Morning sickness (also known by its medical term “NVP: nausea and vomiting during pregnancy”) affects around 50-75% of pregnancies, particularly during the first trimester. Typically it begins around six weeks since the last menstrual period, and “…peaks at approximately 9 weeks of gestation. 60% of cases resolved by the end of the first trimester, and 91% resolved by 20 weeks of gestation” (NEJM 2010).
Morning sickness severity varies significantly, but regardless it is usually a very uncomfortable experience (and definitely not confined to the morning). If you do suffer from it, perhaps you’ll feel slightly better that research suggests it’s linked to a decrease risk of miscarriage-possibly because of higher pregnancy sustaining HCG hormones (JAMA 2016). (If you do not have morning sickness though consider yourself lucky and don’t worry!) Realize there are a range of medications that can help, so definitely talk to your health care provider as needed–especially if you fall on the spectrum closer to the 1% of patients with hyperemesis gravidarum with continuous vomiting and significant dehydration!
For those trying to do home remedies- read on!
First, we’ll discuss the few research driven morning sickness remedies. Then, as many morning sickness home treatments aren’t studied (NPR)-we’ll also discuss many options for food/behaviors that are low risk but might benefit you to feel better sooner.
(Please note, none of our articles constitute medical advice: always confer with your personal health care provider regarding any specific remedies or treatments for your pregnancy.)
Research Driven Treatments:
A 2002 Cochrane Review suggests Vitamin B6 to be effective and acupressure equivocal. Ginger has been studied more recently, and is shown to lower nausea and have no negative side effects. (More study details below for the curious.)
- Vitamin B6 (aka Pyridoxine): Generally considered effective.
- A 1995 Ob/Gyn RCT (randomized, controlled trial) showed statistically significant reduction of nausea, and a decrease in vomiting (although not statistically significant) with 30mg daily of Vitamin B6. Future studies have commonly used Vitamin B6 as a positive control to compare other treatments.
- Talk with your Ob/Gyn for the latest dosing and recommendations- some prenatal vitamins incorporate higher Vitamin B6 dosing, or it can be found in over the counter supplements like Preggie Pop Drops.
- Ginger: Likely helps nausea, no evidence of harm.
- A 2005 ObGyn Systematic Review suggests 4 of 6 RCT studies showed ginger superiority over placebo for nausea and vomiting; in 2 of 6 ginger was as effective as reference drug (vitamin B6). No adverse effects reported.
- A 2014 systematic review of 12 RCT showed statistically significant improvement of nausea compared with placebo; no statistically significant reduction of vomiting although there was a trend towards improvement. No increased risk of miscarriage or side effects. Lower dose of ginger (under 1500mg/day) was possibly more effective. The study reports: “Ginger could be considered a harmless and possibly effective alternative option for women suffering from NVP”.
- Acupressure/Acupuncture: Possibly effective- mixed results, but no obvious harm.
- Studies focus on the P6 acupuncture region of the wrist, shown in this image.
- Acupressure effect on P6 was equivocal in the 2002 Cochrane review.
- Acupuncture might be more effective. A 2002 RCT shows reductions of nausea or retching with general treatment by an acupuncturist (placebo effect might contribute-but regardless people felt better). Further details here.
Morning Sickness Hacks:
Morning sickness can be hard to deal with–it’s good to have a long list of options. Considering risks vs benefits, many options for food/behaviors are low risk but might benefit you to feel better sooner.
Here are some compiled hacks for managing morning sickness on your own (feel free to try and adapt anytime!)
- Eat early and often with small bland meals
- Stay hydrated
- Time your eating to minimize symptoms
- Try ginger, lemon, and other things that help your symptoms
- Plus, some extra things I found helped me (feel free to Contact Us to add more!)
1) Eat early and often with small bland meals.
- Have a snack pack by your bed of foods that help to eat when you first wake up (crackers, dry cereal like Cheerios, ginger candies, watermelon Jolly Ranchers, etc.). Ditto for making a similar one for your car, your purse, etc.
- If you’re starting to feel early signs of nausea, usually eating a little something helps! (Really counterintuitive, but it works!)
- Try combining protein with simple carbs when you eat- like peanut butter and crackers, or cheese and apples, or whatever you can tolerate…
- Your baby will still get enough nutrients even if your diet is restricted, just try to make sure to get your prenatal vitamins. (If regular prenatal vitamins are hard on your stomach, talk to your ObGyn for different brand or try gummy ones like this.)
2) Stay hydrated
- Have ways you can drink while staying in bed- some swear by the Camelbak or just a long straw.
- Cold things are easier to keep down. I invested in a 40 oz. steel water bottle (with straw lid) that keeps things cold for 24 hours and kept that with me at all times (example here). Also doing popsicles, particularly lime popsicles worked for me.
- Generally 1 oz per kilogram per day of water is recommended for pregnant women- about 80 oz for many of us (aiming for two 40oz bottles a day helps keep track). You have to balance this with how often you have to pee, especially early on. To save bathroom trips, you can also drink earlier in the day and cut back the last two hours before bed.
- If even water makes you nauseous: Trying cold water helps, perhaps trying a filter or bottled water. Putting lemon or lime in the water can really help too. I tended to do fresh lemon or lime only in a bottle or glass I could fully wash to avoid sensitive tastes. Plus there’s trying flavored drinks or water-rich foods like soup, popsicles, or fruit etc if you can handle it.
- Avoiding drinking while eating food–sometimes the stomach distension makes you more nauseous, so you can try spacing eating from drinking if needbe.
- Try even just one or two sips at a time. This can help even if you’re getting nauseous with water alone.
