Anyone who’s been huddled around a toilet bowl or felt a constant cloud of queasiness follow them around during pregnancy knows that having a baby on the way isn’t always celebrations and smiles.
Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy — often referred to as “morning sickness” — is often an unexpected, uncomfortable, common reality of pregnancy. More than 70 percent of women report it, with symptoms peaking between weeks five and 12 of pregnancy. (It’s also worth noting that according to at least one study, only 1.8 percent of people reported morning-only symptoms of their nausea and vomiting in pregnancy — while 80 percent reported all-day nausea.)
Experts aren’t quite sure what causes the symptoms, but the best theory is that a rise in the hormones human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) — which pregnancy tests pick up on — and estrogen are at play. These hormones shoot up around the time people start experiencing symptoms, explains Tajh Ferguson, M.D., an ob-gyn at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA. Genetics can also impact symptom severity and humans could even have an evolutionary adaptation to keep us from eating foods that may be poisonous in pregnancy, she says.
No matter the roots, if you’re in the throes of nausea and vomiting, you’re likely after one thing and one thing only: remedies.
That’s where these products, foods, medications, and lifestyle changes — often hailed as morning sickness remedies— come in, providing relief with science to back them up.
Just remember: Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy usually pose no risk to you or your baby. But if symptoms are getting in the way of your day-to-day (say, you can’t work or care for other children), you can’t keep any food or fluids down, or you notice weight loss of about five percent of your body weight or more, call your doc. Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), a severe form of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (you may recall Amy Schumer was hospitalized for it) could be at play and you might need a more tailored plan to feel better.
Small, Frequent Meals
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends eating five or six “mini” meals a day instead of three larger ones to ensure that your stomach is never empty — something that could make your symptoms worse. Smaller meals are also usually more digestible, adds Dr. Ferguson.
Your diet may have consisted of gourmet brunches, salads, and tapas pre-pregnancy but during pregnancy, bland foods (read: carbs) are usually the easiest to digest and go down a bit more easily. ACOG recommends following what’s known as the “BRATT diet” — bananas, rice, applesauce, toast, and tea. If those foods don’t sound good to you? Find something that does. Listening to your body is the key, says Dr. Ferguson.
Protein at Every Meal
Milk, nuts, seeds, nut butter, even protein powders can help keep you full all day long fending off uncomfortable symptoms of nausea. Try for even a little bit at every meal, ACOG suggests.
Your body needs more water than usual during pregnancy (about eight to 12 cups a day)— and that’s not just a health tip: *Not* keeping up with your fluids can also feed into nausea, ACOG notes. Keep a chilled water bottle with you to ensure you’re staying filled up. If you’re having a hard time with water, even ice chips can help you get a little bit of H20 here and there. But remember: If you’re not able to keep water down or notice symptoms of dehydration, be sure to call your healthcare provider.
Experts aren’t 100% sure why ginger seems to ease the symptoms of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, but the plant has been widely accepted as a safe, all-natural way to keep many feeling well when morning sickness hits. Studies have shown it can increase the speed at which food moves through your GI tract, which could help with nausea, says Dr. Ferguson. Using real ginger — in a tea, for example — will give you a good, solid dose of the real stuff but if ginger candies or ginger ale are providing relief? Experts tend to agree that sticking with what works for you is important.
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A Prenatal Vitamin
Bear with us... If you’re suffering from nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, pills don’t exactly always go down easily — and some people notice that their prenatal contributes to their nausea. But keeping up with vitamin and mineral needs in pregnancy is important and starting a prenatal a month or so before conceiving has actually been linked with less severe nausea and vomiting symptoms, says Dr. Ferguson — an association that could simply be the result of increased nutritional balance, she says.
Make sure your prenatal vitamin has vitamin B1 (thiamin), since levels can become depleted if you can't eat or keep down vitamin B1-rich foods and find one that works for you (chewable or swallowable).
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It’s hard to say what exactly is behind the effectiveness of this go-to morning sickness elixir but B6 could have inherent anti-nausea properties — or the vitamin could, again, simply help keep you filled up on a healthy nutrient, playing a role in nutritional balance, says Dr. Ferguson. Experts tend to suggest starting with a 10- to 25-milligram dose if you’re feeling green, but talk to your provider about what’s best for you.
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You might know this antihistamine by its brand name Unisom. “It acts on areas of the brain responsible for nausea and vomiting to reduce nausea and vomiting,” says Dr. Ferguson. It’s particularly powerful when combined with vitamin B6 and tends to be a first-line morning sickness remedy (pregnancy safe, of course). An added bonus: It’ll help you sleep (because honestly, what’s worse than feeling nauseous while you’re trying to snooze?).
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Back to this power play combo for a sec: You can take Doxylamine and vitamin B6 separately on their own or you could ask your doctor about a combined prescription form of the two if you feel like your symptoms are more serious (the medication Bonjesta is basically a high dose of the two). “If lifestyle modifications are not beneficial, we can escalate care to pharmacologic treatments,” says Dr. Ferguson. As with everything, just make sure to tell your doctor about any medications or supplements (even OTC ones) you’re taking during pregnancy.
Motion Sickness Bands
If motion sickness acupressure wrist bands have worked for you in the past, it may be worth trying them to keep the symptoms of pregnancy nausea at bay. The bands are said to stimulate the P6 (or Nei-Kuan) acupressure point, which is thought to relieve nausea and vomiting and Dr. Ferguson says her patients have had good results from them. Since the best remedies will vary from person to person, it’s worth giving it a shot.
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OTC Motion Sickness Meds
Docs often suggest the use of common OTC medications such as Dramamine and Benadryl as a morning sickness remedy, too, says Dr. Ferguson. These meds are antihistamines that could have a beneficial impact on symptoms, just as they do with motion sickness or allergies. As always though, touch base with your healthcare provider before taking any medication in pregnancy.
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