Morning Sickness, or the more appropriate term, early pregnancy nausea, as it can strike at anytime of the day, is a common but bothersome symptom of pregnancy that can be tricky to treat. Some women don't respond to common nausea remedies, which leaves them feeling queasy - or worse - the better part of the day, often while still trying to keep the pregnancy under wraps.
Even though early pregnancy nausea can be difficult to treat, it's not impossible. There are lots of natural treatments that may lessen or completely relieve your nausea. Most of these methods work short-term, so you have to keep up with them for them to remain effective. But typically, a combination of a few of these methods makes the first trimester all the more manageable.
Keep protein levels up
Let's start here, since you may only want to eat top ramen and saltine crackers. Most protein recommendations for pregnant women are between 70 and 100 grams per day. Even though you may feel adverse to many high protein foods, your growing baby needs it, and so does your digestive system. Early pregnancy nausea is believe to be linked to low protein levels, and not getting enough protein can make the nausea worse. Try to get ahead of it, eat when you feel well, and keep protein levels up.
Eat bland meats, such as plain chicken breast, if that appeals to you. If a hamburger is the only way meat sounds appealing, that's fine too. Meat is a dense source of protein, but if you can't stomach it at all or you're a strict vegetarian, that's okay, there are lots of other excellent protein sources.
Broth can also be a helpful way to get extra protein, bone broth offers a decent amount, 3-7g per cup. But it also has electrolytes, minerals, amino acids, and vitamins that can improve digestion. Plus, sipping warm liquid is comforting and soothing for the stomach. Especially if you bulk up your broth with some extra collagen and/or gelatin, which is flavorless but can add as much as 20g of protein per serving, plus a bit of nutritional yeast for even more protein and some B vitamins too.
Nuts and nut butter, seeds, eggs, yogurt, milk, cheese, beans/legumes, as well as whole grains are all good protein options as well. There are 7g of protein in 2 tablespoons of almond butter, an egg has 6g, greek yogurt has 10-17g per cup, milk contains 8g per cup (but milk alternatives like almond milk only have about 2g per cup,) cheese has about 5-8g per ounce (but keep in mind, not all cheese is safe in pregnancy,) cooked beans have 10-15g per cup, and a whole grain like quinoa about 8g per cup. Obviously, do not drink milk or eat dairy products if you are allergic or sensitive to them, and I don't recommend soy milk or soy products for anyone with digestive upset.
If you have a hard time getting protein levels up, incorporating a protein powder into your routine can be really helpful. They can deliver 10-25g of protein quickly and easily. I usually recommend plant-based, minimally processed versions, with little to no added sugar. As I mentioned before, collagen is a good option for extra protein, but it's not a complete protein, so don't use it on its own.
Get all the fruits & veggies you can!
Same with the protein, fruits and veggies may not sound appealing, but if you avoid them completely your nausea can get worse from not enough vitamins and enzymes in your diet. Or if too many carbs and not enough fiber ends up making you constipated, digestion will suffer even more.
Don't force yourself to eat anything that doesn't appeal to you, but try to squeeze some fresh produce in anywhere you can. Smoothie, salad, crudités, fruit salad, or roasted veggies with minimal seasoning - whatever you can handle.
Eat breakfast & frequently throughout the day
Even if you're not hungry in the morning it's very important you eat something within the first hour of waking. Even something small, such as an egg, or a small bowl of yogurt and granola.
And you don't want to go too long without eating throughout the day, that can trigger nausea too. Plan to eat something, even something small like a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit, at least every 2-4 hours. Pack snacks away in your purse, your desk, and your car. Some women even feel they have to have something small to eat right before bed or in the middle of the night.
Take your prenatal at night & consider a different brand
I usually recommend taking multivitamins with breakfast for maximum absorption, but for some women that's not an option, as vitamins are sometimes harsh on digestion and can make nausea a lot worse. If that's the case, try taking your prenatal right before bed.
I also usually recommend food-based multivitamins, such as MegaFoods or Garden of Life, because they are natural and the vitamins are more bioavailable. However, they aren't always great for nausea, and the dosage often includes several pills, which can be difficult to swallow or make some pregnant woman feel queazy.
If that's the case for you, it's better you take a standard synthetic prenatal than skip your natural vitamins all together. Even a gummy/chewable version works well for many women. Consult your physician before switching prenatal vitamins.
Send the Qi back down
In Chinese medicine nausea is caused by the Qi (the functional energy) of the stomach, rebelling, or going in the wrong direction (up rather than down.)
Sipping on liquid or sucking on something, such as a hard candy, can help stimulate swallowing and keep things moving downward, reversing the flow of the Qi. Some women find sipping tea or hot water with lemon throughout the day to be helpful.
Ginger is your friend
Ginger is the herb of choice in Chinese medicine for subduing rebellious stomach Qi, as described above. You can brew ginger tea, add a dash of fresh ginger juice to sparkling water, drink ginger ale, use ginger candies, or if you don't like the taste of ginger there are pills and tinctures you can use. Consult your physician and/or licensed herbalist before using any herbs.
Keeping things smelling good
One of the biggest factors for nausea in pregnant women is SMELL! It can trigger nausea all on its own.
Avoid overly stinky foods, even a little garlic or onion can be too much for some women, meat too. Whatever doesn’t sound appealing to you, avoid going anywhere near it or anywhere near where it's being cooked.
Avoid perfumes, chemicals, spoiled foods, trash, or any unpleasant smells. Some people have to get rid of lotions, soaps, or candles that they previously loved. Organic essential oils, on the other hand, are mostly safe and generally tolerated very well (not all essential oils are safe in pregnancy, check with an herbalist or aromatherapist before introducing any for yourself.) Fresh smells, such as citrus, peppermint, and floral scents, like lavender are particularly helpful for early pregnancy nausea - I recommend diffusing the oils only in pregnancy, don’t apply topically.
Sea sickness bands & Acupuncture
Sea sickness bands can take the edge off the nausea for many women, but they look quite conspicuous and don’t usually get rid of the nausea completely. They work because they stimulate Pericardium 6, an acupuncture/acupressure point which treats nausea.
I usually use this point, in addition to several others, to treat early pregnancy nausea with acupuncture, and it works quite well. Compared to most other treatments which only take the edge off of the nausea or relieve it for a short while, acupuncture can get rid of the nausea completely for several days. And fortunately, acupuncture can simultaneously treat several other bothersome symptoms of early pregnancy, such as frequent urination, insomnia, anxiety, constipation, fatigue, or headaches.