Dr. Bill and Martha Sears: 11 Ways to Ease Morning Sickness

The term “morning sickness” is misleading since queasiness can occur at any time of the day – or night. In our medical practice we refer to this common intestinal upset as pregnancy-induced nausea (PIN). The most common miseries of PIN are hypersensitivity to odors and gut sensitivities to certain foods. Certain smells may “go right to your stomach,” triggering nausea and queasiness. For example, the family dog may smell more “doggy.” The heightened sensitivity to environmental triggers is a normal side effect of the privilege of pregnancy, putting mothers on high alert to avoid any environmental toxin that could harm the baby. And, yes, it is due to “those hormones.” The same hormones needed to nourish your baby can make you queasy and uncomfortable. If your baby could talk, he/she would say, “Mama, I’m sorry those extra hormones make you feel awful some days, but they sure are good for me – thanks!”

Try these easily-digested tips on managing your morning sickness:

1. Begin the day in a stomach-friendly way. If you start the morning off sick, and don’t take the appropriate measures, you are likely to stay sick all day. Instead, give your stomach a friendly start by eating something before you go to bed so it won’t be so empty. You can also stash an assortment of easy-to-digest favorites at your bedside. (The classic favorite is salty crackers.) When you trek to the bathroom in the middle of the night, treat your stomach to a nibble. A good rule is to put food into your mouth before your feet touch the floor. In the morning, give your gut a good breakfast and continue to munch all morning, carrying your nibble pack around with you if necessary.

2. Track the trigger. Keep a list of which foods are the most friendly to your queasy gut and those that cause the most discomfort. While this may change throughout your pregnancy, the usual suspects for discomfort are:

Fried foods

Greasy foods

High-fat foods (read labels)

Caffeine-containing beverages, such as coffee and colas

Cauliflower

Foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG)

Sauerkraut

Cabbage

Onions

Spicy foods

3. Grazing is the way to go! Low blood sugar, which can trigger nausea, can occur upon awakening or anytime you go many hours without food. The traditional eating pattern of three squares a day is NOT meant for pregnant women. A more digestible pattern is six smaller meals, which can be especially helpful when your stomach thinks it doesn’t want anything at all. Grazing on nutritious snacks throughout the day keeps your stomach satisfied and your blood sugar steady. You may find that this is a biologically ideal way to nourish yourself even when you aren’t pregnant.

4. More Saliva! Sucking keeps saliva flowing and if queasy stomachs could talk, they would ask for a steady supply of saliva, which is like health juice for your stomach and intestinal lining. Saliva buffers the acid and coats the esophagus, preventing and relieving the pain of heartburn. Besides, digestion begins in the mouth. The more saliva mixes with food, the better it is predigested. But avoid letting saliva hit an empty stomach. An empty stomach is hypersensitive to saliva, and nausea will soon follow. Most women produce an excess of saliva while pregnant, and even thinking about food can stimulate you to salivate. Lining your stomach with milk or yogurt before eating a saliva-stimulating food (such as salty or dry foods, like crackers) may keep saliva-induced nausea from striking. Many pregnant women claim peppermint candy or gum helps nausea, but it’s best not to use either on an empty stomach, as these foods increase saliva production but put no bulk in the stomach. Experiment with various all-day suckers, such as lemon drops. Choose what works best for you and tote around a pocketful.

5. Eat outside. Not necessarily at a restaurant, but in the great outdoors. There will be days when you just want to be a couch potato and it’s a chore just to get moving. But it can be well worth the effort, physically and mentally, to get up and go. One of the keys to overcoming nausea and other pregnancy discomforts is to get your mind off of them. Your gut is called the second brain for a reason. It is richly supplied with nerves and neurohormones that trigger emotions. Getting outside and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature helps your head brain overcomes your stomach brain. If you work in an office and eat lunch at your desk, for example, go out and nibble while you walk.

6. Sniff ahead. If you know what aromas trigger your nausea, it makes sense to arrange for detours around those things. If cooking odors bother you, consider pre-cooking and freezing foods on days when you feel well. Or you might lower your standards temporarily and buy more convenience foods. If you are invited to another home for dinner, offer to bring a dish you know you’ll be able to eat. When you’re at work or running errands, be sure to carry your reliable edibles with you; when a hunger surge hits, the nausea is sure to follow if you don’t have a tried-and-true snack handy.

7. De-stress. Your brain and stomach share nerves, so when you are upset, your stomach can be, too. Many mothers get stuck in a stress-nausea cycle. The worse they feel, the more stressed they become, and then they feel worse. Learning to reduce stress now is good practice for maintaining serenity as a new mother. Remind yourself that what your baby needs most is a happy, rested mother, both before and after birth.

8. Dress comfortably. There is absolutely no reason to continue wearing clothing with zippers, buttons, or snaps that make you feel tight, constricted, or uncomfortable. Just because it still fits, doesn’t mean you have to wear it. Instead, go for comfort as soon as you desire! Many pregnant women find that anything pressing on their abdomen, waist, or neck is irritating and nausea-triggering.

9. Sleep it off. It’s fortunate that the increased need for sleep coincides with the morning sickness phase. At least you can count on sleep to bring some blessed relief. Martha remembers craving sleep for this reason alone – to escape nausea. So precious is this rest that you will want to ensure that sleep goes on for as long as possible.

10. Try acupressure. Both Eastern and Western medical practitioners describe a pressure point on the forearm about two inches above the crease, on the inner aspect of the wrist that, if stimulated, may relieve nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy and other conditions (such as seasickness). Acupressure bands, available without prescription at pharmacies and marine stores, are meant to be worn around one or both wrists. Each band contains a button that presses on the nausea-sensitive pressure point. Acupressure works by stimulating the pressure points that dampen the hypersensitivity of the nausea center in the brain.

11. Keep your eye on the prize. Surround yourself with encouraging and supportive people and try to emphasize the positive parts of pregnancy to your children. When you’re having a day when you can’t keep anything down, remember, this too shall pass. Pregnancy-induced nausea usually eases by the third month of pregnancy.

Dr. Bill and Martha Sears are the co-authors of over 40 books on parenting and health, including the bestselling “The Baby Book”, “The Birth Book”, and the upcoming “The Healthy Pregnancy Book”, due out September 2013. With the experience of over 40 years in pediatric practice while raising 8 children, Dr. Bill and Martha stay busy as frequent guests on television and radio programs and speakers at conferences, as well as running their own parenting website, www.AskDrSears.com.