Addressing Nausea in Pregnancy (AKA Morning Sickness)

March 21, 2022
Sarah Hardy Walsh
Naturopathic Doctor & Lactation Consultant

Nausea in pregnancy typically occurs during the first trimester, often beginning early (before week 9) and can extend into the following trimesters. While sometimes called ‘morning sickness’, nausea of pregnancy can occur at any time of day and for some pregnant people, persists throughout the day. It is most common first thing in the morning and may include the sensation of nausea only, or the combination of nausea and vomiting.

Why Do Pregnant People Experience Nausea?

The rapidly rising hormones (occurring early in the pregnancy) relax the gut muscles – including those in the stomach which are thought to be the primary contributors to the experience of nausea. In addition, large amounts of energy used by a pregnant person’s body can cause episodes of low blood sugar, making nausea feel worse. For some, it’s further triggered by certain strong smells or by chronic or recurrent stress.

When Should I Seek Medical Support?

Anytime nausea and vomiting consistently impacts day-to-day life, it’s best to speak with your care team about further assessment and treatment options, especially if you’re having difficulty keeping food and fluids down. While nausea and vomiting are rarely dangerous for a pregnant person or their baby, it’s important to have strategies for preventing dehydration and weight loss – both parent and baby need fuel and hydration to thrive!

💡 Hyperemesis gravidarum is a severe form of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy that contributes to episodes of dehydration (making only small amounts of dark coloured urine, difficulty keeping any liquids down, dizziness or fainting, racing heart) and loss of body weight, which need to be tended to with the support of your care team.

Nutrition to Reduce Nausea of Pregnancy

Small frequent meals and snacks containing fiber, protein and small amounts of healthy fats are ideal. The small amounts of food are easier on a sluggish gut. The increased frequency of eating, along with the fiber, protein and healthy fats helps maintain blood sugar and reduce the likelihood of lows that worsen nausea.

With a high concentration of nutrients in an easily digestible, liquid form, many pregnant people find homemade smoothies a helpful option for breakfast when nausea is at its height in the morning. Include one or more of the suggestions below to ensure there’s protein, fiber and healthy fats in your smoothie.

Healthy Snack Options During Pregnancy

  • Homemade Smoothies: Hemp hearts and chia seeds are great additions for protein, fiber and healthy fats. Ripe avocado (add ¼ of it to your smoothie) is a great source of healthy fats and adds some extra creaminess once blended. If you’re using a protein powder, keep it simple – the only ingredients should be protein (whey, hemp, pea, rice…) and perhaps a digestive enzyme, a natural flavour like vanilla or cocoa and/or a natural sweetener like stevia.
  • Homemade Muffins: Replace a portion of the flour in the recipe with chickpea flour or almond flour for added fiber and protein or try this recipe
  • Hummus and Raw Vegetables and/or Whole Grain Crackers
  • Fruit with a Handful of Raw Nuts and Seeds
  • Homemade Granola Bars: Try this recipe

Staying Hydrated!

Filtered water on its own or infused with fruit is a great, simple option. Aim for 8 to 12 cups of non-caffeinated fluids daily. Additional options include coconut water (which contains helpful electrolytes) and herbal teas. Chamomile, red raspberry leaf, fennel, lemon balm and nettle leaf teas are generally regarded as safe for use in pregnancy, in small amounts – up to 2 cups daily.

Natural Remedies for Nausea of Pregnancy

The two most well-researched natural remedies for nausea of pregnancy are vitamin B6 and ginger. Vitamin B6 is part of the most prescribed medication for the condition but has also shown effectiveness on its own in doses up to 25mg, three times daily. For some pregnant people, a couple of cups of ginger tea daily is enough to reduce nausea. For others, a higher concentration, like those found in capsules (250mg, 4 times daily) is needed for a therapeutic effect. When considering any of these possibilities it’s essential to confirm their safe use, in your individual case, with your primary care team.

Acupressure and Nausea of Pregnancy

Consistent pressure on the point three finger widths from your inner wrist crease, between the tendons, (known as Pericardium 6) helps to reduce nausea for many pregnant people. The use of SeaBands or their generic counterparts (all marketed for motion sickness) is a great option for providing consistent acupressure throughout the day.

Cultivating Rest and Calm During Pregnancy

Reducing stress not only reduces the intensity of nausea but also supports overall health and wellbeing throughout pregnancy and beyond. Ensure you are sleeping well and take regular breaks during the day to nourish calm. It can be as simple as setting aside a few minutes 3-5 times a day to notice how you’re held by gravity (feet on floor, body on furniture) and the sensations of breath moving in and out of your body. Regular connection with Nature is also effective for calming the nervous system and supporting rest.

For Partners & Support People

Like so many other experiences of pregnancy, labour and birth and postpartum, people with nausea during pregnancy benefit greatly from steady physical and emotional support.

Remember, each pregnant person’s needs are different and can shift day-to-day. Regularly asking what they need can be one of the most helpful actions. Some may benefit from assistance with meal and snack preparation, ensuring they are staying hydrated or ensuring they have time set aside in their day for rest and relaxation. Others will benefit from simply knowing they are heard and cared for. And others will need encouragement to stay connected with and receive care from healthcare providers, family and friends.

About The Author

Sarah supports women to cultivate resilience in their transition to motherhood, from pregnancy, through labour & birth, postpartum, breastfeeding & beyond. Inspired by her own transition to motherhood, her work as a naturopathic doctor & lactation consultant. She is focused on supporting clients to access good quality information while reconnecting with inner wisdom - an approach she calls informed, intuitive mothering. The foundation for that approach is cultivating resilience because informed, intuitive mothering is difficult to do when we're overwhelmed, exhausted, uncertain & not well supported. When mothers are supported to nourish resilience, they experience the calm, energy, confidence, connection & community needed for them to thrive. When mothers thrive, families thrive. When families thrive, communities thrive.

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