If you’ve had morning sickness during pregnancy, you probably know that the name is cruelly misleading. Feelings of nausea or vomiting can strike anytime — day or night. There’s good news, though. There are several things you can do to help tame your turbulent tummy.
Morning sickness is common. In fact, one study shows that up to 80% of pregnant people experience at least some symptoms of morning sickness — but that doesn’t mean you have to simply accept it.
Certified nurse-midwife Jessica Costa, MSN, APRN, CNM, explains what causes morning sickness and how you can ease it.
What causes morning sickness?
It’s not clear exactly which hormones trigger symptoms — which can range from mild nausea to frequent vomiting — but doctors suspect that surging human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and progesterone levels are the culprits.
Two pieces of good news: Though unpleasant for you, these symptoms won’t harm your baby. And pregnancy nausea is often short-lived, with symptoms typically ending early in the second trimester or sooner.
“Usually, we see an increase in morning sickness symptoms between eight and 10 weeks gestation, with many people reporting relief by week 16,” Costa says.
But not everyone who’s pregnant has morning sickness, and those who do have it don’t always have the same severity of symptoms. You may even find that your experience varies from one pregnancy to the next.
Remedies for morning sickness
If morning sickness has your stomach in knots, try one (or all!) of these tips to help ease your discomfort and start feeling like yourself again.
1. Eat often
“It may seem counterintuitive, but an empty stomach can actually make nausea worse,” Costa says. Every few hours, eat small meals or snacks that are easy to get down, like a handful of nuts or a few crackers. Speaking of crackers — bland, starchy foods can help soak up gastric acid and settle the stomach, so keep some on hand.
2. Avoid food triggers
Pay attention to which foods seem to set off your nausea. Spicy, greasy, fatty and otherwise heavy foods are common culprits, while bland foods (like those found in the BRAT diet) are easier to stomach, literally.
3. Prioritize protein
Studies show that protein-rich offer longer-lasting relief from nausea than foods that are high in carbohydrates or fats, so keep a supply of high-protein snacks at the ready to stave off the nausea. Costa’s favorite picks are yogurt, cottage cheese, milk, nuts and seeds.
4. Go sour for sweet relief
Fight a sour stomach with sour candies. “Sour flavors seem to help curb nausea,” Costa says. Try sucking on a piece of lemon-flavored hard candy.
You can also go straight to the source and suck on a slice of citrus fruit (think lemon, lime or orange). They’re all high in citric acid, which can help with digestion and may ease that nausea.
5. Drink for two
This one can be a bit of a “Catch-22”: Being dehydrated can contribute to nausea, but so can being uncomfortably full after drinking a lot of water. In short, you want to do your best to stay hydrated, but you don’t want to drink so much water that you make things worse.
And you don’t have to always go the plain water route, either. Give yours a squeeze of lemon or another fruit infusion, or try sipping ginger ale, clear soda or a fruity tea.
6. Stay vertical
You may feel inclined to lie down when you’re not feeling well, but the opposite is actually best for pregnancy nausea.
Avoid lying down after eating, which can cause the gastric juices in your stomach to rise. “This hinders digestion and contributes to that queasy feeling,” Costa explains.
7. Wait awhile to brush
Brushing your teeth right after eating can trigger your gag reflex, which is the last thing you want when you’re prone to nausea. “For best results, try to hold off on brushing for 30 minutes or so after you eat,” Costa suggests.
8. Avoid strong odors
“Odors that might seem innocuous when you’re not pregnant may suddenly turn your stomach,” Costa says.
Studies show that everything from food to perfume to body odor can lead to nausea when you’re pregnant, thanks to the surging hormones. Try to steer clear of strong or offensive smells in the meantime.
9. Embrace pleasant aromas
Lightly scented essential oil scents can help ease nausea symptoms quickly. “For the fastest results, dab a few drops on a cotton ball and sniff,” Costa advises. Try:
Of course, every pregnant body is different, so if any of these scents seem to make your nausea worse, skip them and move on to the next.
10. Try a motion-sickness band
“These wristbands curb morning sickness, motion sickness and seasickness by putting pressure on the P6 pressure point on your wrists,” Costa explains. In acupressure terms, this spot is also known as the nei guan point.
If you don’t have a motion-sickness band handy, you can put light pressure on the nei guan spot on your own. Place three fingers on your wrist, just below your hand; the nei guan point is just below them, directly beneath your index finger.
11. Take your pills at night
Prenatal vitamins are an important part of a healthy pregnancy, but some people find that taking them in the morning contributes to an upset stomach. If you suspect this is the case for you, switch to taking them in the evening with a small, healthy snack.
12. Take care of yourself
Healthy lifestyle choices can go a long way toward keeping you and baby healthy — and help ward off nausea in the process. Aim to get a good night’s sleep, regular exercise and plenty of fresh air, all of which can help keep queasiness at bay.
When to see your doctor for morning sickness
Sure, pregnancy comes with its share of discomfort — but don’t ignore unusual symptoms. Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing any of these troubling symptoms:
- Abdominal pain.
- Difficulty urinating.
- Inability to keep food/drinks down for 24 hours.
- Vomiting blood.
- Weight loss.
“It’s important to keep in mind that the hormones responsible for making you feel sick also play an important role in helping your baby develop and grow,” Costa says. “But if you’ve tried everything and your symptoms are still severely impacting your daily life, talk with your healthcare provider.”