8 Ways to Help Ease Morning Sickness
Written by Gabrielle McPherson, MS, RDN, LDN
Never mind the telltale baby bump, morning sickness is one of the earliest and most revealing signs that you are pregnant! It can begin almost anytime during the first trimester, usually between the six- and eight-week mark, and it affects 70% of pregnant folks across the globe. So, if you are struggling with morning sickness, know that you are most certainly not alone. But also know that you can ease morning sickness with what you eat and drink.
What causes morning sickness?
'Morning sickness' is a misnomer, since the nausea, vomiting, and dry heaving can happen at any point of the day—and for some, it can last an entire pregnancy. The cause of morning sickness is still unclear, though research shows that symptoms are stronger with those who have higher levels of the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in their system. Translation: If you are expecting multiples, you may experience more morning sickness symptoms than others. And being pregnant with twins (or more) also increases your chance of extreme, persistent morning sickness during pregnancy, called hyperemesis gravidarum. (Carrying multiples and having a history of nausea during pregnancy also ups your chances of severe morning sickness)
Is morning sickness dangerous?
Though morning sickness is common in pregnancy, it is nothing to dismiss! Morning sickness can significantly influence your ability to function day to day, it can take an emotional toll on you, and for some with hyperemesis gravidarum, it may cause significant weight loss, dehydration, or hospitalisation. And, of course, morning sickness impacts your ability to eat and drink, which can jeopardise your health and your baby’s growth. The silver lining? Studies have shown that morning sickness may have protective benefits on rates of certain birth defects, prematurity, and miscarriages. But that does not mean that you must suffer! Here is what helps.
Can I avoid morning sickness?
Changing up the food you eat—and when you eat it—can dramatically reduce your morning sickness.
Eat often to avoid an empty stomach.
Even though your appetite may be small—or even non-existent—when experiencing nausea and vomiting, eating often can actually help to sidestep your morning sickness symptoms. That is because nausea and vomiting can get worse when you are running on an empty stomach. Shoot for three meals (they can be small) and two to three snacks daily. To make it easier, stash easy-to-pack snacks with you when you’re on the go, like:
- Dried berries
- Dry cereal
- Granola bar
- Nut bar
- Saltine crackers and light cheese
Whole wheat muffin
Since dehydration can be a major consequence of morning sickness, remaining hydrated is key…and that goes beyond simply drinking water. In addition to plenty of water, stay hydrated by choosing high-water fruits and vegetables like citrus, melon, celery, and cucumbers and by eating popsicles and drinking smoothies and tea, namely ginger tea. The tea will not only hydrate you, but ginger is a known remedy for reducing nausea and vomiting symptoms in pregnancy.
Include protein at every meal.
Eating protein-rich foods can help stave off nausea and increase your energy, according to research. Plus, adding protein to every meal and snack helps you stay fuller longer and it helps your blood sugar levels remain in a healthy range. Some protein-packed foods to keep in mind:
- Light cheese
- Milk or soy milk
- Nuts and seeds
- Roasted chickpeas
- Shredded chicken
Avoid strong-smelling foods.
Cooking with strong-smelling herbs and spices such as garlic, oregano, curry, or basil can trigger nausea and vomiting. For the time being, consider using less pungent ingredients in your cooking, like lemon juice, lime juice, salt, pepper, or broth.
Choose foods rich in vitamin B6.
Vitamin B6 has long been touted as a safe and effective treatment for pregnancy-related nausea. In fact, research has shown that a combo of B6 supplements and doxylamine (an antihistamine) is associated with a 70% reduction in morning sickness symptoms. With that, it is a good idea to include more B6-rich foods into your diet, too, such as:
- Fortified cereals
- Marinara sauce
Steer clear of fatty and greasy foods.
High-fat, greasy foods, like sausage, bacon, pizza, fried chicken, buttery crackers, french fries, chips, and desserts, are difficult to digest and may trigger morning sickness symptoms. To help keep nausea at bay, opt for foods that are easier to digest, like lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, light dairy, and whole-grain foods.
Sounds nutty, but it is true! It turns out, sniffing pleasant smells might ward off morning sickness! One study of 100 pregnant people found that those who inhaled lemon essential oil had significantly lower intensity nausea and vomiting than those given a placebo. Another study found similar benefits from sniffing peppermint essential oil.
Talk to your health care provider.
If you are experiencing nausea or vomiting while expecting, do not hesitate to discuss treatment options like medication, vitamin B6, or ginger with your healthcare provider. Together, you can come up with a plan to ease morning sickness symptoms and get you feeling like yourself again. However, if you are dealing with the following morning sickness symptoms, reach out to your OB/GYN or midwife sooner rather than later.
- Vomiting more than 3 times a day
- Brown or bloody vomit
- Continuous symptoms into your fourth month of pregnancy
- Weight loss of more than 2 pounds
- Increased heart rate
- Reduced or no urine output
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider. Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, mothers eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast- and bottle-feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of a mother's breastmilk and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. If you do decide to use infant formula, you should follow instructions carefully.