Feeling a bit queasy? Try these morning sickness tips to minimise nausea and make day-to-day life more bearable.
Suffering from morning (noon, and night) sickness? Feeling a bit queasy during the first part of your pregnancy is perfectly normal, thanks to high levels of hormones flooding your body. But when does morning sickness start, how long does it last and is there anything you can do to ease nausea?
What is morning sickness?
Nausea and occasional vomiting is a common symptom of early pregnancy that affects up to nine out of 10 pregnant women. But don’t be fooled by the name – morning sickness can affect you at any time of the day or night and some women feel sick all day long.
The good news is for most women morning sickness clears up by weeks 16-20 of your pregnancy, and it doesn’t put you or your baby at any increased risk.
Morning sickness symptoms
Morning sickness symptoms can range from mild queasiness to severe nausea and vomiting. Feeling (and being) sick can be miserable, but provided you drink plenty of water and don’t lose drastic amounts of weight, your health and the wellbeing of your baby should not be affected. There is no evidence that simple morning sickness will have a harmful effect on the baby.
Provided you drink plenty of water and don’t lose drastic amounts of weight, the wellbeing of your baby should not be affected.
Persistent morning sickness, even if mild, can understandably make you feel very down. You may find it difficult to concentrate at work or look after your family. It is important to have support around you. If you are finding it difficult to cope with morning sickness symptoms speak to your GP or midwife.
Do you have hyperemesis gravidarum?
If you are experiencing severe morning sickness symptoms including extreme nausea, vomiting, dizziness, weight loss and dehydration, you could be suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum. This is a rare pregnancy complication that affects 1-3 per cent of pregnant women.
In severe cases hyperemesis gravidarum can result in vomiting up to 50 times a day and hospital admission to combat dehydration may be required. If you have very severe sickness and struggle to keep liquids down, speak to your GP or midwife.
When does morning sickness start?
Morning sickness can strike at any time of day or night, not just the morning.
Most commonly morning sickness starts between the 4th and 7th week of pregnancy (during the first trimester) and usually settles by 12 to 14 weeks, but for some women it may last longer.
Morning sickness causes
During pregnancy, your body produces a cocktail of hormones to make sure your baby gets what they need. ‘While the cause of morning sickness is not known for certain, research points to hormonal changes experienced during pregnancy,’ explains Erick.
‘Dehydration and low levels of certain minerals lost even through mild vomiting – magnesium, potassium, sodium, and chloride – can also make pregnant women feel even more under the weather,’ she adds.
It is not clear why some women suffer more than others. According to The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, morning sickness is more common for the following women:
- If you have had morning sickness before during previous pregnancies.
- If you are having a multiple pregnancy (twins or triplets).
- More rarely in the cases of a condition called molar pregnancywhere the baby does not develop and the placenta overgrows.
The good news is once the pregnancy is established the hormonal change settles and the nausea usually fades. If you become unwell and experience pain or vomiting later in your pregnancy (from around 10 weeks onwards) this may indicate other causes such as a kidney infection, appendicitis or gastroenteritis. Speak to your GP or midwife if you have any concerns.
22 morning sickness remedies
Preparing for the arrival of a new baby is an exciting time, but when morning sickness strikes it can really drain the joy out of your pregnancy. Because it’s a normal part of the process, it is difficult to prevent morning sickness completely, but some nutrition and lifestyle remedies have been found to minimise queasiness and make day-to-day life more bearable. Try these 22 simple morning sickness remedies to combat pregnancy nausea:
1.Chew or sip fresh ginger
Ginger is a traditional remedy for mild nausea and vomiting, so snack on ginger biscuits or sip ginger ale. ‘Ginger ales made with real ginger have more of a bite and seem to work better for some women,’ says Erick. But bear in mind that ginger can have the reverse affect. In one study of women suffering from severe morning sickness, real ginger made their symptoms worse.
🍋 If ginger doesn’t work for you, sipping lemonade or simply smelling a lemon may help settle your stomach.
- Eat little and often
Eat smaller amounts more frequently and opt for naturally lower fat, higher carbohydrate foods such as potatoes, rice, pasta, plain biscuits or crackers. ‘Salt can also really help settle a queasy stomach,’ says Erick. ‘Interestingly, the amount of salt in crackers isn’t really perceived because cracker density is greater, whereas the salt on crisps is on the outside.’
- Snack in bed
Keep a box of savoury biscuits by your bedside table and nibble a few as soon as you wake up, since eating early in the day can help stave off morning sickness. In addition carry a well-stocked snack handbag around with you and graze throughout the day. You might not feel like eating anything at all, but research shows that an empty stomach often makes you feel worse, so keep your snack stores topped up!
- Opt for bland food
We hate to be party poopers and everybody is different, but when it comes to morning sickness bland is generally best, so opt for a slice of toast or starchy foods such as baked potatoes or bagels to beat the relentless nausea.
- Accept your cravings
While bland is best, now is not the time to hold back on unusual food cravings, so if you get the urge to eat Marmite on spaghetti, go for it. ‘Quench your thirst and settle your stomach with anything you’re craving,’ says Erick. ‘You need the fluids and nutrients from what you can actually eat.’