- Lemonade or juice can be easier to tolerate if water makes you feel sick. Combining with a salty snacks such as potato chips or crackers also seems to help.
- Trying Ginger in water or other things, and leaving a pitcher of that mixed in the fridge might be helpful.
- Certain people like teas or other drinks, however do be careful with some herbal teas that might have a mix of things that aren’t recommended in pregnancy (check with your Ob/Gyn). Also, make sure to not get over the 200mg/day recommended maximum of caffeine during pregnancy.
3) Time your eating to minimize symptoms.
- Symptoms can be worse at certain times for various people, mine were worse in the afternoon or evening. You can try eating certain foods when you’re less sensitive to nausea. (Salads for breakfast became my only way of getting vegetables for awhile.)
- Getting hungry can make you feel more nauseous, so eating at regular intervals really helps–even if you don’t feel hungry. (If you’re concerned about eating too much with this snacking, you could measure out chips or snacks in advance so you know how much you’re getting. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests you don’t need extra calories in the first trimester, and typically only 340 more calories/day in the second trimester–most people don’t have to watch this too closely though. Feel free to talk to your doctor for any concerns–many people with bad morning sickness don’t gain weight or even lose weight during that time so it’s not a big concern. Again, your baby will still get enough nutrients even if your diet is restricted by nausea (especially in the first trimester), just try to make sure to get your prenatal vitamins.
4) Try ginger, lemon, or other things that help your symptoms.
- It can be hard to know what you can eat sometimes–try things in small portion with just one taste at a time. You can try smelling it first and see if it makes you feel bad, and then a slight taste. If your symptoms are mild that’s usually enough to warn you whether it will make you sick to try eating a whole thing.
- Some common things people say help (compiled from various online resources):
- Ginger: Ginger, lemon, apple cider is a combo people sometimes swear by. Or trying ginger candies or ginger-infused drinks.
- Lemons or citrus: mixing lemon with water, or some people swear by lemonade with potato chips.
- Vitamin B6 supplements/candies (see research section above).
- Ginger or peppermint teas: however do be careful with some herbal teas that might have a mix of things that aren’t recommended in pregnancy (check with your Ob/Gyn), or a few are caffeinated– 200mg/day recommended maximum of caffeine during pregnancy.
- Motion sickness bands: possibly effective, see science section above.
- Baby food or applesauce
- Protein anyway you can get it- scrambled eggs, cheese sticks, etc.
- Also, first trimester bloating and constipation is real! Mixing in fiber-rich foods can help with some symptoms since constipation can sometimes make nausea worse. (Oatmeal, chia or flax are especially good bland sources of fiber.) Talk with your doctor if you need something to help with constipation.
5) Plus, some extra things I found helped me: (Everyone is different, feel free to Contact Us to add more!)
- Keep things bland and repetitive- it’s ok if you stick with foods you know you can eat for awhile (just keep taking your prenatal vitamin).
- Avoid strong smells if they make you nauseous– keep windows open for fresh air or consider even taking a walk. Consider buying fragrance free soaps and lotion if you need to.
- Taking your prenatal vitamin at night if that helps you feel better (sometimes the iron in it can increase nausea). I also did gummy prenatal vitamins for awhile to lower nausea.
- You can use an App to track nutrition if you’re really concerned about it (I have some I’ve reviewed in a separate article). However, for the most part it isn’t necessary and your baby is getting what it needs with the prenatal vitamin.
- Even if you can’t eat vegetables, trying fruit that sounds good can get you similar nutrients (some easier to eat fruits seemed to be: cantaloupe, kiwis, bananas or apples),
- Incorporate fiber via chia seeds in juice, or plain oatmeal with some flax added and fruit for breakfast.
- If brushing your teeth makes you gag, try using mouthwash more often. (There’s also a recommended mix of baking soda and water to avoid tooth erosion if you vomit a lot too.) Dental hygiene gets even more important with the changes of pregnancy.
- If you swim for exercise, but the chlorine smell of the pool makes you sick like me–chlorine reducing shampoo really helps. Ultraswim brand was inexpensive and worked for me, plus had the benefit of being on Amazon since it was hard to find in local stores.
- Additional (kind of random) foods that worked for me:
- Popsicles or Smoothies with frozen fruit.
- Salty things like potato chips, or Gatorade (but I still didn’t find a good non-dye Gatorade substitute)
- Ginger ale: Trader Joe’s version didn’t have many artificial colors or flavors
- York Peppermint Patties
- Bagels with cream cheese
- Cheese sticks
- Bush’s Baked Beans (also has lots of fiber)
- Eggs scrambled with cheese and tomatoes only
- Beans and rice with lime and cilantro (was great, until it absolutely wasn’t)!
- Foods you like/can eat become highly individual, so feel free to try and keep adapting what works for you!
BEST OF LUCK!! The aim was for an All-in-One source to help with your morning sickness symptoms. Feel free to Contact Us with any updates or tips that worked for you.
Additional sources for some of the tips above, plus additional helpful links:
Recipes for nausea: http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/eating-well-menu/nauseated.aspx
Good all around morning sickness and other hacks: https://www.babylist.com/hello-baby/life-hacks-for-pregnancy
Morning sickness specific remedies: https://www.babble.com/pregnancy/morning-sickness-remedies-nausea-during-pregnancy/
General pregnancy hacks, including clothing, morning sickness, etc: https://www.buzzfeed.com/morganshanahan/pregnancy-hacks-that-will-change-your-life?utm_term=.ou9jnD55Y#.luRGm0NNd