If you are pregnant, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy (NVP), sometimes commonly referred to as “morning sickness.”
What is NVP? According to (Bustos et al 2017), up to 80% of pregnant women experience NPV. It can start before you even realize you are pregnant, peaks toward the end of the first trimester, and for many women gets better by the midpoint of the pregnancy. However, up to 10% of pregnant women have NVP until they give birth (Hasler et al., 1995). Also, Bustos et al found that “NVP persists throughout the day in as many as 98% of women with NVP” and concluded that “therefore, the popular term “morning sickness” doesn’t properly reflect this condition.”
No kidding! My personal experience with “morning sickness” involved a lot of nausea at all times of day. Also, I was one of the 10% that experienced symptoms throughout my entire pregnancy. For me, NVP looked like losing a lot of weight when I wanted to be gaining it, getting dehydrated, and (on several occasions at work) abruptly switching from my lecture plan to small group discussions so I could run to the nearby bathroom to vomit.
I took some solace in the fact that some studies (such as this one) found an association between NVP and positive pregnancy outcomes. But there were times when I didn’t need solace; I needed to keep down food or water. Or I needed to make it through a meeting. Or I just wanted a break.
Constantly feeling ill takes a very real toll. One study found that in 712 women in Norway with NVP, “NVP was significantly associated with several characteristics, including daily life functioning, quality of life and willingness to become pregnant again. The negative impact was greater the more severe the symptoms were, although considerable adverse effects were also seen among women with mild and moderate NVP symptoms. Over one fourth of the women with severe NVP considered terminating the pregnancy due to NVP, and three in four considered not to get pregnant again.”
How do you make it stop? Honestly – you can’t. And anyone who tells you they have found the silver bullet is probably wrong. But relief is important; your comfort is important. Finding ways to minimize the symptoms is an important and worthwhile endeavor.
So here is a non-exaustive list of scientifically-backed sources of relief. Not everything works for a single person, and not a single thing works for everyone. It’ll take some experimenting to figure out what helps you.
The fact that these strategies are effective does not mean they are safe, particularly for all people. I encourage you to talk to your care provider before trying any of these strategies, especially those that would be out of the ordinary for you. Also, be sure to talk to your care provider about how frequently you experience nausea and vomiting, as severe NVP (called hyperemesis gravidarum) can be harmful to you and your baby (let alone terrible to deal with!).
Some Evidence-Based Ideas for Relief from Morning Sickness:
Wearing acupressure bands (around your wrists, like bracelets). Do be warned that random people will realize you are pregnant if they see you wearing these (personal experience!).
Ingesting cardamom powder. This article also mentions that aromatherapy with cardamom oil has been successful in combating nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients, but I wasn’t able to find an article testing this for pregnant people.
Starting your day off with crackers or other simple dry carbohydrates.
Eating frequent small meals instead of a few big ones. One guideline listed in the cited study is to prevent a full stomach and to graze instead.
Hydrating (drinking at least two liters of water a day, according to these guidelines).
Reconsider your iron supplements. They are a common trigger for NVP, and some guidelines even suggest skipping them altogether; as always, check with your care provider before implementing a change in your routine.
Taking a medication. Talk to your care provider about your options, which include antihistimines, antimetics, benzamides, serotonin receptor antagonists, acid-reducing agents, and corticosteroids (see more information here and here). The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends talking with your care provider about vitamin B6 or a combination of vitamin B6 and doxylamine. Also, there is some evidence that starting medication before NVP symptoms actually set in can help lessen the severity of the NVP.
Eating protein-heavy meals. Proteins include meats, seafood, dairy, processed soy products, eggs, nuts and seeds, beans, peas, and protein powders or shakes; for more information about proteins, check out this resource.
Ingesting quince (a fruit), tested in syrup form.
I hope that one or more of these provides you some relief!
Is there another evidence-based strategy you think I should include? Let me know at the Contact form above!
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