In my first trimester, I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum. For those of you not in the know about this most lovely of pregnancy complications, HG is morning sickness that starts earlier, lasts longer, and is of greater severity as compared to regular morning sickness. If left untreated, HG has a chance of causing the mother to die of either dehydration or starvation. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?
Anyway, so I had hyperemesis. All day, all night, I was in crisis mode. If there was a home remedy for what I was going through, I wanted to find it. I entered into a research frenzy that lasted about two weeks. That doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but when your entire existence is devoted to finding the cure for what ails you, you can get a lot done.
Here’s the list of what I found in the way of cures and remedies for morning sickness. A word of caution: any time you want to go on a new supplement, medicine, or vitamin, you MUST discuss it with your health care provider. If it comes in pill form, it should be okay’d by your doula/midwife/ob-gyn/whatever before you start it. You never know what those pills can cause or contain–but your doctor does. So stay safe, and have a chat with your doctor before you seek relief.
Try these if you’re not too desperate:
1. Crackers before getting out of bed. You know how you feel great right before getting up and moving around, but then once you stand up you run for the toilet? Getting up on an empty stomach can cause dry heaves. Try giving your tummy something to work on before you rise in the morning. Crackers are often recommended, but anything works–my personal favorite happened to be trail mix bars; other women recommend animal crackers or dry cereal. The worse your morning sickness gets, the more bland you should go. Keep your remedy by the bed and eat before sitting up if you can.
2. Smaller, more frequent meals. If you find that you feel better while eating but get nauseous a short time after finishing, then eating smaller portions more often may be what’s right for you. Instead of eating a full sandwich, why not eat half and then save half for two hours from now? The only problem with this remedy is that you’ll be eating for most of the day, and that gets annoying after a while. But if it beats the nausea, then it’s worth it, right?
3. Follow cravings; avoid aversions. For those of you who find that you actually crave things, eating those things will, more often than not, bust your nausea. But even if you have nothing but aversions, simply avoiding foods that make you feel nauseous can at least help. Don’t try to choke down something that you can’t stand the thought of thinking that if you get it over with, things will be better; if it doesn’t come back up, it’ll have a nice time trying.
4. Different prenatal vitamin. For the most part, a prenatal vitamin is a prenatal vitamin, but some women tolerate different brands better. If you find that yours is making you sick, try another brand. It could be that the one you’re on has an additive that your body finds objectionable for some reason.
5. Different vitamin taking time. If you’re sick in the morning, take your prenatal at night. If you’re sick in the evening, take your prenatal in the morning. And if you’re sick all day . . . well, you’re out of luck. Try a different remedy.
6. Brush teeth later. It sounds gross, but if you can put off brushing your teeth until the morning sickness lets up a bit, then do. I found that if I brushed before eating in the morning, I would throw up. So I ate before brushing. Just don’t put it off all day long; you’re at risk for more dental problems now that you’re pregnant than ever before.
7. Fruit. Many women, myself included, found that eating fruit when they felt nauseous cured them. Apples seem to be a particular favorite.
8. Avoid bad smells. Stay away from smells that make you nauseous. For me, this meant opening the back door while my husband was eating. For others, this means replacing the smell with another–try soaking a handkerchief in a soothing essential oil and whip it out and smell it when you can’t get away.
9. Protein. Filling your stomach up is all well and good, but if you’re stuffing yourself up with breads then you’re not doing yourself a favor. Carbohydrates stay the shortest time in your stomach; protein stays the longest. Eat some nuts or a side of lean meat and see how that treats you.
10. Exercise. Go for a walk or do another type of non-strenuous exercise. You may find that your stomach calms down along the way.
11. Sleep. Sleep deprivation can make nausea worse, so make sure to catch as many Z’s as you can!
You’ve tried those and none worked:
12. Gum. If you have to wait to eat or are having severe nausea issues, chewing gum can help. The act of chewing, the smell, the taste, and the sugar all have a chance of calming your stomach. I recommend a peppermint flavor of some kind.
13. Candy. For similar reasons to the above, sucking on candies can be helpful. For bonus points, try something with ginger, peppermint, lavendar, raspberry, lemon, tangerine, or spearmint. These smells and tastes have been shown most effective in getting rid of nausea.
14. Ginger in any form. Cut up the root to make tea, suck on candies, eat cookies, drink soda (just make sure it has actual ginger in it), put crystals in your food, smell it, take it in pill form . . . studies have shown that ginger is as effective as Zofran when it comes to nausea relief, but I have my doubts. Still, it’s one of the most-cited remedies for morning sickness out there, so you might as well try it.
15. Aromatherapy. Sniff a lemon or another good smell. I don’t know why, but sometimes smelling nice things helps, even if your environment is clean and non-pungent.
16. Salt. I’ve heard women swear by potato chips or salt bakes for nausea relief. If this sounds good to you, then go for it–just don’t take in too much salt.
17. Milk. But not if you’re lactose intolerant. With its high protein content and easy-to-take form, milk makes a surprisingly good stomach soother. I keep a half-gallon of chocolate milk around for when I start feeling queasy at night; all it takes is about a minute to get up, stumble into the kitchen, drink a glass, and then stumble back. And since the milk stays in my stomach for a long time, that means less of these midnight excursions. Of course, it would be better if it was white milk, but if you can’t stand the taste then don’t try to force it. For similar reasons, Equate breakfast shakes work great here as well.
Those didn’t work either, and you’re getting desperate:
18. Sea-bands (or bio-bands). These are elastic wristbands with small plastic knobs on one side. The knob presses into the P-6 acupressure point and alleviates nausea (or so I’ve heard). I personally did not have much success with these, but other women swear by them.
