Morning sickness is nausea in pregnancy that typically occurs in the first few months and affects 70-80% of pregnant women.  Despite its name, the nausea can affect pregnant woman at any time of day.  The nausea usually starts for pregnant woman around 6 weeks, but it can begin as early as 4 weeks.  It tends to get worse over the next month or so, and about half of women who experience nausea during their pregnancy feel complete relief around 14 weeks.  Some of us aren’t so lucky.  I was sick (no joke) my entire pregnancy to the moment my son came out!  I was even hospitalized a few times throughout — so I knew I had experienced it pretty bad.

I had something called Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG).  HG is a pregnancy complication that is characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and possibly dehydration due to electrolyte disturbance.  Mild cases are treated with dietary changes, rest, and antacids, where more severe cases often require a stay in the hospital so that the mom can receive fluids and nutrition though an intravenous line (IV).  It is believed that this severe nausea (HG) is caused by a rise in hormone levels, however, the absolute cause is still unknown.  Symptoms of HG usually appear between weeks 4-6 of pregnancy and may peak between weeks 9-13.  Most women will receive some relief around week 14-20, although up to 20% of woman may require care for hyperemisis throughout the rest of their pregnancy.  Sadly, there is no known prevention of HG, but you can take a bit of comfort in know that there are ways that you can try to manage it.  Before diving into this, lets take another quick peek at distinguishing the difference between morning sickness and Hyperemesis Gravidarum, and how to recognize the symptoms.

 

How To Distinguish Between Morning Sickness and Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Morning Sickness:

Hyperemesis Gravidarum:
Nausea sometimes accompanied by vomiting Nausea accompanied by severe vomiting
Nausea that subsides at 12 weeks or soon after Nausea that does not subside
Vomiting that does not cause severe dehydration Vomiting that causes severe dehydration
Vomiting that allows you to keep some food down Vomiting that does not allow you to keep any food down

 

The Signs and Symptoms of Hyperemesis Gravidarum

  • Severe nausea and vomiting
  • Food aversions
  • Weight loss (of 5% or more of pre-pregnancy weight)
  • Decrease in urination
  • Dehydration
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Fainting
  • Jaundice
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Secondary anxiety/depression

Now, that we have identified the differences, I am hoping that you don’t fall under the HG category.   You never know how things will go — things can even vary from pregnancy to pregnancy for you.  On a positive note, there is the possibility that you won’t suffer from morning sickness at all!  I do have some friends who never experienced any nausea!  They could eat all the same food they did before they were pregnant, and other than the fact they started to round out in the tummy, life was seemingly normal!  So, there is hope!  My fingers are crossed for you that you will have as ‘easy’ and positive pregnancy experience as possible!  But, for those of us who do experience the not-so-fun symptom of nausea, and food no longer tastes the same — keep reading on for some natural remedies (and other helpful remedies) that can help you get through the unrelenting nausea!

Food & Drink Remedies for Morning Sickness:

Ginger

Ginger has a long history as a cure for upset stomachs.  For those who are a fan of the taste, you can try to drink it in soda or tea, or try ginger-lozenge whenever you’re feeling queasy.

Something Sour

If your stomach is already feeling sour, you wouldn’t think it would help to have something sour, but strangely it works.  Try sucking on sour candy, sipping lemon water, or even just sniffing something sour — like a slice of lemon.

Mint

Eating, drinking or sniffing something containing mint can help you feel less nauseated. Try peppermint tea to help soothe morning sickness.  Drinking two to three cups a day is fine, however peppermint tea may worsen heartburn, which is also common in pregnancy.

Saltines or Plain Toast

Simple starches like saltine crackers or plain toast can be a morning sickness sufferer’s best friend, and can be effective in helping settle your tummy.

Smoothies

When your tummy is uneasy you may want to try to sip a smoothie. It may help neutralize your stomach acids and blood sugar, giving you a calm feeling.

Trail Mix

A mix of fruits, nuts, and a hint of semi-sweet chocolate chips will satisfy your hunger and wont weigh you down.  Packed with protein energy, a little will go a long way.

Foods Containing Vitamin B6

A little extra vitamin B6 has been shown to reduce morning sickness symptoms in some patients. Try 25 mg of vitamin B6, three times a day, in addition to your prenatal vitamins.

Liquids

Keep hydrated!  Electrolytes, vitamins and nutrients are key.  I can’t stress the importance of keeping hydrated.  It can make the difference between a bad and a good day.  If you’re vomiting often, increase your fluid intake to ten 8-ounce cups a day. Try to drink fluids only between meals; if you must drink during meals, limit the amount to keep your stomach from feeling overly full.  Try Powerade with B Vitamins or lemon water!

