Tips on Managing Morning Sickness During Pregnancy

Are you expecting or planning to get pregnant? This article will break down morning sickness symptoms and home remedies to help you to get through it.

A young african american woman happy with positive pregnancy test

If you’re planning to become pregnant, chances are you already know about morning sickness and how common it can be for women. The Cleveland Clinic says around 70% of pregnant women experience it — and for 3% it can cause severe nausea and vomiting. Surprisingly, it’s not just confined to early in the day! Despite the name, morning sickness can strike at any time of day and night.

This article will help you understand the causes of morning sickness — and of a more severe form called hyperemesis gravidarum — with steps on how to manage your symptoms at home.

Morning Sickness: When Does It Start?

A pregnant woman experiences morning sickness during breakfast in the kitchen
Feeling nauseous because of morning sickness can impact your pregnancy diet.

Morning sickness is a reaction to changing hormones and it usually begins during the first trimester, around the sixth week after conception. Every woman is different, but the symptoms typically last until the 14th week of pregnancy or longer.

Morning sickness does not happen to every woman, or during every pregnancy. When it does happen, it can be very uncomfortable, inconvenient, and exhausting.

Common Symptoms

Nausea and vomiting are the main symptoms. As a result of the upset stomach, you might also experience a loss of appetite and even dehydration.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) explains the cause as the qi (vital energy) from chong mai. Chong mai is also known as “sea of blood” or penetrating vessel, flowing upward, which causes disorder to stomach qi. As a result, TCM deems nausea as normal and common. Chong mai, in TCM, contributes to gynecological health.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum: Why Should You Know Its Symptoms?

A pregnant woman in her first trimester holding her stomach at the side of the bed due to her hyperemesis gravidarum
Feeling extremely nauseous every day for several weeks? Hypermesis gravidarum may be the cause.

Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is a much more severe form of pregnancy sickness. HG is characterized by extreme, persistent nausea and vomiting. Many women that suffer from HG experience weight loss, dehydration, low blood pressure, and low electrolytes.

TCM physician Lim Sock Ling advises, “If the pregnant woman experiences nausea and is selective of food, these are common symptoms of morning sickness and will subside after the first trimester. However, if the pregnant woman begins to feel lack of energy, listless, experiences constant nausea and not able to keep any food in, it may reflect a more serious condition.”

Hyperemesis gravidarum is diagnosed when there is loss of at least 5% of pre-pregnancy weight, and it often requires medical treatment to manage dehydration, a drop in blood pressure, a rise in temperature, jaundice, lethargy, or even loss of consciousness. “These symptoms require immediate medical attention since they are life-threatening and pose a threat to the pregnancy,” says physician Lim.

Treatments and Home Remedies for Morning Sickness

You can use dietary changes, prescription medications, as well as over-the-counter medicines to treat your morning sickness. Hyperemesis gravidarum should be treated by your obstetrician and/or gynecologist.

1. OTC options and herbal teas

Different over-the-counter (OTC) and natural options for treating mild nausea and vomiting during pregnancy include vitamin B6, ginger root (tea, powders, etc.), and acupressure (sea bands, or pregnancy bracelets).

Ginger is especially popular for treating nausea because it helps soothe the stomach. Enjoy a warm cup of ginger tea in the morning if you’re feeling unwell. Here are simple ways you can make ginger infusions:

  • Steep a few slices of fresh ginger and drink the infusion.
  • Boil ginger and orange peel, add brown sugar to taste, consume as tea.
  • Add some fresh-pressed ginger juice to sugarcane juice.

Other herbal, non-caffeinated teas you might try are peppermint or spearmint. Both have soothing side effects. Physician Lim says that peppermint tea is one of the most common teas to help calm an upset tummy and soothe nausea during pregnancy.

However, it’s important to note that these remedies may not work immediately. Natural remedies are slower in action, but they work steadily. Try using your chosen methods every day for at least a week.

If you’re experiencing more severe symptoms like moderate nausea and vomiting, it is advisable to ask your primary care provider about antihistamines, dopamine antagonists, and serotonin antagonists for treating morning sickness.

2. Acupressure points

An illustration of nei guan and zu san li acupoints to help relieve morning sickness during pregnancy
Massaging these acupoints can help you feel less nauseous, and it’s safe for your pregnancy.

There are a few acupressure points that are safe for pregnant women. Whether you decide to use the popular sea bands, or pregnancy bands/bracelets, they work in similar ways to directly stimulate acupressure points to relieve nausea.

