15 Tips for Dealing With Morning Sickness
Got some first trimester nausea? If you're looking for morning sickness relief, check out these smart tips from doctors and real moms. They'll help banish the queasiness with minimal effort!
How to Help Morning Sickness
Pregnancy is an amazing ride, but the morning sickness that often accompanies it isn't so great. According to Marjorie Greenfield, M.D., an OB-GYN and author of The Working Woman's Pregnancy Book, approximately 70 percent of women experience nausea early in pregnancy and about 50 percent experience vomiting. "It's very, very common, but it's also incredibly varied," Dr. Greenfield says. "Lots of people are sick all day, some are sick mostly in the evening, and others are sick if they haven't gotten enough sleep."
So when do you get morning sickness? Pregnancy nausea can start as early as six weeks and tends to peak around the eighth and ninth weeks, according to Dr. Greenfield.
If you're tired of feeling queasy, check out these 15 tips for how to stop morning sickness. (And take heart: Many women find pregnancy nausea tapers off or disappear altogether after 12 to 14 weeks!)
Take a Break
Are you having one of those mornings when the thought of dragging yourself out of bed is only compounding the nausea? Then don't do it! Take a sick day and give yourself a break. Your body's working overtime on growing that baby—you deserve it.
Even better, Dr. Greenfield suggests scheduling a "vacation" during your seventh or eighth week of pregnancy, when morning sickness generally starts to peak. In either case, you won't have to divulge your pregnancy news to your coworkers before you're ready, and the time off will help you recoup physically and mentally.
Sniff a Fresh Scent
Whether it's the less-than-pleasant whiff of the garbage can or the smell of your coworker's perfume in a crowded elevator, certain scents will turn your tummy. "Morning sickness is often smell-associated," says Miriam Erick, a senior dietician and nutritionist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and author of Managing Morning Sickness: A Survival Guide for Pregnant Women. "Estrogen is the hormone that's responsible for the sense of smell, and if [you have] high estrogen hormones—like when you're pregnant—you have the radar nose of pregnancy. Ugly smells, smells you can't get away from, and potent smells will make you nauseous."
When you can't open a window or walk away, try sniffing fresh scents. Carry a bottle of lemon extract or a sprig of fresh rosemary in your bag, and stealthily sneak a sniff when needed. "I call it the scent between you and the rest of the world," says Erick.
Talk About Your Morning Sickness
You may be all about self-sufficiency and powering through your pregnancy, but being vocal about your feelings can help alleviate morning sickness misery. Your partner probably doesn't know that their scented soap makes you queasy, or that giving you a kiss— post pizza dinner, without brushing their teeth first— gets your gag reflex going. So tell them, and let them know what little changes they can make to help you feel better. (And when your mood improves, they'll feel better too!)
Track Your Nausea
Your pregnancy nausea may seem to come and go, but by tuning into your body and surroundings, you might find the queasiness isn't so random. If you find yourself getting nauseated at the same time every evening, says Erick, it may be from the smells of your neighbors' cooking. Queasy at 3 p.m.? A coworker's afternoon popcorn habit could be the culprit. Once you've identified morning sickness triggers, you can take the appropriate steps to avoid them whenever possible.
It sounds like a no-brainer, but staying hydrated can feel like a monumental effort when your stomach won't keep anything down. However, it's essential to get enough liquids because the more dehydrated you become, the more nauseated you'll become, according to Dr. Greenfield. Try different ways of tricking your body into accepting fluids. For example, Erick has found that for some women, salty snacks like potato chips and cheese curls "settle their stomachs and trigger their thirst." Others swear by crunching on ice chips or sipping ice cold or piping hot beverages. "Temperature makes a difference," Erick says. "If a beverage is a tepid middle temperature, it sometimes makes people gag."
Find Foods That Work
Don't feel like eating? You still need to get food in your stomach—it's just a matter of figuring out what goes down best. "Every mom—and every queasy tummy— is different. What spells relief to one may spell P-U-K-E to another," says Heidi Murkoff, co-author of What to Expect When You're Expecting. Though there's no hard-and-fast rule about the best foods for morning sickness, many women find that it's easier to keep down certain types of items. Bland, carb-rich snacks like crackers, dry cereal, and pretzels have seen many pregnant women through morning sickness, as have ice-cold treats like watermelon and Popsicles. Fatty and spicy foods may upset nausea stomachs, but if you find that they work for you, by all means, go ahead and eat them!
"If you're concerned about getting enough nutrients, try chicken soup, which will help both hydrate you and give you some calories," suggests Mehmet Oz, M.D. "Also, eat more cold foods—hot foods may trigger nausea as they are more likely than cold foods to have an aroma."
Eat a Little—and Then a Little More
Many women find that grazing all day settles their stomach. "I call it the Six Meal Solution," says Murkoff. "When your tummy is empty, the stomach acids have nothing to feast on but your stomach lining, compounding nausea. On the other hand, eating too much can overtax the digestive system, also leading to quease. Keeping your tummy a little bit full all day and all night is the best defense against morning sickness."
