Natural Options for Managing Nausea & Vomiting in Pregnancy
Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester, is thought to be caused by the intense hormone shift in the first few weeks of pregnancy. About one in 4 pregnant women have only mild nausea. Three of every 10 pregnant women have nausea that is bad enough to interfere with their daily lives. Half of all pregnant women have both nausea and vomiting during the first months of pregnancy. Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy tends to be the worst at 8 to 10 weeks after your last menstrual period. It usually goes away by 12 to 16 weeks after your last period. Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy is often called “morning sickness” but can occur all day long or at any time in the day or night. A history of motion sickness or stomach problems before pregnancy may increase the likelihood of experiencing nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Nausea and vomiting may be worsened by dehydration or low blood sugar.
If you experience nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, the recommendations in this handout may help you find relief and allow you to function close to your normal level. Try what appeals to you. Many options are listed because different things work for different women. You may find that you can easily implement some of the suggestions or already have some of the supplements in your home. Mild nausea and vomiting may make you feel awful, but it will not hurt you or your baby. If you have any of the following symptoms, please contact your midwife. These symptoms need more than natural treatment and may be a sign of complication, not normal nausea and vomiting of pregnancy:
You are not able to keep any liquids or foods down for 24 hours
You are vomiting several times a day or after every meal
You have abdominal pain, difficulty urinating, or a fever
You do not urinate as often as usual and your urine is dark in color
You are weak, dizzy, or faint when you stand up
You lose weight in a week
Nausea and/or vomiting is affecting you mentally leading to feelings of depression, anxiety, or mental instability
Treating Nausea & Vomiting Naturally:
Diet & Lifestyle:
Drink adequate amounts of water throughout the day. Dehydration increases the likelihood of nausea and vomiting. You should be drinking at least half your body weight in ounces or more. Drinking small amounts of fluids often all day long may be easier than drinking a full glass every hour. Drinking a small amount at one time will also help the nausea lessen. Cold drinks may make you feel better than hot drinks.
Eat small meals every 2 to 3 hours. Do not wait to be hungry or thirsty before you eat or drink. Do not wait to eat until you become “shaky” or faint. These are signs of low blood sugar and will make nausea and vomiting more severe. Do not skip meals!
Eat adequate amounts of protein and fat at each snack and meal. Protein and fat balance blood sugar levels and decrease the likelihood of quick and intense blood sugar drops that lead to nausea and vomiting. If you eat carbohydrates, make sure you include a protein and a couple tablespoons of fat with it (butter, peanut butter, nut butter, avocado, etc.).
Some women find it helps to eat something before getting out of bed. Have a snack on your bedside table ready for yourself before getting up or have someone bring you a snack before getting out of bed. Some women find a handful of almonds, nut butter, a boiled egg, yogurt, or other small snack with protein and fat helps them keep nausea at bay until breakfast.
Do not wait several hours to eat breakfast after getting up in the morning. Eat breakfast within one hour or less of rising.
Avoid eating foods that have strong odors, or consider if a particular food or smell is making you particularly nauseated.
Avoid foods that are greasy, fried, spicy, or very hot.
“Try not to fall back on “white foods.” If a bland carbohydrate is all you can manage, make it a banana, a dried apricot, or an oatcake with a dab of raw honey. At least they contain potassium, iron, B vitamins, and fiber.” -Nina Planck
Do not lie down right after eating.
Prenatal vitamins may make your nausea worse. If you take your prenatal vitamin at night or with food, it may not make you nauseated. Consider trying another brand of prenatal vitamin if nausea persists despite taking with food or in the evening. You may find it easier to take a liquid or gummy prenatal instead.
Some women find eating legumes supports their liver which allows their body to process hormones better, resulting in reduced nausea: “The answer is to eat legumes. Now you must know to what extent you must eat legumes. If you are feeling nauseous, you must immediately consume your beans. You will need to eat at least 1/4 cup of cooked legumes. If you can eat more, it is even better. You will see relief in under 20 minutes. The nausea will go away. However, the nausea will be back in a period of time. That period of time is dependent upon the liver’s stimulation to produce more bile. If the hCG hormone is at high levels, it won’t be long (1-4 hours) before you are feeling that queasy feeling again. Then what? You eat your beans again. And so you go. You eat beans every time you have that nauseous feeling. If that means you are spending the majority of your time at the table with a bowl of beans in front of you, so be it! It will only be for a short period of time. As the bile is carried out of your body, the successive releases of bile become less potent with debris. After the consumption of legumes, each release of bile is less nauseating. Eventually (within a few days) you will not have to hang your head over a pile of beans all day. In fact, you will be able to consume beans just once or twice in the day to prevent the morning sickness from reoccurring.” -Karen Hurd
“Avoid smells that nauseate you. Don’t walk near busy roads if exhaust nauseates you; ask someone to fill your gas tank; let your partner, friends, or relatives help you in the kitchen; and don’t prepare those foods that are distasteful to you (by smell, sight, or taste).” -Aviva Romm
“Lack of cardiovascular stimulation --exercise-- can contribute to nausea because greater levels of acids and carbon dioxide will build up in the blood. A brisk walk in fresh air or some form of exercise daily can reduce the severity of nausea. Regular exercise also reduces fatigue and prevents constipation. Eating a snack about a half hour before you plan to be active will help prevent nausea or low blood sugar. It is also essential that you eat well after exercising to replenish lost calories, particuarly if the exercise is strenuous. If exercising triggers nausea, try regular massage therapy, a form of passive exercise.” -Aviva Romm
“Ambivalence about the pregnancy can cause internal tension that may exacerbate feelings of nausea, and vice versa. Even women who are completely thrilled to be pregnant may have misgivings. It is important to acknowledge and accept your feelings rather than feel guilt for these emotions. Worrying that you are harming your baby with your negative thoughts only adds to your tension. Talk to your friends, other pregnant women, or a midwife or counselor; use a journal as an outlet for your concerns. It is perfectly normal to go through a time of uncertainty-- children are a great responsibility. Perhaps there are steps you can take to enjoy your pregnancy. If your ambivalence is triggered by the nausea, know that this too shall pass and you will soon begin to enjoy your pregnant body much more.” -Aviva Romm.