- Chow down on pickles (if you can stomach them)
If you are one of the lucky pregnant ladies who is struck with an irresistible craving for pickles, don’t hold back! Dill pickles have a reputation as being calmative and their unique sour, tart and salty combo can be soothing for a queasy stomach, so some women swear by them.
- Keep hydrated
Drinking fluids is really important during your pregnancy, even if you struggle to keep it down. Aim to drink water between meals to keep your stomach from feeling overly full and sip slowly when feeling nauseous.
‘Try to drink 10 cups of fluid a day to avoid dehydration,’ says Erick. ‘You can alternate a cup of ice chips or watermelon cubes (which count for about a half a cup of water) if you are having trouble drinking enough water. Keep a chart of your goal so you will know if you are behind your target.’
- Avoid your sickness triggers
Sidestep foods or smells that trigger feelings of sickness. Make a running list of odours or foods that trigger your nausea and post it on the fridge to remind you and alert friends and family, advises Erick. ‘You may want to get help with tasks like grocery shopping or changing nappies.’
- Skip the kitchen
If the kitchen is adding to your nausea woes and simply being around unusual smells sets you off, take a break from cooking. If you have a partner, ask them to take over the culinary duties until after the first trimester when your sickness should hopefully start to subside. If your partner objects, politely suggest they try giving birth instead!
- Walk it off
Exercise in the fresh air can be a great natural remedy for pregnancy nausea, so try to factor in daily activities to ease the heave. A study carried out at Technical University in Madrid found that exercising during pregnancy may even shorten labour so it pays to keep moving. However, sudden movements can make you feel worse, so if you’re low on energy stick to gentle walking until the sickness passes.
- Try acupuncture
Evidence suggests that traditional Chinese medicine has successful outcomes for women suffering from morning sickness. Visit an experienced acupuncture practitioner and see how it feels. Even if it doesn’t eradicate sickness, acupuncture can certainly help with relaxation which is no bad thing right now.
- Acupressure also works
If needles don’t appeal, for a cheap and easy alternative to acupuncture several studies suggest that acupressure can also reduce nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. All you need is some acupressure wristbands to counteract sickness.
- Layer up
During the winter months, if you’re feeling chilly, put an extra layer on before automatically turning up the heat. ‘An overly warm house will make you lose further fluids through perspiration,’ says Erick.
- Keep your cool
Conversely summer heat, humidity and stale air have been found to aggravate morning sickness for some women. If your first trimester coincides with the warmer season, try to spend as much time as possible in an air-conditioned or cooler room to minimise sickness, advises Erick. When you are pregnant your core body temperature rises, so it’s particularly important that you don’t get hot and bothered during the summer months.
- Experiment with aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is a risky game as certain smells can ramp up morning sickness, but studies have found that the smell of citrus can help reduce pregnancy-related nausea. Try sniffing a freshly cut lemon or a few drops of lemon essential oil to ease your sickness.
- Spritz for nausea
To restore calm and balance on the move, we love Relieve the heave from My Expert Midwife. A gentle blend of peppermint, lemon and grapefruit essential oils, simply pop it in your bag and spritz on the go to relieve pregnancy nausea.
- Practise breathing techniques
Breathing techniques are a useful tool throughout your pregnancy, as studies have found that taking slow, deep breaths can help reduce nausea. The same techniques can be applied to help manage discomfort later on during labour, so learning to breathe for relaxation is a win-win skillset.
- Try hypnotherapy
If pregnancy nausea is taking over your life, book a hypnotherapy session. Worried it sounds a bit woo-woo? Hypnobirthing helps put you in a deeply relaxed state that enables you to develop a sense of calmness and in turn eases your stress levels and aids digestion, so reserve judgment until you’ve tried it! Anecdotally many nauseous mums-to-be have benefited from hypnotherapy to treat morning sickness, and at this point we’re willing to try anything, right?
- Get your Vitamin B6 fix
Experts can’t agree on exactly why, but research has shown that vitamin B6 may help ease morning sickness nausea symptoms. You should be able to get all the vitamin B6 from the foods you eat, so stock up on healthy foods and speak to your midwife or doctor before taking prenatal vitamins.
- Get plenty of rest
With a baby on the way it’s tempting to start nesting furiously and redecorating the spare room, but now is the time to put your feet up and relax. Morning sickness can be incredibly draining and being tired can increase nausea, so forget about housework for a few weeks and focus on rest and relaxation until the sickness passes.
Stress hormones can exacerbate morning sickness and make you feel totally out of whack, so engage with daily relaxation techniques such as soothing breath work, meditation and pregnancy yoga to restore mind-body balance and relieve stress and nausea.
- Ask your GP for help
If nausea is really getting you down, speak to your GP or midwife. GPs sometimes prescribe anti-sickness medicines that are safe in pregnancy; these are usually a type of antihistamine such as cyclizine.
Morning sickness can be debilitating and really takes the shine off the first trimester, so try to remember that it is likely to naturally resolve as your pregnancy progresses.