Natural Remedies for Morning Sickness:

Acupressure

Sometimes food options don’t cut it, and you may need to turn to trying other natural morning sickness remedies to help you feel less nauseous during pregnancy.  You can try acupressure.  There is a nerve in the center of your wrist that is supposed to help with nausea.  You can wear Sea Bands, which are stretchy bracelets that put pressure on this nerve.  You can test out this easy acupressure technique too: Press three fingertips gently but firmly on the base of your palm, just above where you’d take your pulse on your wrist. Breathe deeply and press that area with your fingertips for a minute or more, gradually increasing the pressure until you feel slight discomfort.

Acupuncture

Some pregnant woman suggest seeing an Eastern medicine specialist to receive acupuncture treatments, and say that they can be helpful for treating nausea during pregnancy.  These techniques, which use gentle pressure or tiny needles to hit certain nerve centers in the body, can be extremely effective in treating nausea.

Exercise

When you aren’t feeling well, you probably don’t exactly feel like running a marathon, however, a light walk could do wonders for your body. Even walking 20 minutes a day can help release endorphins to counteract the fatigue and nausea.

Change Your Eating Patterns

Sometimes to keep nausea at bay, it’s a matter of simply keeping your stomach from hitting empty.  Eat small, frequent meals, and eat as soon as you wake up.  Try to eat as healthy as possible, or nibble on bland foods like saltine crackers to avoid setting off your nausea.

 

Peppermint or Lemon Hand Lotion

These soothing scents may help keep you calm and relaxed, and as a bonus, sniffing your hand lotion may help settle your tummy when you need to disguise other unpleasant food odors that may be triggering tummy pain.

Medication Treatments for Morning Sickness:

Vitamin B6

When natural remedies don’t seem to be working, medications and OTC treatments can help with morning sickness.  Vitamin B6 is known to often help moms with mild to moderate nausea.  Combinations of Vitamin B6 and doxylamine are considered effective and safe.   Your doctor may prescribe Diclegis (also know as Diclectin in Canada).   This is available through prescription, however.  See below for more information.

Antihistamines

Antihistamines such as doxylamine are also used to treat nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Doxylamine is available over the counter as a sleeping pill, so it could make you drowsy, so you shouldn’t drive after taking this medicine.  Over the counter medicines like Benadryl, which is more commonly used to treat allergies, may help with nausea, especially if your morning sickness starts the moment you wake up in the morning.

Acid Reflux Meds

Frequent vomiting can damage your throat and esophagus with potent stomach acids, leading to heartburn and a continuous sour stomach. Taking an reflux medication like Zantac or Pepcid can help lower the acidity of your stomach, reducing the damage caused when you do vomit, and helping to prevent that sour stomach in the first place.

Motion sickness patches.

Medications that can help with motion sickness, can also help with nausea related to morning sickness.  I have never tried this, but it is something worth trying and talking to your doctor about.

Prescription Medications

If you’re experiencing pretty severe morning sickness—nonstop nausea and difficulty keeping down food and liquids—your doctor can prescribe some more serious medications to help stave off some of the nausea and get the nutrients you and your baby need for a healthy pregnancy.  There may be limited information about the safety of these prescription drugs, so it is important to speak to your doctor to weigh the risks and benefits of each.  Some of the prescription medicines used for pregnancy sickness include:

  • Metoclopramide (Reglan)
  • Promethazine (Phenergan)
  • Prochlorperazine (Compazine)
  • Trimethobenzamide (Tigan)
  • Ondansetron (Zofran)

In Canada, the only approved antiemetic drug for use in pregnancy is Diclectin, which is a combination of 10 mg of doxylamine and 10 mg of vitamin B6 in a delayed-release formulation, however its effectiveness is debatable.

Medication for Hyperemisis Gravidarum

If your nausea and vomiting is so severe that you can’t keep anything down – including water, juice, food, prenatal vitamins, and even medications – you probably have hyperemesis gravidarum.  This severe form nausea and vomiting during pregnancy is often treated in the hospital with intravenous (IV) fluids and medications.  IV drugs to treat hyperemesis gravidarum include antihistamines, dopamine antagonists, serotonin antagonists, chlorpromazine, and glucocorticoids, and they are often administered along with fluids, vitamins, and minerals under close medical supervision.

If no other treatments work, your provider may suggest trying a subcutaneous pump. This involves inserting a small tube under your skin to slowly pump medication into your body throughout the day.  However, there’s not a lot of research on how well this works, and you could have minor complications, such as skin irritation or tenderness where the tube was inserted. Make sure to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor, and hopefully your nausea will subside soon!  In the end you will have a wonderful bundle of joy to cuddle — so it is all worth it!