According to Dr. Marjorie Greenfield, 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," 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." Morning sickness can start as early as six weeks into pregnancy and tends to peak around the eighth and ninth weeks, according to Greenfield.
So how to deal? Check out the following tips. (And take heart: Many women find morning sickness symptoms taper off or disappear altogether after 12 to 14 weeks.)
Having one of those mornings when the thought of dragging yourself out of bed for work 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, Greenfield suggests scheduling a "vacation" during your seventh or eighth week, 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, both physically and mentally.
Whether it's the less-than-pleasant whiff of the garbage truck rumbling by, 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're a high estrogen hormone person -- 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.
You may be all about self-sufficiency and powering through your pregnancy, but being vocal about your feelings to those around you can help alleviate morning sickness misery. Your hubs probably doesn't know that his scented soap makes you queasy, or that giving you a kiss -- post pizza dinner, without brushing his teeth first -- gets your gag reflex going. So tell him and let him know what little changes he can make to help you feel better. (And when your mood improves, he'll feel better too.)
Your queasiness may seem to come and go as it pleases, but by tuning into your body and your surroundings, you might find that your morning sickness 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. every day? A coworker's afternoon microwave popcorn habit could be the culprit. Once you've identified your sickness triggers, you can take the appropriate steps to avoid them wherever possible.
It sounds like a no-brainer, but getting your eight glasses a day can feel like a monumental effort when your stomach won't keep anything down. Despite that, it's essential to get your liquids in because the more dehydrated you become, the more nauseated you'll become, according to Greenfield. To stay hydrated, try different ways of tricking your body into accepting fluids: 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."
Even if eating is the last thing you want to do, you need to get food into your stomach -- it's just a matter of figuring out what. "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 which foods work best for all morning sick mamas-to-be, many women find that it's easier to keep down certain types of food. Bland, carb-rich snacks like crackers, dry cereal, and pretzels have seen many preggo gals through morning sickness, as have ice cold treats like watermelon and Popsicles. Fatty and spicy foods may upset iffy stomachs, but if you find that they work for you, by all means, go ahead and eat 'em.
When it comes to eating, 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, and 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 can also enable you to keep some food in your stomach at all times.
Ginger has long been touted as a stomach soother, and studies have shown that it may help quell the queasies. Try adding a thin slice of ginger to hot water or tea, or sipping flat ginger ale. Doesn't sound appetizing? Snack on a handful of crystallized ginger candy, nosh on gingersnaps or gingerbread, or find your own tasty way to soup up the root. Erick suggests microwaving ginger jam and pouring it over vanilla ice cream. Yum!
You may think that surfing the web (and checking out the latest Brad and Angelina pics) will distract you from morning sickness, but the computer's bright screen and undetectable strobe effect may make you more nauseated. To combat that, 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.
Nausea's not easy to ignore, but finding something -- anything -- to take your mind off it may help you forget it for a while. 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.
No matter how many times it happens, puking in public is not something you ever get used to. But to make the sticky situation bearable, don't leave home without stocking your bag with a few morning sickness must-haves. Greenfield suggests packing a clean blouse and a toothbrush, toothpaste, or bottle of mouthwash to help you freshen up post-puke. 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.
If you're having a hard time keeping anything down, then it's time to see a doctor who can determine whether you need to take something. According to Dr. Robert Atlas, 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, like Protonix, and a bowel stimulant, like Reglan, may also bring relief. (Of course, before taking any medication, you'll want to check with your doctor.)
Once you get the okay, don't worry about the meds harming your baby -- the relief they may give you will be good for you and baby. "It's important not to let morning sickness go too far in the interest of avoiding medication at all costs," says Greenfield, "because the dehydration, calorie deprivation, and starvation state is really unhealthy for the baby."
Sometimes the weirdest remedies work, so don't be afraid to 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 classic -- cold or warm -- was the only thing that got her through her nausea.
Remember those seasick wristbands you wore on that Caribbean cruise? 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 motion, sea, or morning sickness induced. Who knows? It might just make you feel a bit better.
Though Atlas cautions that such holistic remedies have been tested with mixed results, some women do find relief in them -- whether it's truly from the acupressure, from the placebo effect of hoping to feel better and actually feeling better, or simply from distracting them from their nausea. 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 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 a young kid or two, bring a babysitter in (even for just a few hours a day) so you can catch up on some much needed R&R. Having trouble catching those zzzs? Try wearing a sleep mask or putting on a pair of dark sunglasses to block out bright light.
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