Sick Of Being Sick
If pregnancy nausea has got you down, these remedies, both mainstream and alternative, should help you feel better.
If you're suffering from morning (and, maybe, noon and night) sickness, you may be wondering why it happens and whether it serves a purpose. "Nausea and vomiting often are an indication that pregnancy hormones are elevated, which is a sign that the pregnancy is moving forward," says Laura Riley, M.D., medical director of labor and delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital and author of You and Your Baby: Healthy Eating During Pregnancy (Meredith Books). "[But] that's not to say that women who don't get morning sickness are at risk for a miscarriage," Riley adds. About 25 percent of pregnant women who have healthy pregnancies never experience it, but for those who do, morning sickness usually lasts throughout the first trimester.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, when toxins overburden the liver, hindering its ability to process the high levels of pregnancy hormones, morning sickness can result. Imbalance in the liver can cause nausea and vomiting, explains Amelia Hirota, a Chinese herbalist and Doctor of Acupuncture at the Center for Balance in East Greenwich, R.I.
Regardless of its reasons for being, your odds of having morning sickness are greater if you experienced nausea as a side effect of birth control pills, suffer from motion sickness, have female relatives who endured morning sickness, or are pregnant with twins or more. The good news is that a combination of lifestyle and dietary changes, as well as some alternative approaches, can provide relief in most cases.
An ounce of prevention
To help avoid or minimize morning sickness, follow the "slow, steady" rule when eating. Instead of consuming three large meals a day, eat six small ones spread throughout the day, suggests Melinda Johnson, M.S., R.D., a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. And never let yourself get hungry; dips and spikes in blood sugar may add to queasiness. This is also why many women feel nauseated in the morning: They've gone without food for quite a while. To avoid having an empty stomach, nibble on bland foods such as saltine crackers and dry toast, and keep a box of crackers at your bedside to munch on before getting up in the morning.
Some experts recommend passing up foods that have strong odors, as well as greasy or spicy foods. However, simply listening to your body is the best advice. "Eat what makes you feel better, or at least not worse," says Johnson. As long as you drink plenty of water and keep taking your prenatal vitamins, your baby will be fine.
If nausea strikes despite your best efforts to avoid it, cold foods may be soothing, especially water-rich choices such as melons, grapes, berries, fruit smoothies, cucumbers and oranges. In fact, for some women, eating any form of citrus alleviates nausea; even just sniffing a lemon can help. Others find relief by sipping vinegar mixed with warm water and honey.
Ginger is another antidote. A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that ginger was somewhat helpful in alleviating morning sickness—more so when taken in capsules than in any other form. "Fresh ginger, ginger powder (in tea) or dried ginger in tablet form is more potent than a less concentrated form of ginger, such as ginger ale, ginger snaps or prepared ginger tea," Hirota says.
Acupuncture can be a safe, effective "alternative" remedy as well; most women need two or three treatments a week through the first trimester. Acupressure wristbands (such as ReliefBands), designed to stimulate the acupuncture points that alleviate nausea, are also available. But the bands won't provide much relief for those women who aren't sensitive to the surface stimulation of acupuncture points.
If you're vomiting, it's essential to stay hydrated in order to replenish lost electrolytes—minerals such as sodium and potassium that regulate the fluid balance in your body. So load up on ice chips, citrus-flavored slush drinks, flat ginger ale (carbonation may exacerbate nausea) and popsicles. Pace yourself with slow, steady sips. If you drink more than 2 ounces at a time, fluids tend to bypass the tissues and travel directly to the kidneys and bladder.
If morning sickness persists
For moderate cases, described as strong or persistent symptoms that interfere with a woman's quality of life or ability to take care of herself, doctors may recommend vitamin B6 supplements. Pregnancy causes water-soluble vitamins such as B6 to become depleted more quickly; taking a supplement or loading up on food sources that contain B6, such as egg yolks, yogurt and whole grains, may help alleviate morning sickness. "Work with your doctor to get the appropriate dose," Johnson advises. The general recommendation if you're pregnant is 1.9 milligrams a day, while the therapeutic level can be up to 25 mg three times a day.
According to Johnson, relieving morning sickness often requires trial and error. "Pregnancies are as unique as babies, so keep trying different remedies," she says.
—Amy Paturel, M.S., M.P.H., for FitPregnancy. Read more great articles at FitPregnancy.com.