Natural Supplements and Herbs:
Ginger has been used for treating nausea since ancient times and can lessen nausea. Ginger root tea, ginger gum, ginger syrup added to water, ginger lozenges or candy chews, and all other forms of ginger are safe to use in pregnancy. You can also buy ginger capsules at a drug store. A study showed that powdered ginger in capsules is better than some anti-nausea medications. As far as dosage, the study recommended "taking it till you taste it." A general dosage is 3 capsules before getting out of bed and to stay in bed until the nausea is gone, then take 3 capsules anytime you feel nauseous. Taking 1-4 grams, or up to 4000 mgs a day is very normal and common in other cultures.
Peppermint contains a volatile oil called menthol which is clinically proven to aid digestion and act as an antispasmodic for menstrual cramps and nausea. Peppermint tea can be drunk throughout pregnancy as desired.
Chamomile tea relaxes the stomach, reduces acidic feelings, supports the liver, improves appetite, and reduces anxiety and tension. Many women find it helps with nausea.
When women are deficient in B vitamins, it is hard to maintain blood sugar levels because deficiencies of these vitamins lead to inability to properly use glucose. This leads to the need to burn fat, which produces ketones, leading to more nausea. Some women find 25 mg ever 4-8 hrs to be very helpful. Not to exceed 100 mg per day. Foods right in B6 may also be helpful and include tuna, cod, crab, salmon, beef, chicken, liver, cheese, eggs, avocados, bananas, whole grains, and Brewer’s yeast.
Magnesium deficiency may exasperate nausea. Signs of magnesium deficiency often mimic common pregnancy discomforts including constipation, irritability, anxiety, weight gain, low thyroid function, restless leg syndrome, foggy thinking, or insomnia. Magnesium spray oil, epsom salt baths, Natural Calm magnesium, or other magnesium supplement, and foods high in magnesium are great ways to increase magnesium levels. Magnesium supplements can be used as directed on the bottle. If trying an epsom salt bath, 3-4+ cups of epsom salts should be added to the warm water to see benefits. There are no side effects to magnesium intake. If you take too much, it may cause loose bowels but not otherwise cause harm. Foods rich in magnesium include bone broth, leafy green vegetables, properly soaked seeds and nuts, unrefined sea salt, and soaked or sprouted whole grains. Magnesium oil rubbed into the skin is a good option if you are not able to swallow pills or cannot tolerate foods high in magnesium.
NingxiaRed balances blood sugar, reduces inflammation, and naturally boosts energy levels because of its high vitamin and mineral contenct. Many women report that drinking NingxiaRed when nauseous reduces their symptoms. Drink as desired throughout the day. It may help to drink immediately upon rising.
Milk Thistle: “I have come to believe through my own experience and the experience of others that the root of the problem [with morning sickness] for many women is inadequate liver support during a period of greater demands on this vital organ. If moms begin preparing their bodies for pregnancy prior to conception they will have a better chance of avoiding morning sickness (as well as other factors). I have found milk thistle (standardized to contain at least 70% - 80% silymarin) to be invaluable in preventing morning sickness. I began taking 2 tablets each day two months prior to this pregnancy and increased to 3 tablets daily when our pregnancy was confirmed. Milk thistle is liver supportive and protective. I feel this is why it worked so well to prevent the nausea and vomiting I have had with every other pregnancy. This would be especially helpful for those moms who vomit bile during pregnancy.” -From Shonda Parker’s Naturally Healthy Pregnancy
Seabands are wristbands with a pressure point placed on the inside of your wrist. They are often used for motion sickness. They are safe for use during pregnancy and some women find them helpful for nausea and vomiting.
Disclaimer: essential oils are generally safe for use during pregnancy. Always dilute essential oils before applying topically. Skin tends to be more sensitive during pregnancy. See reference section for information on ingesting oils. Do your research and decide what is best for you!
If your nausea and vomiting persisits and is negatively affecting your quality of life, contact your midwife. Anti-nausea medications may be a great option for you!
References and More Information:
Naturally Healthy Pregnancy by Shonda Parker pg. 170-171
Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck pg. 94-98
Beautiful Babies by Kristen Michaelis pg. 100-106
The Natural Pregnancy Book by Aviva Romm, MD pg. 242-248
The Pregnancy Book by Sears and Sears pg. 10-22
The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care by Fallon-Morell and Cown pg. 54-57
Heart and Hands by Elizabeth Davis 5th ed. Pg. 46
Nausea and Vomiting During Pregnancy by Association of Certified Nurse Midwives/Share With Women: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jmwh.12451/epdf
Morning Sickness by Karen Hurd: http://www.karenhurd.com/pages/healthtopics/specifichealthconcerns/ht-shc-morningsickness
ACOG on Morning Sickness: https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Morning-Sickness-Nausea-and-Vomiting-of-Pregnancy
Dr. Axe on Morning Sickness: https://draxe.com/morning-sickness/
Mama Natural on Morning Sickness: https://www.mamanatural.com/natural-morning-sickness-remedies/
Considering ingesting essential oils? Gastrointestinal effects of essential oils: file:///home/chronos/u-d0db837aa6f9e885ee6eca80722b85da57a4ee91/Downloads/Gastrointestinal%20effects%20by%20essential%20oils.pdf