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.
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The problem of nausea during pregnancy is more troublesome for some women than others. You may even find that it varies from one pregnancy to the next. But the symptoms are often short-lived — nausea and vomiting are usually over by 13 weeks for most women. And most important: These symptoms won’t harm your baby.
What causes morning sickness?
Morning sickness is common, says certified nurse-midwife Jessica Costa, MSN, APRN, CNM. Up to 80 percent of women experience at least some symptoms during pregnancy, according to one study.
Symptoms can range from mild nausea to frequent vomiting, Ms. Costa says.
“Usually we see an increase in morning sickness symptoms between eight and 10 weeks gestation, with many women reporting relief by week 16,” she says.
It’s not clear exactly which hormones trigger these symptoms. But doctors suspect that surging human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and progesterone levels are the likely culprits.
How to ease nausea while pregnant
If morning sickness has your stomach in knots, try one of Ms. Costa’s top tips to help keep things on an even keel.
- Eat often. An empty stomach can make nausea worse. Eat small meals or snacks that are easy to get down such as a handful of nuts or a few crackers every 1-2 hours.
- Pick a protein. Keep a supply of high-protein snacks on hand. They offer longer-lasting relief from nausea than foods that are high in carbohydrates or fats, according to another study. Costa’s favorite picks include yogurt, cottage cheese, milk, nuts and seeds.
- Go sour for sweet relief. Sour flavors seem to help curb nausea. Try sucking on a citrus slice (think lemon, lime or orange) or a piece of lemon-flavored hard candy.
- Drink for two. While this isn’t as fun as “eating for two,” staying hydrated during pregnancy can help ease nausea. Keep sliced lemons on hand to squeeze into your water. Or try sipping a little ginger ale or clear soda.
- Avoid lying down after eating. It can hinder digestion and may make you feel queasy.
- Wait awhile to brush. Brushing your teeth right after eating can trigger your gag reflex. For best results, try to hold off on brushing for 30 minutes or so after you eat.
- Avoid strong odors. Odors that might seem innocuous when you’re not pregnant may suddenly turn your stomach, thanks to the surging hormones of pregnancy. Try to steer clear of strong or offensive smells in the meantime.
- Embrace pleasant aromas. Essential oil scents such as peppermint or lemon can help ease nausea symptoms quickly. For fastest results, dab a few drops on a cotton ball and sniff.
- Try a motion-sickness band. These wristbands help curb seasickness by putting pressure on the P6 pressure point on your wrists. They can help ease morning sickness as well.
- Get your rest. Aim to get a good night’s sleep, regular exercise and plenty of fresh air. These practices can go a long way toward keeping you and baby healthy and help ward off nausea in the bargain.
When should you ask for help?
Pregnancy comes with its share of discomfort. But don’t ignore unusual symptoms. Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing any of these signs that can mean trouble:
- Inability to keep food/drinks down for 24 hours.
- Weight loss.
- Vomiting blood.
- Abdominal pain.
- Difficulty urinating.
“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,” Ms. Costa says. “But if you have tried the tips above and you are finding your symptoms are still severely impacting your daily life, talk with your healthcare provider.”