Nausea and vomitting in pregnancy is often called morning sickness even though it doesn’t only happen in the morning for many people. It is actually a really positive sign that pregnancy hormones are high and doing their thing. That usually means that you are less likely to have a miscarriage. Great! But you are however stuck with this awful feeling that you could hurl up your food or drink at any given moment and that is really challenging to deal with. Whether you have to be at work or have other children that you care for, nausea can wreak havoc on your life for the first trimester, sometimes into your second trimester and in some (although uncommon) cases, throughout your entire pregnancy. Sometimes the nausea is accompanied by vomiting, other times not.
There is one thing we need to get straight before we move on. There is a difference between normal nausea and vomiting which affects about 50% of all pregnancies and something called Hyperemesis Gravidarum which affects about 1%. That is a fancy term to describe women who cannot keep anything down on most days. Those women are lacking nutrients and also hydration. They need medical help, no questions about it. If this is you, please get yourself to the hospital if you cannot get a hold of your midwife or health care provider for an appointment quickly.
For those 50% of you who are challenged with nausea and vomiting in your pregnancy, here are some things that you can safely try.
- Take your prenatal vitamin with a bit of food just before bed if you are mostly nauseous in the mornings and during the day. If your prenatal vitamin makes you nauseated then skip it until your symptoms fade or not at all. The research says that prenatal vitamins are not important for everyone.
- Get plenty of rest. Often nausea is worse when you are tired.
- Take some time off work if you can and try to get some help with the children so you can nap and rest during the day every once in a while. This won’t be possible for everyone but if you can manage it is very helpful.
- Eat when you feel up to it. Try smaller meals. Salty foods can often settle your stomach enough for you to eat. Eat slowly. Eat whatever you can get down and worry about balanced nutrition later on down the line.
- Some nausea is caused by blood sugar dropping. Try to keep eating little snacks throughout the day.
- Try to include foods with protein or fat each time you eat because this will slow the release of sugar into your blood and help you avoid the highs and lows that trigger nausea.
- Sip small amounts of fluids frequently. Chicken, Beef or Vegetable broth is extremely nutritious and satisfying. If your pee gets quite dark and you are unable to get it clear again because you cannot keep enough fluids down, get yourself to the hospital where they will put in an IV and re-hydrate you.
- Try eating some salted crackers before getting out of bed and waiting about 15 minutes before getting up.
- Drink some ginger tea, sip it all day long. Use fresh ginger root, cut up a piece the size of your thumb (you don’t even have to peel it), drop it in a mug, fill with boiling water, steep for at least 15 minutes, leave the ginger in the cup and sip away!
- You could also take ginger capsules, 250mg 4 times a day is safe. Gravol now makes some and their tablets are 500mg each. You could take 2 a day. I know it says not to take them in pregnancy right on the package but that is to cover their butt. Just don’t take more than 2 a day.
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is often very effective. 10 to 25mg 3 times a day should do it!
- Acupuncture has been proven to help a lot of women. See a trained acupuncturist, you may be amazed at what it can do for you.
- Alternatively to acupuncture, you can buy “seabands” which are a type of bracelet that provides acupressure to relieve nausea.
- Your midwife or health care provider can prescribe you a medication called “Diclectin” which has been proven to be safe in pregnancy and is approved by Health Canada. Often women will find great relief with this medication. Diclectin is expensive if you don’t have a drug plan. Half of the medicinal ingredient is Vitamin B6 (see #9 above).
- Hard candy in citrus or other sour flavours can be helpful first aid if you start feeling nauseated. But be sure to follow it up with food that has protein or fat (see #6 above)!
On top of all these helpful tricks, be sure to balance your rest with some outdoor, fresh-air time. Fresh air is often soothing when you are feeling nauseous. If you can combine a walk with the fresh-air time, BONUS! Getting some physical movement for your body is helpful, not only for nausea and vomiting but also for your general health and well-being.
Talk to your midwife or health care provider about your nausea and vomiting. Let them know what you are dealing with and how you are managing it. Don’t be shy, ask questions and if you feel like you need medication, ask your care provider. Try to remain positive and keep trying different tricks on the list until you find the one or the combination of several ones that are helpful to you.
Remember that with normal nausea and vomiting, you and your baby are safe and healthy, even though you may feel pretty crumby. One day at a time, one foot in front of the other. This too shall pass…eventually.
Josée Nolet is a registered midwife with Generations Midwifery Care. Learn more about her here.