In TCM, the Nei Guan (PC6) is located 3-finger widths above the inner wrist, between the two tendons. “It can help to relieve nausea, manage palpitations and relieve chest tightness,” says physician Lim. She also reports that “A systemic review of published studies related to the use of PC6 for nausea and vomiting found this acupuncture point effective not only for pregnant women but also for patients in cancer treatment.”

Another pressure point is the Zu San Li (ST36). “It is located 4-finger width below the kneecap, on the outside of the shin bone,” says physician Lim. “It is commonly used to treat gastric discomfort, nausea, vomiting, and can help to improve immunity.”

3. Changes in your diet

When you’re dealing with queasiness or an uneasy stomach, bland foods that are high in carbs and proteins might settle your tummy. You should also avoid foods with very strong or pungent odors and flavors. If you’re having trouble keeping food down, it may also be worth trying to eat small, more frequent meals rather than larger, heavier meals.

The American Pregnancy Association has a list of suggestions when it comes to eating while experiencing morning sickness. Their first tip is to keep crackers or dry toast near your bed, to eat first thing upon waking. Nibbling on dry crackers can help to settle your tummy a bit so that you can get up and start your day without any problems.

Suggested foods also include cold meals, like sandwiches and salads. Even so, please consume them in moderation and steer clear of raw vegetables as they are excessively cooling to the body. Too much cold in the body can compromise the spleen’s function and cause digestive problems.

By doing these diet tips, not only will your nausea be decreased, but you’ll also be fueling yourself and your baby’s growing body with healthy, nutritious foods.

4. TCM herbs and remedies for morning sickness

TCM uses ginger and many recognize it as an effective remedy for morning sickness. Physician Lim reports, “A published paper cited that doses as low as 1 g/day can help to relieve nausea, but it has to be taken a minimum of forty-eight hours and up to four days before it becomes effective.”

Another TCM herb is Zhu Ru, which may be used in combination with ginger or other herbs to help decrease nausea. Zi Su Ye, Huang Lian, and Huang Qin are all good for morning sickness and irritability during pregnancy. The herbs also help to stabilize the fetus.

Chen Pi (orange peel) helps to regulate qi (vital energy), remove dampness, transform phlegm and descend qi to help manage nausea. Physician Lim also suggests a classical herbal formula, Li Zhong Wan, that warms the stomach, strengthens the spleen and qi, and is beneficial for bloating and minor indigestion.

When at home, consuming appetite-nourishing soup can also benefit pregnant women with poor digestive systems by reducing bloating and improving appetite. Concentrated bird’s nest drinks may also be a good option because it is rich in proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, and prebiotic nutrients for general well-being. Of course, physician Lim says that women should “seek a professional’s advice if she has underlying medical conditions, or to be cautious. Any herb or food should be taken in moderation.”

Whether you’re trying TCM or a Western regimen, always discuss any herbs or medicines you are thinking of taking with your doctor or OB-GYN first to make sure that there will be no negative interactions with your pregnancy.

5. Lifestyle tips

A pregnant woman doing pre-natal yoga on a mat in the daylight
Stay active and keep yourself distracted to help you cope with morning sickness.

There are different lifestyle tips that may help you manage morning sickness more effectively. We want your pregnancy to go as smoothly and comfortably as possible, so be sure to give these suggestions a try.

  1. If you’re taking your prenatal vitamins and you find that they make you nauseous, try taking them before bed or with a light snack. If that doesn’t help, ask your healthcare provider if there are any other options for getting in those much-needed vitamins for you and your growing baby.
  2. Drink plenty of fluids, but try not to overdrink. Drinking too much water or juice can leave your stomach feeling tight and bloated, which may make your nausea worse.
  3. Get lots of fresh air when possible. Try cracking a window if it’s not too cold outside, or even turning on a fan to circulate the air in your room.
  4. Learn your triggers! If there are certain foods or smells that make you feel extremely ill, try to avoid them at all costs.

When it comes to morning sickness, you’re not alone. At least 7 out of 10 women experience nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy. Fortunately, there are lots of options when it comes to managing the sickness so you are as comfortable as possible during the first weeks of pregnancy. Just remember when starting a new regimen, or consuming new herbs, be sure to consult with your doctor first. If you found this article helpful, please share it with those who might benefit from it.

References

  1. The Cleveland Clinic. 2017. Morning Sickness (Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy). [Accessed on 10 December 2021]

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