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Nausea and Vomiting

Morning sickness is nausea, and sometimes vomiting, during pregnancy.  Morning sickness usually occurs early in pregnancy, and in most cases, clears up by the fourth month (12-16 weeks). And despite the name, you don't just get morning sickness in the morning. It can happen anytime of the day-morning, noon, or night.

What causes morning sickness?

Your body goes through many changes while you're pregnant. Although no one knows for sure what causes nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, rising levels of hormones may play a role. Having morning sickness doesn't mean you are unhealthy. In fact, doctors estimate that between 50 and 90% of women experience some degree of morning sickness as part of their normal, healthy pregnancies.

What can I do?

If you are experiencing morning sickness, try not to get discouraged-even though morning sickness cannot be "cured," it can be controlled. There are many things you can do that may help reduce your symptoms. However, there is no one remedy. You'll need to experiment to find what works best for you. Even then, what works may change from day to day, or even from hour to hour. It is easy to become discouraged, so try to take it one day at a time!

Adjust your diet

  • Eat lightly, around the clock. Nausea is often worse on an empty or too-full stomach. Try eating small amounts of food, frequently and slowly.  Eat when you feel the need to eat-and if you're on the go, carry food with you. If you get up during the night, have a few bites then as well.
  • Eat what appeals to you. Generally you won't crave a food that will make you ill-so if it sounds good, try it. Be sure to eat just a few bites and wait to see how you respond.
  • Enjoy breakfast in bed. Eat dry cereal, toast, or soda crackers before getting out of bed in the morning. When you do get out of bed, go slowly and avoid sudden movements.
  • Be bland. Try focusing your diet on cold, bland, odorless food- avoiding spicy, fatty, salty, or ultra-sweet foods. Bland starches such as breads, rice, mashed potatoes, or pasta are often good choices, especially when combined with high protein snacks like peanut butter and cheese. You can also try the B.R.A.T.T. diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast, and Tea). These foods are not only bland, but will help you get  vital nutrients you need. At the same time, try to increase your fiber intake to help prevent constipation, which is another side effect of pregnancy.
  • Go in for ginger, and try some tea. Many women report that ginger helps calm their stomachs. Try ginger snaps, ginger cookies, or ginger root capsules (250 mg/no more than four times a day). You can also make a soothing ginger tea by grating fresh ginger root in a cup of hot water. Teas made with red raspberry, lemon, spearmint, peach, or chamomile may also help an upset stomach.
  • Drink up. Drink enough fluids (at least six to eight 8-ounce glasses a day)-especially when you're queasy. This will help you stay hydrated and avoid constipation. Try not to drink liquids at the same time as you eat dry foods-it seems to cause more nausea. Sip liquids slowly, or through a straw. Try making ice cubes from a favorite juice or other drink. Watermelon is also a great "solid liquid" to help keep you hydrated.
  • Drink sweet. Many women find bubbly, cold, sugary drinks (like Sprite) helpful, while others prefer drinks flat and at room temperature. Sugar seems to be the key. You might also try sports drinks, such as Gatorade.

Shift your schedule and slow down

  • Brush with care. Delay brushing your teeth first thing in the morning if you find it makes you sick. Instead, wait to brush until your stomach feels more settled later in the day.
  • Time your vitamins. Prenatal vitamins and iron may cause nausea, especially when taken during the day. Try taking your vitamins with food at the end of the day-or switch to a children's chewable. Keep in mind that you will need to continue taking folic acid each day as recommended by your health care provider.
  • Slow down. Allow for rest periods in your day, and learn to pace yourself (do a little, rest a little). Don't try to maintain the same schedule or level of activity as you did before your pregnancy. Make changes to activity during times of the day you are normally most nauseated.
  • Arrange your resting environment. Rest when you can in a cool, dark, quiet room with plenty of fresh air. Minimize your physical movements: keep a phone, a bowl, a cooler with drinks and snacks, and a cool washcloth nearby so you won't have to get up and down constantly.
  • Make it a family affair. Ask your partner or a friend to help by babysitting or bringing you drinks or snacks while you rest. If you have small children, pack the next day's lunches, snack bags, and juice bottles the night before, so you can move a bit more slowly in the morning. If you can, rest in your children's play area. You can use safety gates to keep them in view and rely on videos, books, and coloring supplies to keep them quietly entertained.
  • Avoid strong or unpleasant smells. Keep your home and bedroom well ventilated: open your windows and use exhaust fans during cooking. To help you avoid strong food smells, you might even ask someone else to do the cooking or shopping or to prepare cold meals for the household.
  • Get some aid from the band. Try wearing motion sickness bands, which work by applying pressure at a special point on your wrist. You can buy these bands at most pharmacies.
  • Ask about antacids and vitamin B6. Antacids can help decrease that "sour stomach" feeling and  relieve burning in your throat after throwing up. Vitamin B6 has been shown to help reduce symptoms of morning sickness.
  • Spit it out. It's common for women with morning sickness to have a lot of saliva, and unfortunately swallowing saliva often makes nausea worse. Instead of swallowing your saliva, carry a washcloth with you and spit into it.
  • Tart foods and drinks (like lemonade) or candies (like lemon drops or mints) sometimes help.

As a woman, you often have many roles and obligations. You may need to rethink your old habits. Learn to say "no." Give yourself permission to manage the stress that morning sickness can cause. It is smart, not selfish, to take care of yourself!  Ask yourself: Must this task be done so often? Is there a better way or time to do it? Who else can do it? Can we take turns? It helps to have support from your family and friends. Their encouragement may help you avoid  the depression and guilt that many women feel when they have morning sickness.

Occasionally morning sickness can become severe enough to cause dehydration and chemical imbalances-leading to a condition called HYPEREMESIS GRAVIDARUM. In this case, you may need additional treatment such as  intravenous (IV) fluids and other medications. Call your health care provider if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • You produce only a small amount of urine, dark in color
  • You can't keep liquids down
  • You feel dizzy or faint when you stand up
  • Your heart pounds or races
  • You vomit blood
  • You are losing weight quickly

Click to read more about Nausea and Vomiting of pregnancy

Link to American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) handouts

Click to read more about Hyperemesis Gravidarum