January 18, 2014

The first trimester: our favorite remedies for morning sickness

By / 1st trimester, morning sickness, nausea, Pregnancy, pregnancy, remedies / Add comment

A positive pregnancy test brings up so many emotions as we step into the earliest stages of mothering. But that’s not all it brings up. There’s also breakfast. And maybe lunch.


Morning sickness is a common symptom of pregnancy, most likely resulting from the rising hormone levels in the body, but that doesn’t make it any easier. When nausea has got you down, it can help to remember that research shows a link between morning sickness and a healthy pregnancy. (But the converse is not necessarily true—so if you don’t have it, don’t worry. Just be happy!) We hope you get through these early weeks with a minimum of discomfort, but in the meantime we’ve collected a few of our favorite tried-and-true tips for surviving the first trimester. We hope some will work for you!


  1. Eat small meals often. This is the cardinal rule of managing morning sickness: never go more than two hours without eating something, no matter how small.


  1. Keep saltines by the bed. Have a few at bedtime, a few when you wake up in the night, and a few before you even sit up in the morning. Really. It helps.


  1. Try cold foods like watermelon, frozen or chilled fruit, simple smoothies, and fruit juice popsicles.


  1. Experiment with bland foods, like rice, oatmeal, and waffles. That’s not a meal, you say? It is now.


  1. Ice cold drinks. Ice water with lemon or lime, coconut water, ginger ale, club soda. Staying well-hydrated is super important for a healthy pregnancy, and it can be challenging if you’re throwing up on a regular basis. Always have clear liquids at the ready. Plus the cold feels good on a queasy stomach.


  1. High protein meals and snacks. Increasing your protein is important during pregnancy, and it can actually help keep the nausea at bay. Nuts, seeds, Greek yogurt, grapes & cheese sticks, lentils & rice, protein bars, protein pancakes, nut or seed butter with apples or celery, hard-boiled eggs, and cottage cheese may do the trick. Snacks that you (or your partner) can prepare ahead of time and grab quickly and easily are ideal. As you may have figured out by now, nausea and cooking don’t mix.


  1. Increase your B6. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends B6 supplementation as the first line of treatment for morning sickness. Nuts, legumes, and seeds are a good way to boost the B6 in your diet and help meet your protein goals.


  1. Preggie Pops. These naturally flavored lollies and lozenges are a special combo of soothing essential oils and aromatherapy all wrapped up in a go-anywhere hard candy form. It’s brilliant. 


  1. Reduce fatty foods and sugar. We often turn to comfort foods when we’re feeling down and out, but low fat foods are likely to sit better than their high fat counterparts. So step away from the french fries and rich, creamy foods, mamas. You’ll thank yourself later.


  1. Sour candy. Many’s the mama who has sworn by sour candy like Sour Patch Kids for getting through. Our own Megan Winfield, pregnant with her second child, once ate them about every five miles on a road trip all the way through the mountains. And took them to every client meeting she ever had while pregnant. Eaten one at a time, very slowly, these little devils may get you over even the worst nausea hump.


  1. Ginger. A 2009 study found that a daily dose of 250 mg of ginger in capsule form was remarkably effective for decreasing nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Some of the available supplements are highly concentrated ginger extracts, so it’s important to double-check your dose as ginger may also increase the risk of bleeding. As with any medication during pregnancy, it’s important to discuss this treatment with your care provider.


  1. Neutralize odors. Morning sickness combined with a pregnant woman’s enhanced sense of smell can be a double insult. Everyday smells in the grocery store or at work can set off your queasiness and make accomplishing daily activities that much harder. One of our favorite midwives, during her own pregnancy, came up with this solution: find a scent that neutralizes unpleasant odors (for her it was coffee grounds), and keep it handy so you can take a whiff any time it’s needed. It could be peppermint tea leaves, a favorite essential oil, or lemon zest. It might change from one week to the next. Sure, to the untrained eye this sniffing behavior might seem odd. But really, if it works, who cares? We’re going with what works.


  1. Sub sandwiches. Another favorite midwife (we have lots) recommends buying or preparing a sub sandwich and cutting it into 2” pieces. Eat one section every two hours and you’ve followed the cardinal rule, with a minimum of preparation time. (Remember to avoid deli meats that haven’t been heated to steaming hot, since pregnant women are about 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get listeriosis—a type of food poisoning that can be dangerous for baby.)


  1. Naps. We established in our last post that first-time moms have an obligation to take the nap, whenever possible. What your body needs now is rest—and this is another simple thing that really can make a difference in how you feel. Mamas, reach out to your support network and ask for the help you need to make the nap happen. Guilt-free.


  1. Acupuncture. We may have saved the best for last. The World Health Organization has found acupuncture to be an effective treatment for nausea and morning sickness, and that is certainly in line with our own experience here at Mama Seeds. It really can be a miracle cure—we’ve seen a mama who went from throwing up three times a day while on a self-administering Zofran pump, to not throwing up at all for a week after just one acupuncture treatment. Seriously, we’re talking miracle-cure proportions here. Acupuncture does not hurt, and most people find it very relaxing once they get over any initial anxiety. If you’re ready to be done with morning sickness, or if you’re considering prescription medication for severe morning sickness (hyperemesis gravidarum), then run don’t walk to your nearest certified and licensed acupuncturist. Even better, acupuncture is covered by HSA plans. (Our mama found so much relief, her doctor wrote a prescription for acupuncture and her insurance company paid for it.)


  1. Acupressure. If you just can’t psych yourself up for acupuncture, you might find some relief from acupressure. While not nearly as effective as the real deal, these pressure point wristbands can sometimes help. 


When you start to feel sick, cool air and water help—so crack a window, step outside, and sip a cool drink until the wave passes. Remember it won’t always be this way. You WILL feel better. This is good work you’re doing, mamas. Keep telling yourself that, and enlist the help of your partner, friends, and family to support you as you learn to surf the waves of early pregnancy. This too shall pass!



Anne Rust, a founder of Mama Seeds, is a prenatal and postpartum advisor, yoga instructor, birth doula, mother of two, and an all-around cheerleader for moms and babies.



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