Well, that’s a good question. The first thing to know is that it’s different for every woman and every pregnancy. How much morning sickness you will experience and what will help you to deal with it will vary from how others do, but there are some tried and true methods that will help you to minimize the impact of morning sickness.
What is morning sickness?
Basically, in the first trimester of your pregnancy, your body is producing a heavy dose of hormones. The biggest contributor to women feeling nauseous is the hCG hormone: Human chorionic gonadotropin. This hormone is produced in great quantities to form and maintain the placenta, in the first trimester of a pregnancy. It is also the hormone that is measured by pregnancy tests as it exists in both blood and urine.
With the daily increasing levels of hCG, many women―70% or more—experience the symptoms of morning sickness during their first trimester:
While it is called ‘morning’ sickness, the reality is that some women can experience it all day (and night!) In some rather more rare cases (less than 2% of pregnancies), a woman can experience hyperemesis gravidarum. This extreme form of morning sickness needs to be medically monitored as it can result in severe dehydration, excess weight loss due to an inability to retain nutrients, fainting, low blood pressure and more.
Luckily, for most women, around week 12 or the beginning of the second trimester, morning sickness tends to taper off. Your body is still producing hormones to grow a human, but the surge that you had at the beginning of your pregnancy has tapered some and your body is adapting to its new pregnant condition. In the meantime, you can minimize the effects of morning—or all day long—sickness.
Eat something before you even get out of bed in the morning
What you eat will depend on your preferences, but a lot of women have success with dry crackers or toast. Have a few and wait ten minutes before attempting to get up. That first rush of the day can be so much worse otherwise!
Eat smaller meals more often
While you may have been in the habit of three square meals a day, you might find that you can’t tolerate that during pregnancy. For one thing, you might find yourself hungry sooner than even a snack can accommodate, so planning instead for more frequent but smaller meals will help you stave off cravings that might having you reaching for foods that aren’t great for you, or for your fetus.
That said, if baby craves a hamburger, go for it. The point is to eat when you can tolerate it. Yes, healthy choices are better but this isn’t the time to beat yourself up because you’re craving some fries to go with your burger.
Bottom line: eat when you’re hungry
Check the iron in your prenatal vitamins
Prenatal vitamins usually come packing a wallop of iron, which you will need later on in your pregnancy, but in the early days of development, your fetus doesn’t need that dose and neither does your stomach! Unless you’ve been diagnosed with iron deficiency, you can take a folic acid supplement—which your fetus very much needs in the early days—or a mixed vitamin with low doses of iron for the first trimester. Speak to your pharmacist or doctor if you suspect that your vitamins are contributing to your feeling ill.
Particularly if you are vomiting, you need to make sure that you stay hydrated. Drinking small amounts throughout the day will help. Many women feel that there are times in the day that they ‘feel better’. If that’s the case for you, take advantage of that window and make sure you eat and drink.
Keep the air circulating
Often women will find certain odors really off putting, particularly cooking smells, so make sure you get some fresh air in the house or go out and get some regularly. On the same note, having fresh air prevents the air around you from getting stagnant or too hot. Many women feel quite warm during pregnancy and getting too warm can actually make the nausea worse.
Even odors like perfume can increase your nausea so if you are out and about, you might want to keep a lemon wedge handy! A whiff of the light, lemony scent can help you block out the other odors around you.
The power of ginger
Whether it’s a few sips of ginger ale or some ginger root candies—many of which are manufactured specifically with moms-to-be in mind—ginger has properties that can help reduce nausea and vomiting. If you can, 250 mg of ginger several times a day might go a long way to helping you feel more like yourself.
The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Canada changed its guidelines around morning sickness in 2016 and one of the recommendations to try before you ask your doctor for Diclegis by prescription is vitamin B6. It has proven effective, at a rate of 10 mg four times a day, in helping women with morning sickness stave off the nausea and vomiting, in a low risk way.
Don’t wait until you’re so sick that you are missing days of work or other daily activities, because of morning sickness. Speak with your doctor if you cannot cope even with these tips. Suffering in silence is not a great way to proceed through the first weeks of your pregnancy!