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5 tips for when morning sickness gets bad

Christine Weinmeister, CNM

If you’re pregnant and suffering from morning sickness—you’re not alone. About 70 to 80 percent of women suffer morning sickness symptoms in early pregnancy, and nearly two-thirds of them end up praying to the porcelain god.

Nausea and vomiting can strike at any time of day or night and can make work and life a challenge. While there are no perfect solutions, there are a few things you can do to manage symptoms until they dissipate—generally between 14 and 16 weeks gestation.

Tip 1: Stabilize your blood sugar
Low blood sugar tends to make nausea worse. Keep yours stable by eating small, frequent meals. If you can, try to include both protein and carbohydrates in your meals and snacks, which will also help keep blood sugars on an even keel. Add a nut butter to toast or crackers, or try a stick of string cheese. It can also help to keep snacks within easy reach. Try putting saltines on your nightstand and eating a couple before you get out of bed, or stash trail mix in your purse.

Tip 2: Let your partner cook
Cooking smells can be tough to stomach when you’re feeling queasy. Put your partner or other family members on kitchen duty to avoid triggering aromas. You can also plan to make cold meals, which are less fragrant and may be more soothing to your stomach.

Tip 3: Drink lots of water
Staying hydrated can help reduce nausea. Drink water throughout the day, but try to avoid drinking a lot all at once or before meals. If plain water doesn’t sound good, try adding a slice of lemon or ginger root. You can also mix in electrolyte drops or flavored powers to boost the taste and get some salt and calories at the same time. Just be careful to watch the sugar content, which can make nausea worse. Dilute sports drinks with 50 percent water before consuming them.

Tip 4: Try a traditional remedy
Ginger has been used to calm upset stomachs for centuries and is safe during pregnancy. You can find ginger root in the produce area of most grocery stores. It’s also often available in pills, candy chews and gummies, and teas. Another idea? Sea-sickness wrist bands apply pressure to an acupuncture point on the wrist to relieve nausea.

Tip 5: Take an approved medicine
Many women find relief by taking 25 mg of vitamin B6 with 25 mg of doxylamine (an over-the-counter sleep aid) in the morning and at bedtime. This combination is the only fully approved medication specifically for the treatment of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, and research shows that it is very safe. The combination is also available as brand-name prescription, but is more expensive that way. Other anti-nausea prescription options are also available, but it’s important to weigh the risks and the benefits with your midwife or doctor before deciding to use them.

Occasionally, morning sickness can be so severe that it causes dehydration, weight loss, electrolyte imbalances, or other issues. If you haven’t been able to keep food or water down all day, or if you are having severe nausea and vomiting, call your provider. You might need IV fluids and electrolytes to improve hydration and beat back nausea. Women diagnosed with a severe form of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarium may need further, ongoing treatment.

While morning sickness is miserable, you can take heart that your body is looking out for you and your baby. A study by the National Institutes of Health confirmed that morning sickness is protective, lowering the risk of miscarriage. Most women find that symptoms disappear by the second trimester. While the weeks seem endless now, you’ll likely have your energy and appetite back soon, and will be that much closer to holding your sweet new baby in your arms.

Christine Weinmeister is a certified nurse midwife at Vancouver Clinic. She strives to help all her patients feel informed and empowered in their health care decisions.