and figure out what nausea remedies work best for them. Learn what triggers your morning sickness, and stay away from those things. “Avoid anything that makes you nauseous,” says Lo. “This can include foods with strong odors, stuffy rooms, hot places, and loud noises.” This step requires some patience, but it is ultimately very effective. “It may take some trial and error before you find out what your triggers are,” Lo explains.
Figuring Out Which Nausea Remedies Work
The American Pregnancy Association says that half of pregnant women experience morning sickness, and the experts we spoke to put the number closer to 80 percent. That leaves a lot of women looking for nausea remedies just so they can go on completing their everyday tasks. Fortunately, there are lots of available nausea remedies for morning sickness, ranging from lifestyle adjustments to dietary changes. Medically, there are over-the-counter and prescription medications that are available if you need them. “Treatment for morning sickness is often necessary and is usually in the form of dietary adjustments and medications available over the counter,” says Michael Nageotte, MD, a perinatologist and associate chief medical officer at Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital in Long Beach, California. Treating and preventing morning sickness can be a matter of trial and error, so the nausea remedies here are arranged from the least invasive treatments to the most medical. However, all of these nausea remedies are safe and available if you need them.
Nausea Remedies That Can Help You Get Through the Day
1. Take your vitamins.
Preventing morning sickness can start before you need any nausea remedies. In fact, it can start before you’re even pregnant. “Women who take multivitamins when they are first trying to get pregnant generally have less morning sickness,” Lo says. Of course, that info might be useful for the future, but it’s no help if you’re already pregnant and trying to find nausea remedies that will give you a bit of relief. Taking your prenatals is still important even if you’re feeling sick, though, yet many women feel that the vitamins make them more likely to feel nauseated. If you find that to be the case for yourself, try taking them at a different time of day, like before bed, or with a meal. When I was expecting, even that didn’t work, so my midwife suggested taking two Flintstones chewable vitamins until I could get back to my prenatals without feeling sick. It worked well and was much more fun!
2. Eat more often.
If you’re feeling sick, snacking is the last thing you want to do, but eating is one of the most important nausea remedies during pregnancy. Having smaller, more frequent meals is one of the best ways to keep pregnancy nausea at bay, according to Lo. “Often, women avoid eating when they start having symptoms and an empty stomach can actually make their symptoms worse,” she says. Instead of avoiding meals, Lo recommends eating small meals every hour or two to keep your stomach settled. Sipping a drink can also help quell nausea.
3. Become a picky eater.
In addition to eating more often, it’s time to seriously consider what you’re eating if you’re trying to discover nausea remedies that work. Many women love simple carbs for keeping nausea at bay, and reaching for protein is another great option. Try to take note about which foods help settle your morning sickness and which do you more harm than good. “Ideally, eat foods high in carbohydrates and low in fat,” says Ross. “Avoid foods that are spicy, salty, or high in protein.” The BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) is a great remedy for nausea, she says.
4. Go for ginger, one of the oldest nausea remedies in the book.
Many women turn to traditional natural nausea remedies for relief from pregnancy nausea. “Natural remedies are often of value and it is unclear as to why they work,” says Nageotte. Fortunately, most moms-to-be are more interested in whether nausea remedies work than they are in discovering how those remedies work. Ginger is one of the most commonly recommended natural nausea remedies. You can sip ginger tea, suck lozenges, or eat fresh ginger. “It’s thought that ginger helps relax gastrointestinal muscles, relieving symptoms associated with morning sickness,” Ross says. Treats like ginger ale and ginger snap cookies are less effective because they don’t contain a large amount of ginger, but if they make you feel better, incorporate those into your diet every once in a while—surely the baby will appreciate the occasional cookie!
5. Give acupuncture a try.
Many women find that acupuncture and acupressure (pressing on certain points) are effective nausea remedies. “Acupuncture and acupressure are easy and safe alternatives to help the woes of morning sickness,” Ross says. The P-6 pressure point has been shown to help relieve mild nausea and vomiting. To activate this point, press into the middle of your forearm three fingers lengths down from where your wrist meets your hand. Certain nausea-relief bands also activate this point.
6. Take vitamin B6.
You’re already taking prenatals (right?), but many healthcare providers tell women experiencing pregnancy nausea to take vitamin B6. Taking 25 milligrams three times a day can keep you from feeling ill. “It’s not clear how it works, but has a great track record,” Ross says. If that doesn’t do the trick, you might want to talk to your doctor about Diclegis, a prescription drug that combines vitamin B6 and an antihistamine to treat morning sickness.
7. Try prescription nausea remedies.
If you’ve tried everything else and are still having severe morning sickness, your doctor may recommend more serious prescription nausea remedies, such as promethazine (brand name: Phenergan) and metoclopramide (brand name: Reglan). Women with severe pregnancy nausea may have to take ondansetron, more commonly known by the brand name Zofran. It’s important to be aware that there is a small increased risk of heart defect in the babies of mothers who take this medicine during the first trimester, Lo cautions. Because of this, it’s important to discuss the side effects of all nausea remedies—particularly prescription medications—with your doctor to weigh the risks and benefits.
8. A change in mindset can be a powerful nausea remedy. Really.
Morning sickness is absolutely miserable. There’s no denying that. But when you’re feeling overwhelmed and no nausea remedies are providing relief, try to remember that it will all be worth it in the end. “Feeling miserable the first 12 weeks can be a soft sign to your health care provider that all systems are working normally,” Ross said. “Reassuring women who don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel is important so they understand morning sickness is common, it’s short lasting, and it suggests your pregnancy is off to a healthy start.”
Understanding more about morning sickness might also help you get through those long weeks of feeling ill.
When should I get concerned if nausea remedies aren’t working?
In most cases, pregnancy-related nausea is a normal pregnancy symptom that will peak around the ninth week of pregnancy, Lo says. Although you should certainly speak to your doctor if you are concerned, most women can keep themselves and their baby healthy by using the nausea remedies listed above. However, for some people, morning sickness becomes much more serious. The Duchess of Cambridge (aka Kate Middleton) brought the condition hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) into the public eye when she was pregnant with her first child, Prince George, in 2012. The duchess was so ill during the beginning of her pregnancy that she had to be hospitalized and receive intravenous fluids, which isn’t an uncommon nausea remedy for women with this rare and serious form of prenatal nausea. “Hyperemesis gravidarum is severe nausea and vomiting associated with weight loss, dehydration, and often electrolyte abnormalities,” says Nageotte. “Patients are usually unable to tolerate anything orally for several days to weeks.” Women who have HG vomit nearly constantly and will have other signs of dehydration, including dark urine. Unfortunately, normal nausea remedies aren’t very effective at treating HG. This condition is diagnosed based on symptoms, Lo says, and doctors may run additional tests to make sure that there isn’t another cause for your illness, such as a virus. Because dehydration can be dangerous for both mother and baby, it’s important to talk to your doctor if you are at all concerned about the extent of your pregnancy nausea or if the nausea remedies listed above aren’t giving you relief. Although morning sickness is common in pregnancy, you don’t have to just suffer through it. Experiment with different nausea remedies to find the one that works for you, and keep in mind that it won’t last forever. You’ve got this, mama!