19. Liquids only while not eating. Drinking while eating can be hard on the stomach. Take in small amounts of fluids thirty minutes before or after eating. Don’t drink too much at once, as this can upset your stomach more.
20. Tepid food and drink. Don’t eat your food hot; try letting it cool to room temperature or refridgerating it before eating. Same goes for drinks. Less hot means less aroma.
21. Keep cool. The hotter you get, the more nauseous you get. Try having a fan blow on you or sucking on ice cubes. Popsicles can also work wonders.
22. Bathing or swimming. Believe it or not, getting into water that’s at least waist deep (or laying in a tub) can help sooth nausea. Even feeling water run over your skin has been known to help some women. If you’re in crisis mode, try taking a bath. Even if you end up taking five or six baths a day, it can be worth it to avoid vomiting.
23. Preggie Pops/Preggie Drops. I don’t know what they put in these, but they work. Preggie Pops/Drops are candies that are specially formulated for curing morning sickness. Both varieties are expensive–to the tune of $5 per 7 suckers for the Pops, and a similar price for the Drops. But, again, if it helps your nausea . . .
24. Vitamin B. Studies have shown that upping Vitamin B6 and B12 intake can help with morning sickness. You can try drinking Gatoraide for your fix of B6 or taking a supplement for both, but a word of caution: too many B vitamins can damage your nerves.
25. Flintstone’s vitamins. Instead of taking your prenatal once a day, try taking one Flintstone’s chewable twice a day (with a folic acid supplement if you’re in your first trimester).
26. Coca-Cola. Coke has similar effects to the OTC remedy Emetrol; in fact, the two are one and the same, except that Coke is carbonated and caffeinated. Make sure to let the coke go flat before drinking it; the bubbles could have a bad effect on your stomach. And of course, too much caffeine isn’t recommended during pregnancy; 200 mg is now the recommended maximum per day. Twelve ounces of coke has about thirty-seven milligrams of caffeine in it.
27. Tums. Sometimes, what feels like nausea can actually be really really bad heartburn. Try chewing a few tums when all else fails.
28. BRAT. Bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast (or tea) is a popular way of getting through food poisoning; it works for morning sickness too. You must eat them plain to work, but you’re almost guaranteed not to throw them up. HOWEVER, if you go on the BRAT diet, it’s time to talk to your doctor about medicine. It’s not healthy to stay on the BRAT diet for too long.
Help! Nothing’s working! What to do now:
(please note, ALL of these must be discussed with your doctor)
29. Emetrol. Even if the Coke didn’t work, sometimes the real deal will.
30. Benadryl. If it doesn’t cure your nausea, it’ll at least knock you out.
31. Dramamine. Some women swear by this motion-sickness relief.
32. Doxylamine. This is a sleep aid known as Unisom in the United States; it, along with vitamin B6, used to make up the drug Benedictin before it was prematurely yanked off the market. The FDA now classifies both ingredients found in Benedictin as safe, so if you feel comfortable, then try it. Just don’t buy the extra-strength variety of Unisom as it is a different drug.
33. Zantac. If you find that acid reflux is causing your stomach woes, then taking a medicine formulated for dealing with stomach acid may be your ticket to comfort.
I’m still sick! What can my doctor prescribe for me?
33. Compazine. I’ve not taken this drug myself, but I’ve heard it can cause drowsiness comparable to Phenergan or Benadryl.
34. Tigan. Again, drowsiness is the most reported side effect to this medicine, but I’ve not been on it, so I can’t give you more information.
35. Phenergan. I just recently went on this to help with second trimester nausea, and let me tell you: it knocks you out. I took one last night at 9 PM and I’m still tired at 10 AM the next day. The upside is that it does help with the nausea . . . either that, or it was the sleep that did it.
36. Zofran. Before Phenergan, I was on this. I worship this medicine when it comes to nausea relief. Not only does it not make you sleepy, but it really works; before taking this medicine, I could only keep down Gatoraide and water, but thirty minutes after, I had graduated to Snickers and pizza. The only side effect I got was constipation. Bad constipation, but which would you rather have: all-day nausea with at least four episodes of vomiting per day, or a little bit of trouble going #2? Yeah, I thought so. Sadly, this medicine is extremely expensive–$700 for 60 pills without insurance. But if you can get on it, then I really REALLY recommend it. There is nothing else like it on the market today.
If none of these remedies work for you, then it’ll be time for a long talk with your doctor. Scary as it is, some women find that they cannot eat AT ALL during pregnancy. I was luckily not one of those women, but if you are, then I recommend this book, as well as its predecessor blog.
If you find you’re feeling in over your head or are having the signs and symptoms of HG, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about relief. (If it helps more, here is a list of comparisons between normal morning sickness and hyperemesis.) I remember feeling terrified of asking for medication because I knew that women were supposed to suffer through it and be strong; what I didn’t know was that my nausea and vomiting had risen to levels that were harmful to both me and the baby.
Doctors are very understanding about nausea and will not judge you if you ask for help, even if you end up not needing it. Let your doctor know what remedies you’ve tried; write down a list if there are a lot of them and hand them to him or her when you get in the door. This will show that you are trying to do something before asking for medication, and your doctor will be more likely to skip the preliminaries and prescribe you medicine if that is what you need.
Above all else, follow the recommendation of your doctor. If your doctor says to take a medicine, take it. If you doctor tells you that you need to be hospitalized, then prepare to be hospitalized. Hyperemesis Gravidarum can turn deadly very quickly, to both you and baby. Don’t hesitate if you feel that you’re in danger; if your doctor refuses to treat you, seek a second opinion. Don’t stop until you’re able to bring the nausea down to normal levels. Not only is it a matter of comfort; it’s a matter of safety.