Murkoff suggests keeping a snack stash (crackers, pretzels, dried fruit, nuts, or whatever you can keep down) nearby at all times. Nibbling a little bit before you get out of bed in the morning can stave off nausea, and a light bedtime snack will stabilize your blood sugar throughout the night. Eating small snacks throughout the day also enables you to keep some food in your stomach at all times.
Get Creative with Ginger
Ginger has long been touted as a stomach soother, and studies have shown that it may help morning sickness. Try adding a thin slice of ginger to hot water or sipping flat ginger ale. Doesn't sound appetizing? Snack on a handful of crystallized ginger candy, nosh on gingersnaps or gingerbread, try ginger tea, or find your own tasty way to soup up the root. Erick suggests microwaving ginger jam and pouring it over vanilla ice cream. Yum!
Adjust Your Computer
You may think surfing the web will distract you from morning sickness, but the computer's bright screen and undetectable strobe effect may make you more nauseated. To combat this effect, Erick suggests adjusting your screen to reduce eye strain. Make the font size bold and larger, and change the background to a soft pink or tan. Erick also recommends taking short breaks from the computer by getting up to do something else—or by simply closing your eyes.
First trimester nausea isn't easy to ignore, but finding something to take your mind off it may help. Read a book, do a Sudoku puzzle, or go for a short walk. Some moms even claim that exercise relieves their nausea, but make sure to talk to your doctor before going that route. And of course, listen to your body—if you start feeling tired or more queasy, it's time to stop.
Carry a Survival Kit
No matter how many times it happens, puking in public isn't something you ever get used to. To make the sticky situation bearable, don't leave home without stocking your bag with a few morning sickness must-haves. Dr. Greenfield suggests packing a clean blouse and a toothbrush, toothpaste, or bottle of mouthwash to help you freshen up. Breath mints are a smart move, too. It's also a good idea to carry a plastic (barf) bag for those dreaded can't-hold-it-until-I-reach-a-bathroom moments, plus a snack stash of crackers or pretzels that you can munch when your stomach starts to feel empty or upset.
Consider Taking Medication
If you're having a hard time keeping anything down, it's time to see a doctor. According to Robert Atlas, M.D., OB-GYN and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Mercy Medical Center, a combination of vitamin B6 and the sleep aid Unisom has been proven to alleviate morning sickness symptoms for some. If that doesn't work, a combination of stronger prescription medications, such as an acid reflux blocker and a bowel stimulant, may also bring relief.
Of course, before taking any medication, you'll want to check with your doctor. "For severe sickness, you may want to talk to your doc about prescription medications like scopolamine, promethazine, prochlorperazine and trimethobenzamide," says Dr. Oz. "All have been shown to be safe for use during pregnancy."
Once you get the go-ahead, don't worry about the meds harming your baby—the relief they provide will benefit you both. "It's important not to let morning sickness go too far in the interest of avoiding medication at all costs," says Dr. Greenfield, "because the dehydration, calorie deprivation, and starvation state is really unhealthy for the baby."
Be Open to the Unusual
Sometimes the weirdest remedies work, so pay attention to your body and follow the morning sickness relief tactics that really make you feel better—no matter how strange they may seem. Betsy Stephens, a mom from West Orange, New Jersey, calls bubble gum-flavored Barbie toothpaste her morning sickness "saving grace." "The taste of actual toothpaste put me over the edge first thing in the morning," Stephens says, "but Barbie made it possible for me to brush my teeth without yakking." Monica Florville, a mom from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, says that Coca-Cola—cold or warm—was the only thing that got her through her nausea.
Wear an Acupressure Wristband
Remember those seasick wristbands you wore on that Caribbean cruise (like the ones pictured?) Dig them out and strap 'em on. Acupressure wristbands work by applying light pressure to a spot located inside the wrist believed to be related to nausea and vomiting—whether induced by motion or morning sickness. Who knows? It might just make you feel a bit better.
Though Dr. Atlas cautions that such holistic remedies have been tested with mixed results, some women do find relief in them (although it might be the placebo effect or pure distraction). Jennifer Rickert, a mom from Columbus, Nebraska, says acupressure bands helped relieve some of her all-day nausea, though "they made my wrist ache...so maybe it was just taking my mind off the nausea." And on the upside, according to Dr. Atlas, acupressure and acupuncture don't pose any risk to your baby, so press and poke away.
Sometimes the best solution is the simplest. Try lying down, closing your eyes, taking a few deep breaths, and just getting some rest. Many doctors and moms have said that sleep is a great way to escape morning sickness—and your body needs it! If you already have young children, bring in a babysitter (even for just a few hours a day) so you can catch up on some much needed snoozing. Having trouble catching those zzzs? Try wearing a sleep mask or putting on a pair of dark sunglasses to block out bright light.