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Coping with nausea in pregnancy

Published in Birthing Services, Women's Services, OB/GYN Services, For the Health of It Author: Erin Hennen,MD Author: Erin N. Hennen, MD

Nausea is one of the most common symptoms of early pregnancy, occurring in 50-80 percent of women. Although it is often called “morning sickness," pregnancy-related nausea and/or vomiting may occur at any time of the day and women may feel sick throughout the day. Symptoms generally peak around week nine of the pregnancy and many women see symptoms improve by week 16 to 18.

Many factors can contribute to nausea in pregnancy:

  • Adjustment to HCG (the pregnancy hormone) which is highest during the first trimester.
  • Fatigue/stress. Nausea symptoms often are worse when the woman feels tired or stressed.
  • Low blood sugar. After long periods of time without food, many women feel nauseous and lightheaded.
  • B-Complex deficiency. Taking a supplement of vitamin B6 (10 mg 3-4 times daily) may be helpful, although it can take up to a week to experience results.
  • Changes in digestion. The digestive enzymes and production of stomach acid slows in pregnancy, which can make women more prone to nausea and heartburn.  

Try the following tips to help prevent and relieve nausea.

  • Stay hydrated. Drink small amounts of fluid throughout the day. Avoid juices and milk.
  • Frequently eat small amounts of food. Choose foods high in protein and complex carbohydrates. Eat as soon as you feel hungry to avoid low blood sugar.
  • Eat first thing in the morning. Keeping crackers or toast near the bedside and eating before you start the day can help prevent nausea.  
  • Watch what you eat. Avoid foods that commonly trigger nausea (caffeine, fried, acidic, spicy or greasy food). Stick to bland foods, which tend to be better tolerated (bananas, applesauce, rice, toast, crackers).  
  • Try ginger. Take ginger in a capsule form (250mg 4 times daily), as candy or drink ginger tea.
  • Take your prenatal vitamin at bedtime. If the symptoms continue, take a children’s vitamin and or folic acid supplement with at least 400 mg of folic acid.
  • Get regular exercise. Believe it or not, physical activity can help relieve your symptoms — especially walking. Get fresh air for more relief.
  • Rest and relax. Get enough sleep at night. Take a nap when needed. Even laying down for 10 minutes can be helpful. Ask for help. Practice deep breathing and try prenatal yoga.
  • Holistic health care. Some women experience relief through massage, chiropractic care, osteopathic manipulation or acupuncture.
  • Wear “seabands.” Worn continuously, the wrist bands stimulate acupressure points that may relieve nausea. The bands can be purchased at some local pharmacies.

Call your health care provider if you are unable to eat or drink for 24 hours, experience weakness or have weight loss of three to four pounds in a week. If the previously mentioned interventions do not help, you may need medication or even IV hydration. Remember, when you hold your bundle of joy, the discomfort will be well worth it!