You’re pregnant and ecstatic. You want to go out to lunch to share your excitement with a friend or get a jump on baby shopping. But instead of throwing yourself into the joy of it all, you’re trying not to move so you don’t throw up again.
If you’re feeling sick during your pregnancy, you’re not alone. Morning sickness is very common. Up to 50% of pregnant people will have nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, and up to 80% will have at least some nausea.
Morning sickness symptoms and causes
Morning sickness describes nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. It can be one of the first signs you are pregnant and is most common during the first trimester. Usually, it begins around week nine of your pregnancy.
Even though we call it morning sickness, it can occur any time during the day or night. There are theories about why nausea occurs, including hormonal changes, abnormal gastric motility and psychological factors, but the cause is not completely known.
The good news is morning sickness is temporary, and it’s usually not harmful to your growing baby – although it can decrease your quality of life. The nausea and vomiting you’re suffering from should improve around 12 to 14 weeks into pregnancy. If you need some relief now, try these tips.
Adjust your diet – and take your vitamins
If nausea is affecting your appetite or the amount you eat, don’t stress. During the beginning of your pregnancy, you don’t need to eat a lot. Very small sips and bites will be plenty to keep your tiny fetus healthy. Your baby does not need much for nutrition yet.
There is one thing your growing baby needs you to stomach: a prenatal vitamin.
If you can’t tolerate vitamins during the day, try taking them at night to see if you better tolerate them then. If you can’t take a prenatal vitamin with iron due to an upset stomach, a chewable or gummy prenatal is a good alternative for the short term. When you start feeling better, resume taking prenatal vitamins with iron.
To help quell your morning sickness, try these diet changes:
- Eat small, frequent meals to avoid feeling hungry.
- Avoid lying down after eating.
- Eat crackers first thing in the morning and then rest for 15 minutes before getting up.
- Avoid foods or smells that trigger your nausea.
- Sip on fluids throughout the day but drink between meals and not during. Separate liquids and solids by 30 minutes or more.
- Eat bland foods that are high in protein or carbohydrates and low in fat.
- Avoid extreme temperatures – both hot and ice-cold foods and drinks.
- Anything with real or fresh grated ginger may help. Small sips of ginger ale or warm (not hot) ginger tea can calm an upset stomach.
- Drink peppermint tea or suck on hard candies.
- Avoid drinking out of straws.
Consume what sounds good to you. You deserve a free pass for a few weeks if all that will stay down is small bites of strawberry Pop-Tarts. Be sure to go back to a well-rounded diet as soon as you start feeling better.
These foods can help relieve nausea:
- Brown rice
- Mushroom soup
- Peanut butter
- Celery sticks
- Apple slices
- Mashed potatoes
- Fruity popsicles
Remember to rest
You have a rapidly developing fetus growing inside of you. It makes sense that you’ll feel like your growing baby is hogging all your energy. During this time of gestation, you need extra rest.
Fatigue can definitely contribute to or worsen morning sickness. This is one stage of life where naps are definitely socially acceptable. Take advantage of it if you can! Even sitting or resting when you can for a few minutes may help. Plan for eight to nine hours of sleep at night as well.
When do you struggle the most? Certain times of the day or night? Certain places or with certain activities? Certain smells? If you know what your triggers are, avoid them as much as possible. For example, ask your family and friends (politely) to try to not eat their tuna sandwich next to you.
Pack small bags of snacks to take with you. Take foods or drinks that do sit well with you. This way you can avoid having to try to grab from limited options at work or getting hungry in between meals and not having anything that settles well in your sensitive stomach.
Stress can also worsen morning sickness. Really look at your to-do list. Most of those things can probably wait until you feel better. If you just are not feeling well, let these nonessential tasks pile up at times. It’s OK. Anyone who stops by unexpectedly will know why and understand.
Spend time with the people in your life who help lessen your worries and stress. Avoid stressful situations or social events for a while. Do anything that will help you relax and take your mind off pregnancy for a while.
If you have adjusted your diet and lifestyle but still feel miserable most of the time, your medical provider may recommend starting a medication.
- Vitamin B6: 25 to 50mg every eight hours
- Doxylamine (Unisom): 25mg taken at night
- Diphenhydramine (Benadryl): 25 to 50mg every four to eight hours (may cause drowsiness)
- Meclizine (Antivert): 25mg every four to six hours (may cause drowsiness)
- Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine): 50 to 100mg every four to six hours
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends starting with vitamin B6 and doxylamine. These can be bought at any pharmacy, or your provider can prescribe a medication that combines the two into one pill.
If you try vitamin B6 and doxylamine and they do not work, then your doctor may prescribe another medication. There are many medications you can safely take while pregnant.
If you can’t keep any food or drinks down for more than a couple days and you begin to lose weight, you should contact your provider. Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy usually will not harm your health or your baby, but if it is severe and is left untreated for weeks or months, it can sometimes affect the baby’s birth weight. It could also lead to problems with your fluid balance, thyroid or liver.
Severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy are called hyperemesis gravidarum. You may be at increased risk of having this illness if you have a multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets or more), you have had severe nausea and vomiting in a previous pregnancy, your first-degree relatives had severe morning sickness, or you have a history of motion sickness or migraines. If your provider determines you have this condition, you may need to seek treatment in the clinic or hospital.
Update your provider
Keep your provider informed about how you are feeling. If you try one thing for a few days or a week and don’t feel an improvement, let your provider know so you can discuss the next option on the list. It’s common for one medication to work for some women and not work for others.
For most women, nausea is mild to moderate and will resolve or becomes very mild by the second trimester.
Don’t let nausea in pregnancy steal your thunder. Try these tips and call your provider if they are not working.
- How to ease heartburn during pregnancy
- First trimester fatigue: How long it lasts, how to ease it
- 10 things to expect in your second trimester