Dr. Kim Foster: Wicked Health


How To Cope With Morning Sickness

Because having your head in the toilet is not very ladylike. Or duchess-like.

So Kate Middleton is pregnant. (YAY!) But she’s also in hospital. (BOO!) She was admitted with hyperemesis gravidarum. (Um...say what?)

Hyperemesis is, essentially, a severe form of something many of us experience during pregnancy: morning sickness. But this is not a case of the Duchess being a bit of a princess (oh, poor me, I’m feeling a little sick...), because hyperemesis is a serious thing.

The nausea and vomiting that comes with hyperemesis is much worse than average and can be disabling. Worse, it can threaten the health of a pregnant woman (and her baby). Complications can include unhealthy weight loss, dehydration, and nutritional deficiencies. Fortunately, hyperemesis is relatively uncommon.

But the much more common version, morning sickness, is no picnic either. So, if you’re pregnant, what can you do about morning sickness?

First, what is morning sickness?

We don’t fully understand what causes morning sickness, but it’s associated with increasing estrogen levels and other hormonal changes. Morning sickness typically starts in the first few weeks of pregnancy, as hormonal levels rise, peaks at about nine weeks gestation, and then tapers off after that. It usually resolves by about 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy, but in some cases it can last all nine (torturesome) months. There’s a broad spectrum of the severity of morning sickness, and it certainly doesn’t have to be limited to the morning—although that’s the most common time. Queasiness can strike at any time during the day.

Good times.

So what can you do about morning sickness?

Nausea can make the early weeks of pregnancy downright miserable. If you suffer, what can you do? As it turns out, lots!

  • Avoid having an empty stomach, which tends to make nausea worse. Pro tip: a sleeve of saltines in your purse will become your best friend.
  • Avoid strong smells which can trigger nausea.
  • Avoid foods that make you feel sick. This is different for every woman, so listen to your body, but the common culprits are spicy, fatty, and acidic foods.
  • Ginger is a natural way to prevent and treat nausea. Try ginger ale, ginger tea, or ginger snaps.
  • Consider taking vitamin B6 and/or vitamin B12, which have been shown in studies to improve nausea in pregnancy. Talk to your doctor first, though.
  • Have small, frequent meals. An empty stomach exacerbates nausea, but so does an overly full one. Eat often, but not too much at any given sitting.
  • If you have nausea first thing in the morning, try eating a small snack (enter saltine crackers, again) before getting out of bed. Sorry about the crumbs.
  • Try acupressure; some women get relief of their nausea this way. Sea-bands are the easiest way to take advantage of this approach.
  • Iron supplements tend to make nausea worse, so if you’re taking iron (or it’s in your prenatal supplement), ask your doctor if they’re strictly necessary (at least until morning sickness passes). If they are necessary, try taking them at night, or splitting the dose and taking them twice a day instead of a large dose once daily.
  • Get plenty of rest. Morning sickness is often worse when you’re tired and stressed.
  • Know that there is medication to help you, if you need it. But don’t just start taking over-the-counter medication—talk to your doctor, who can prescribe a safe option.

 So how about you? Did you have morning sickness during your pregnancy? Did anything work for you?