It is estimated that 85% of all pregnant women experience some degree of morning sickness or nausea and vomiting during the first trimester (read this post to find out why nausea and vomiting may occur). There are many ways to help alleviate symptoms using natural strategies. I often encourage my patients to start their preconception care 3-4 months prior to planning a pregnancy (check back for my post on this coming soon!). Starting preconception care early can not only benefit the health of the growing baby but also how well a mother’s body processes the increase in hormones and physical demands of pregnancy that can lead to feeling unwell.
Here are treatment considerations if you are experiencing morning sickness:
Try to not let your stomach get empty -- have snacks available at all times! As nausea is frequently triggered by low blood sugar it is important to have small but frequent meals throughout the day. Some women need to keep crackers, grapes, watermelon, or apple slices with nut butter beside their beds in case nausea strikes in the middle of the night.
Focus on fresh, alkaline foods and avoid refined carbs and fried foods. Excess fats increase bile production which may lead to further nausea. Smoothies or soups are great ways to get nutrition when you don’t feel like eating anything. See this post about cravings during pregnancy and this post about the dangers of non-food cravings.
Try to combine a healthy fat or protein with carbohydrates to encourage blood sugar stabilization. For example, avocado, olives, or nut butter with crackers, beans and rice.
Caffeine-free tea is a great way to prevent dehydration which is also a potential cause of nausea and vomiting. See this post for helpful teas to drink during pregnancy (this post discusses the controversy of caffeine during pregnancy). Consult your naturopathic physician if you have any concerns.
Sometimes nutritional deficiencies can be a cause of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. Two examples include protein and iron deficiency. Incorporating a vegan protein powder like rice or pea protein can be helpful if you do not feel like eating. Ask your prenatal care provider to check your hemoglobin levels regularly.
Additional vitamin B6 has been well documented to help with nausea but not all B6 is created equally. The active form is called P5P (pyridoxal-5-phosphate) and lower doses are needed compared to taking pyridoxine hydrochloride, the regular form. B6 pairs well with magnesium so I usually recommend taking a magnesium glycinate as well.
For some of my pregnant patients, intravenous (IV) or intramuscular (IM) injections of these nutrients are key for keeping their nausea at bay and as a way to boost energy levels (see this post about IV).
I use acupuncture as an effective way to help my pregnant patients with many types of ailments including morning sickness. There is quite a bit evidence to support its use and much of the evidence has focused on one point specifically – PC6 or pericardium 6, located approximately 1.5-2 inches from your wrist crease between the two central tendons. This is the point where sea-bands are placed and their use can be helpful when people are nervous about needles. However, I would suggest considering a full acupuncture treatment with a certified acupuncturist as there are so many other benefits!
There are many remedies that can be helpful to quickly reduce nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Homeopathics work by matching your symptoms to a specific remedy. Working with someone well versed in homeopathic medicine will help you find the best remedy and to help dose appropriately (for example, 3 pellets of the following as needed of 6X or 30CH potency):
- Nux Vomica (also known as collubrina): appropriately named to help prevent vomiting and ease an upset stomach, known as the hangover remedy ☺. Choose Nux if you are nauseated all day and the thought of vomiting would make you feel better. Also use if the sight or thought of certain foods causes symptoms
- Sepia: can be a beneficial remedy for many concerns during pregnancy. It can be useful if there is a sensation of a ball in the abdomen and if constipated
- Argentum Nitricum: when feelings of anxious and agitation accompany nausea and vomiting, stomach may also be distended and noisy (gurgling noises)
- Kalium Bichromicum: recommended for those who have a burning sensation in their stomach with nausea and a heaviness after meals
- Arsenicum album: for those with burning pains and cravings for cold water. Also when one cannot bear the smell or sight of certain foods and when symptoms are worse in the middle of the night.
Always consult your healthcare provider prior to taking any homeopathic.
Diclectin is the only medication approved for treatment of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. It is a combination of anti-histamine medication and a small dose of vitamin B6 (regular form). It is common to only need 1-2 tablets per day while extreme cases may need up to 4 tablets daily. I have asked a compounding pharmacist to create a diclenctin ginger candy which patients have done really well on in significant cases of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. The main side effects of this medication included headaches, dry mouth, and increased fatigue. If symptoms do not improve, some women find adding Benadryl can be helpful but this medication increases sedation. Always consult your healthcare provider prior to taking any medications, particularly diclectin as not everyone should take this medication.
A lot of women notice an improvement in their symptoms after exercise. Movement of any kind is beneficial but especially when in the fresh air can be the best cure for morning sickness. If you are feeling extremely fatigued do not push yourself, even a light walk can make a huge difference. As a baby grows, the digestive system starts to slow down and the organs start to get pushed aside which can lead to congestion and nausea. Exercise can help keep the system moving which prevents nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. See this post about exercise during pregnancy and this post about practising yoga safely during pregnancy.
Make sure you speak to your health provider on what type(s) of exercise is appropriate for you during the different phases of pregnancy. If your morning sickness becomes severe or prolongs beyond the first trimester, please consult your prenatal healthcare provider to rule out any existing medical condition.