Dealing with nausea and vomiting during pregnancy
Common questions from pregnant women during the first trimester are;
1) What causes vomiting and nausea in early pregnancy?
2) How can I prevent it and find relief?
3) Are there any natural remedies for morning sickness?
1) What causes vomiting and nausea in pregnancy?
Pregnancy nausea, commonly known as “morning sickness,” affects approximately 50-80 percent of pregnant women . There are many theories as to why this occurs, some possible causes include;
Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG): This hormone is released in high amounts during early pregnancy and although no one knows for sure how it contributes to nausea, HcG levels seem to peak at the same time as nausea does.
Oestrogen: This hormone rises very rapidly in pregnancy along with other hormones. A woman’s sense of smell and sensitivity to odours is enhanced during pregnancy, which may be due to increasing levels of oestrogen.
Sensitive stomach: Some women are just more sensitive to the different hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. There is a theory that women with the stomach bacteria Helicobacter pylori are more prone to more severe nausea and vomiting .
2) Morning sickness relief
It is very difficult to completely prevent this symptom; however you can reduce the impact nausea and vomiting have on day-to-day life. Some recommendations include;
- Eating small meals often. This reduces the amount of food in your stomach and gives your body a chance to digest without getting an overly ‘full’ feeling, which can lead to increased nausea.
- Choose foods that you feel suit you and that are preferably not fried, fatty or highly spiced. An important point to remember is that you should not worry too much about eating a completely balanced diet, at this stage, it is more important to obtain some energy from your food than none at all.
- Keep simple food such as plain crackers by your bed. When you first wake up, nibble on a few crackers and then wait for 15 minutes or so before getting up. Snacking on crackers during the night may also help night nausea.
- It is also important to maintain hydration, so drinking iced water or lemon juice are always great ideas. Drinking 1.5 – 2 litres a day of water is more than adequate.
- Watch out for non-food triggers too. Simple things like avoiding heavily scented perfumes, a warm stuffy room, or even visual stimuli such as flickering lights may set you off. Avoidance of triggers may become an important part of your treatment.
3) Pregnancy nausea remedies
Many clinical studies have investigated the effects of ginger in the treatment of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy . A common way to consume ginger is through tea made from grated ginger root. Steep the root in boiled water for a few minutes then leave it to cool and sip throughout the day. In regards to the use of ginger supplements during pregnancy, there is not enough research for health professionals to be able to safely prescribe the use of ginger supplements during pregnancy, although there is research to suggest that up to 1000mg daily may be used to treat pregnancy nausea safely [4-6].
Aromatherapy can help, although it can sometimes make symptoms worse in women who are extremely sensitive to odours. If odours are not too much of a problem, essential oils that help to relieve nausea are lime, lemon or ginger . You can burn these oils in an oil burner throughout the day.
A qualified practitioner should always implement reflexology and acupressure. It has a balancing and harmonizing effect on the body and is often used by women to find relief from debilitating nausea and vomiting. It is important to remember that there are many different causes of vomiting and nausea during pregnancy. By following simple dietary and lifestyle changes symptoms may be reduced, however if symptoms become chronic it is always wise to speak to your healthcare provider.
- Smith, Caroline et al. Obstetrics & Gynecology: 2004,103(4):639-645
- Grooten IJ et al. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2017 May;216(5):512.e1-512.
- Viljoen, E et al. Nutr J. 13,20 (2014).
- Ozgoli G et al. J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Mar;15(3):243-6.
- Stanisiere J et al. Foods. 2018;7(4):50.
- Viljoen E et al. Nutr J. 2014;13:20. Published 2014 Mar 19.
- Lua PL et al. J Altern Complement Med. 2012 Jun;18(6):534-40.