Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy is often called “morning sickness”. In reality, most women probably wish it only happened in the morning- around 98% of women who have nausea feel it at various points throughout the day! Researchers estimate that between 50-90% of women experience nausea during pregnancy.
For most women, nausea resolves around 13-16 weeks, but for others it will continue throughout the pregnancy. In addition, for some whose nausea did stop after the first trimester, it returns about a month before the due date. Frustrating, but totally normal.
Aside from the awful sensation that nausea brings, you can end up feeling confused about what’s triggering it and what you can do about it. This article will give you some concrete ways to feel more in control and simply bask in your newfound pregnancy glow.
**Please note that these tips are mostly directed at women with “standard” nausea and vomiting, NOT the more severe form called HG (Hyperemesis Gravidarum). Please scroll to the bottom of the page for more information on this condition.**
1. Try Acupuncture treatments.
My patient Jennifer explains:
“Acupuncture legit saved me when I was pregnant! I had terrible morning sickness that lasted all day every day! Susan was so great at explaining why this was happening and what we could do to help ease it! After her treatment it took the edge off immediately and was able to go throughout my day with out that intense nausea. Total life saver and I still talk about how amazing it is for morning sickness 5 years later!”
Women normally feel relief after just 1-3 sessions of acupuncture. Some women feel relief from symptoms for a day, others for up to a week, so how often you’ll need treatment depends on how long your relief lasts. Most of my patients come in once or twice a week. Acupuncture is a great option for women who either don’t want to take nausea medications or haven’t responded to them. I’ve also worked with patients who are taking nausea medications such as Diclegis and they end up feeling even better with acupuncture.
Acupuncture is 100% safe during the first trimester when performed by a well-trained Licensed Acupuncturist (see my blog article on safety here). I definitely recommend seeing someone who has had additional training in prenatal acupuncture. How do you find out? Just ask them! They should be happy to tell you about any specific courses they’ve taken.
2. Use Acupressure Points!
You’ve probably seen Sea Bands at the drugstore- these are designed to be worn around your inner wrist, stimulating a point called Pericardium 6. This is the point pictured at the top of this article. For most women, firmly pressing on this point with your thumb is just as good, if not better than a Sea Band.
You can properly locate this point by placing your pointer, middle and ring fingers of one hand against the part of your opposite forearm that’s closest to the wrist. The edge of your ring finger should be against the wrist crease (where the hand begins and the arm ends). The place where your pointer finger ends is where you should concentrate the pressure. The point is in between the two tendons in the center of the forearm (again, take a look at the photo at the top of this post).
You can apply firm pressure with your thumb to this point for 2-3 minutes, several times an hour both to prevent and manage the nausea. Your acupuncturist can also teach more points to you that are specific to your body.
3. Eat… what you feel like eating. Within reason.
Truly, this is an idea that my patients really struggle with. You’ve been eating super clean and healthy leading up to the pregnancy, and now all you can eat are- potato chips!? First, please don’t feel guilty or worry that the baby isn’t getting nutrition. The baby doesn’t get maternal blood flow and nutrition until around 11.5 weeks. Our bodies are smart like that! Second, there are some strategies that can help you to eat higher quality foods and more of them. This will help to keep your nutrient stores within a healthy range and make you feel better!
- If you’re only able to eat carbohydrates, try a simple potato soup, mashed potatoes or some brown or white rice cooked in broth. Whole grain toast is another good option, especially something like Ezekiel bread which is packed with nutrients. Eat small amounts at a time.
- Eat small, frequent meals instead of 3 larger meals a day
- Try alternative sources of protein: If you’re turned off by meat, try eggs on toast instead, or a vegetarian source such as beans, lentils or tofu. This can sometimes be easier to get down than a large piece of meat. There is a study out which claims women have less nausea when they eat more protein, and this is the case for some. However I found there to be issues with the quality of the study, so based on that alone, we don’t have enough evidence to automatically say that everyone should try it. However if it helps you- fantastic!
- Use lemon! For a lot of women, drinking lemon juice in water or simply keeping a piece of lemon wrapped in cheesecloth handy is really helpful. You can take it out and smell it whenever nausea hits or you’re faced with unpleasant odors (I’m talking to you, NYC subway commuters). At home, you can try putting lemon peel in a crock pot in water on low setting so that the smell wafts through the house. Adding ginger to this water is another option.
These ideas are a good place to start, and if not effective, I work with my patients on other strategies that are based on their “Pattern Diagnosis” in Traditional Chinese Medicine- which is determined after taking a full health history.
4. Rest- a lot more
Across the board, my patients report that on days when their schedule is busier or things are more stressful, the nausea is worse. Of course you can’t get rid of all stress, but really take some time to look at your commitments and responsibilities and figure out what’s essential, what can be delegated and what can wait until you’re feeling better. Don’t feel guilty about taking a nap and don’t be afraid to ask for help- these are great habits to get used to now, since when baby comes you’ll definitely need to do both frequently!
Once The Nausea Ends…
Many patients tell me the only tricky part about the nausea finally resolving is they later realize it was strangely reassuring- a sign that their hormone levels were high and things were fine. Women report that at first, it can seem a bit unsettling to feel like yourself again. Rest assured, this is a totally normal thought to have, and as your pregnancy progresses, different signs will appear that are both reassuring and not at all unpleasant.
The difference between nausea & vomiting and Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG)
Aside from the above tips, I’d also like to point out the difference between “typical” nausea and vomiting and a more severe condition called Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG). Dutchess Kate Middleton was hospitalized for this condition in each of her pregnancies. In HG, the vomiting is so frequent and so severe that it quickly leads to dehydration and weight loss. If the condition goes untreated, it’s a real danger for mother and baby. Also- it often doesn’t go away after the first trimester- 20% of women with HG will have it until giving birth, and a small amount have symptoms that persist afterwards.
If your nausea and vomiting is debilitating, you can’t eat or drink, you’re losing weight and you aren’t urinating regularly, get to your doctor immediately. Once you’re rehydrated, take a look at these excellent resources: