Your Ultimate Morning Sickness Survival Guide: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

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Pregnant woman feeling sick and nausea

Morning sickness is perhaps the worst symptom you’ll experience during pregnancy. It makes you feel horrible and unproductive. You don’t want to move from your couch or do anything, especially eat. All food sounds, smells, and looks disgusting. Morning sickness is a serious drag.

Experiencing morning sickness day after day is like having a really bad hangover for weeks. It’s like reliving your college days on repeat, and who wants to do that? Luckily, you’ll make it through it, but you don’t get to enjoy the fun night that caused pregnancy nausea.

Morning sickness is nausea and vomiting that takes place during pregnancy, but the name is deceiving. It doesn’t just happen in the morning. Nausea and vomiting can take place any time, day or night.

If you have morning sickness, you’re in good company. Around 50% of pregnant women experience morning sickness at some point in their pregnancy. It doesn’t have to be accompanied by vomiting. Some women just have nausea for hours every day, and they say it’s worse than vomiting because there is no relief for constant nausea!

What Does Morning Sickness Feel Like?

Morning sickness feels different for every women. Some women just have nausea that could last for a few hours or all long. Others experience nausea and vomiting. Neither one is pleasant, but some do say that the vomiting actually makes them feel better because they get some relief for a short period.

The main difference between general nausea and morning sickness is the prolonged period in which you experience it and being accompanied by other pregnancy symptoms. So, not only are you nauseous and puking, but you also may feel other signs of pregnancy, such as:

  • Tender or swollen breasts
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Backaches
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Frequent urination
  • Food aversions

So combined with other symptoms, women often find functioning throughout the day in the first trimester quite difficult. You’re exhausted, throwing up several times, and unable to eat food, which typically helps stop the pregnancy nausea. Remember an empty stomach is a bad thing!

Smells can make the nausea even worse, so walking into your kitchen can be a tricky situation. Going to a restaurant or the store means you might encounter an offending smell, and no one likes to puke in public. So, it’s like having a 12 week long hangover without the party.

What Causes Morning Sickness?

Determining causes of morning sickness is a bit of a mystery, but there are some things that can trigger morning sickness. It’s unique for each woman.

1. Food and Odors

Women are often triggered by food and odors. Certain scents or tastes can trigger nausea, such as the smell of food cooking. The idea of cooking ground beef might make you want to vomit. If you have sensitive taste buds, you might be more likely to experience morning sickness.

2. Body and Mind Stress

Morning sickness can be triggered by psychological problems, such as stress, or physical problems. Migraines or traveling by car and boats might make you sick without being pregnant, but during pregnancy, that sickness increases exponentially.

3. Nutritional Gaps

Studies show that morning sickness might be an indicator that you have levels of certain nutrients below the recommended amount. Vitamin B6 is one of the most common vitamins that is associated with morning sickness,

Along with your health, these nutrients help to balance hormones, such as cortisol, and stabilize blood sugar, such as vitamin B12, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin D.

4. Hormones

Some research shows that there is a major connection between morning sickness and the changing hormone levels a pregnant woman experiences. A few hormones that are busy during pregnancy include:

Rising estrogen is one of the main pregnancy hormones that can cause issues. This is where the old wives’ tale comes from that carrying a girl increases your morning sickness because you typically have more estrogen in your system if you’re pregnant with a girl.

Progesterone is a hormone that rises quickly during pregnancy, and it’s one of the main culprits of constipation. It causes your digestive system to slow down quickly.l.

HCG is what brings up the positive sign on pregnancy tests. When the fertilized egg implants into the uterine walls, HCG starts to develop and double at a quick rate.

5. Genetics

There is a common theory that morning sickness is actually determined by genetics. However, that doesn’t mean that it always falls that way. Just because your mother never experienced morning sickness doesn’t mean you’ll be so lucky – darn.

Instead, researchers think that certain genetic traits might make us more vulnerable to morning sickness. For example, we do know that if your mom has HG, you have a slightly increased chance of having it as well. Studies also show that Africans, Native Americans, Eskimos, and Asian populations have a lower risk of morning sickness.

When Does Morning Sickness Start and End?

Symptoms can start around 5 or 6 weeks pregnant, depending on your pregnancy hormones. Most women experience the peak of morning sickness around 9 weeks, and then it slowly – painfully slow – declines in intensity. By the time the second trimester arrives around 12 or 13 weeks, you should feel most like yourself.

Unfortunately, some women aren’t so lucky, since one in five women still feel sick in the third trimester. There are some women, around 5 percent, who will experience nausea all the way until delivery.

Are There Any Factors that Increase Morning Sickness?

A number of factors increase the risk of you developing morning sickness, such as:

  • First pregnancy
  • Carrying multiples - twins, triplets, etc
  • Extreme stress
  • Obesity
  • Young maternal age
  • History of motion sickness
  • History of nausea when using contraceptives that contain estrogen
  • Carrying a female fetus
  • Previous pregnancy with nausea and vomiting

Prenatal Vitamins and Morning Sickness

We all know that prenatal vitamins are important. A growing baby takes the nutrients and vitamins necessary for its growth from the mother, but mom still needs those nutrients for survival. Doctors encourage women to start taking prenatal vitamins before they conceive to ensure they’re healthy.

Unfortunately, prenatal vitamins can cause nausea and morning sickness to be worse. That causes many women to stop taking prenatal vitamins because it becomes a cycle of not being able to eat because of the nausea and being sick because of the vitamins.

Some prenatal vitamins are the size of a horse-pill, or so it feels, and they smell like rodent food. Why can’t they make prenatal vitamins more appealing for pregnant women? Here are some tips to try!

  • Try taking your pill at different times during the day when you’re less nauseated. It’s easier to take it first thing in the morning, but it might be better in the evening or afternoon when your tummy isn’t already aggravated.
  • Eat first before taking your pill. Putting any pill into your stomach when its empty isn’t a good idea. All pills are easier when accompanied by food, so try to eat before you take your prenatal vitamins.
  • See if your doctor has other recommendations. If you still can’t stomach your prenatal vitamins, talk to your doctor. He might be able to prescribe something that isn’t as rough as what you use now. Iron in prenatal vitamins can be hard to digest, so you might want a formula with less iron. You can also try over-the-country recommendations.

Is it Normal to Not Have Morning Sickness?

While morning sickness is frustrating, some women are lucky enough not to feel sick at all, and they start to wonder if that means something is wrong with their pregnancy. Some evidence shows that experiencing morning sickness reduces the risk of a miscarriage (source), but that doesn’t mean your pregnancy is doomed. Around 20 to 30 percent of women don’t have any nausea at all and they deliver healthy babies!

14 Best Ways to Treat Morning Sickness During Pregnancy

1. Small, Frequent Meals

One reason that morning sickness happens often at the start of the day is that your stomach is empty. Instead of picking three main meals of the day, eat frequent and small meals throughout the day. Crackers may be a classic choice, but they’re an easy choice. Your stomach won’t be empty if you eat often, which is good because a stomach without food to digest gets grumpy. Also, eat slowly so you avoid heartburn.

2. Pick the Right Foods

It’s best to pick foods that aren’t known to upset your stomach. You should avoid fried foods and gassy foods, like cabbage, unless you want the discomfort, which you don’t. A few foods to try include:

  • Applesauce
  • Whole Grain bagels or bread
  • Whole Grain cereal
  • Grapes
  • Frozen yogurt
  • Bone Broth
  • Watermelon
  • Rice cakes
  • Puddings
  • Sorbet
  • Pureed Soups
  • Smoothies

3. Eat Protein-Rich Foods

You might love your carbohydrates – who doesn’t? – but many pregnant women are lacking in protein. Eating protein-rich foods is a home remedy that thousands of mothers swear works.

Evidence shows us that this might be the right choice. A study completed in 1999 indicated that protein meals reduce nausea(source) and help to slow the gastric waves in the first trimester, concluding that protein supplements may prove to benefit morning sickness.

What are foods that are high in protein? Believe it or not, you have other options than meats. For example, quinoa has 12% protein, and that’s more than many meat choices.

  • Quinoa
  • All meats
  • Fish
  • Cheese
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Organic eggs
  • Bone broth
  • Protein shakes

4. Get Some Air

Some women swear that opening a window and breathing the fresh air or breathing in front of a fan helps to decrease nausea. Being too hot and stuffy can trigger nausea in some women, and that means it can be anywhere such as at home, at work, or anywhere.

5. Eat Breakfast Quickly

Don’t even think about getting out of bed without eating. That’s asking for trouble. Instead, put a high protein snack next to your bedside table such as a handful of almonds or peanut butter crackers. Eat it before you get out of bed to help reduce the risk of vomiting.

6. Rest Often

It’s hard, but one of the first places to start is working on getting as much good sleep as possible. Sleeping helps make you feel better, and your body requires more sleep when you’re pregnant. However, pregnancy sleep is hard due to heartburn, body aches, and more. If you’re experiencing heartburn, be sure to prop up your head a bit with extra pillows to reduce how much stomach acid comes back your esophagus.

7. Lemons

Lemon and other citrus fruits help to get rid of the sense of nausea for some people. Inhaling lemon essential oils can help immediately reduce the feelings of nausea. You can get the same effect by slicing a lemon or scratching its peel to release the essential oils into the air. Add some lemon to your water or try some lemon cookies.

8. Try Ginger

Ginger is an old wives’ tale, but there is truth to the tale. If you can get ginger ale, make sure its made with real ginger. Another choice is to grate fresh ginger into hot water to create a homemade ginger tea. You can try ginger candies.

Some experts believe that ginger works just like an anti-nausea medication. It’s safe for most pregnant women to take, but you do want to watch our intake if you’re prone to low blood pressure or low blood sugar.

9. Peppermint

Peppermint is another common remedy that women use often. You don’t want to use peppermint essential oil. Instead, try peppermint tea or sucking on a hard peppermint candy. Other women respond well just by the scent of peppermint. One study showed that peppermint aromatherapy can reduce nausea by 57%(source)!

Some other ways that you can use peppermint is by using an inhaler that contains peppermint oil when you notice nausea symptoms coming. Sip some yummy peppermint tea. It’s worth a shot!

10. Sea Bands

Sea Bands is a popular remedy for motion sickness. The bands have a button that applies pressure to the P6 acupoint in the wrist which is well-known to reduce nausea. They’re a safe choice for pregnancy, especially those in the first trimester. You can get Sea Bands at most local stores, such as Target or Walmart. They’re typically in the area with Dramamine or other nausea medication.

11. Take Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is a common alternative treatment for pregnant women who want to avoid the conventional anti-nausea medications. The idea that it works goes back to the idea that morning sickness is due to a nutritional gap, such as a lack in vitamin B6.

Most doctors say that you can safely take up to 200 mg per day of vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 helps move magnesium into the cells which supports hormonal balance and support your blood sugar levels. Low blood sugar can reduce the symptoms of nausea.

You can also try to increase your intake of foods that are naturally rich in B6, such as:

  • Whole grains
  • Wheat germ
  • Raw nuts
  • Seeds
  • Legumes
  • Bananas
  • Potatoes
  • Brewer’s yeast

12. Using Specific Spices

There are several spices that are popular home remedies to fight back nausea and vomiting. There is little evidence that these actually work, but many women say that they have good experiences with them.

  • Cumin: Cumin helps to improve symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, constipation, and diarrhea for those who suffer from IBS.
  • Fennel Powder: There is some evidence that fennel helps to reduce menstrual symptoms, along with nausea, so there is a chance it will help with morning sickness.
  • Cumin: Cinnamon is known to help reduce the severity of nausea, especially for women currently in their menstrual cycle.

13. Magnesium

Moms swear by natural remedy of magnesium. The recommended dose is 400 to 600 mg per day. Surprisingly, most women are already deficient in magnesium, and a pregnancy is time when your body requires more. In theory, magnesium is supposed to help balance out the cortisol levels in your body.

So, how can you get more magnesium in your body? A few choices include:

  • Epsom Salt Baths: One of the easiest methods is to take epsom salt baths. You can buy epsom salt at almost an store. Just add 2 cups to your bathwater and relax. Make sure you don’t make the water too hot because increasing your core body temperature is dangerous for your baby.
  • Supplementing with Magnesium Oil: You can get magnesium oil in a spray form or a rub-on oil. You do need to make sure the magnesium oil you select doesn’t contain mercury. You can dilute it 50-50 in a spray bottle or add magnesium oil to your skin lotion to reduce itching.
  • Magnesium Powders: Another choice is to use a magnesium powder, letting you vary your dose. Start off with only ½ TSP and slowly work your water up to 3 TSP of magnesium powder. If you notice loose stools, bring the dose down because magnesium is known to prevent constipation.

14. Acupuncture and Acupressure

Acupuncture and acupressure are both commonly used treatments in Chinese medicine to treat nausea and vomiting, and both are considered safe for pregnancy. Acupuncture require inserting thin needles into specific points in the body while acupressure stimulates certain points of the body using pressure rather than needles.

Prescription Remedies for Morning Sickness

In some cases, a prescription may be your best bet to get relief from the perpetual morning sickness. These must be prescribed by your doctor. You will make the decision together what is best for you and your baby.

A few choices include:

  • Zofran. There is a lot of conflicting advice about Zofran. Some say it causes serious fetal side-effects. Others say it’s the best thing since sliced bread. I did take it over nine years ago when I was pregnant, but the side effects weren’t known. Be sure to talk to your doctor about Zofran and it’s safety.
  • Reglan. Many moms love Reglan. One downside is that it can cause serious drowsiness, but sleeping sounds way better than vomiting, right?
  • Prochlorperazine. This is another choice that some say is safe and others say it’s a big no-no. It works for some, and it doesn’t work for others.
  • Decletin. Decletin is more commonly prescribed in Canada. There is some controversy about it’s safety, so if your doctor does offer it, weigh the pros and cons.
  • B Shot. This isn’t the most common choice, but it can work for a bit. The longevity of it is questionable as it doesn’t seem to last long for those who do try it.

Warning: Take Good Oral Care During Morning Sickness

Brushing your teeth can be an ordeal for those with morning sickness, but you need to treat your mouth well. Brush your teeth or rinse your mouth out after you vomit and after each meal, but you can wait until your stomach settles down a bit.

 Vomit brings up regurgitated residue and acid that can cause damage to your teeth. A fresh mouth can help with reducing bouts of nausea later. Pregnancy tends to make your teeth worse, so try to stop it in its track.

Should I Worry about Morning Sickness?

Luckily, there is no connection between morning sickness and the risk of your developing baby. Some doctors believe that morning sickness could be protective to avoid harmful toxins. There might be some times that a call to your doctor is a good idea, such as if you’re experiencing:

  • Flu-like symptoms, which might indicate that you have an illness.
  • Dizziness or lethargy
  • A rapid loss in weight
  • You think the nausea is caused by iron in your prenatal vitamins
  • You want to try an anti-nausea medication

However, if you can’t hold down any liquids and find yourself vomiting multiple times a day for several days in a row, it might be a sign that you have a dangerous medical condition called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). You can’t tough HG out, unfortunately.

Here are some other signs of HG:

Most importantly, if you feel as if you’re dehydrated, you need to seek medical help immediately. Pregnant women and their babies are more likely to experience dehydration and the risks that stem from it. Dehydration during pregnancy may require IV fluids and medication.

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