What can I do to reduce nausea and vomiting in pregnancy?
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Dec 24, 2020.
Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms during pregnancy. They typically start between 4 and 7 weeks of pregnancy, but usually ease by 16 weeks. For some women it can last longer or even the whole pregnancy.
Symptoms of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy are often referred to as ‘morning sickness’, although they can occur at any time of the day and last throughout the day.
Morning sickness symptoms do not usually harm your baby and they don't mean your baby is unwell, but they may affect your daily routines and ability to work.
Below are some diet, lifestyle and other approaches that can be used to help ease morning sickness symptoms.
Tips to help manage morning sickness
There is no one approach that will work for every woman with nausea and vomiting in pregnancy as each pregnancy is different.
Here is a list of some small changes you can make that may help to ease your symptoms:
- Get plenty of sleep and rest
- If certain smells affect you try and avoid them. Use a fan when cooking and have someone else take out the trash.
- Eat bland foods like rice, crackers or dry toast. The BRATT diet - bananas, rice, applesauce, toast and tea is a popular diet to follow. Foods low in fat and high in carbohydrates are recommended. Salty foods, such as potato chips, may also help.
- Eat small meals frequently throughout the day so that your stomach is never empty. Try eating a cracker or plain biscuit before you even get out of bed.
- Take vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), a water-soluble vitamin found in many foods and which is available as a supplement. It can help settle nausea as well as support the development of the baby's brain and nervous system. The recommended dose is 25-50mg, up to 3 times a day.
- Take ginger, which is known to settle nausea. Try ginger candies and biscuits, non-alcoholic ginger ale or beer, ginger tea, or ginger capsules. The recommended dose of ginger is up to 1g taken in smaller amounts over the course of the day.
- Try acupressure on the P6 Neiguan point on the inside of the forearm three fingerbreadths above the wrist. Special acupressure bands or bracelets worn on your wrist may help ease symptoms.
- Try sipping small amounts of fluid, such as water regularly. If it’s difficult to keep water down try other fluids such as flat lemonade or diluted fruit juice. To keep hydrated, aim for 8 to 12 cups of water a day.
- Add protein to your diet to keep up your appetite and energy. Sources such as milk, yoghurt, nuts and seeds, peanut butter, protein powder and shakes are good non-meat protein options if an alternative to meat is required.
- Try over-the-counter medications such as the sleeping aid doxylamine.
In addition to trying to alleviate the symptoms of nausea and vomiting, don’t forget to protect your tooth enamel if you are vomiting a lot. Try rinsing your mouth with a teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in a cup of water to help neutralize the acid produced by the vomiting.
When should I seek treatment for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy?
If the nausea and vomiting is severe and persistent it may be more than just regular morning sickness. It could be a type of severe morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum or signs of another medical condition, such as a urinary tract infection, and may require medical attention.
Consult your obstetrician-gynecologist (ob-gyn) or other obstetric care provider if your symptoms are severe, persistent or are causing you any concerns. Especially see your doctor if you can’t keep down any food or water, you’re losing weight and peeing less often than usual.
What causes nausea and vomiting?
There is no clear cause of ‘morning sickness’, though it is thought to be linked to an increase in human chorionic gonadotropin levels This is a hormone produced to help maintain the pregnancy.
Some factors put women more at risk of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, such as if they:
- Haven’t been pregnant before
- Are feeling stressed or anxious
- Have experienced nausea and vomiting in a previous pregnancy
- Are having twins or triplets (multiple pregnancy)
- Have a history of motion sickness or migraines
- Have a family history of morning sickness
- Are obsese (a body max index >30)
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Morning Sickness: Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy. May, 2020. Available at: https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/morning-sickness-nausea-and-vomiting-of-pregnancy. [Accessed 24 December, 2020].
- Ministry of Health NZ. Morning Sickness. 9 January, 2020. Available at: https://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/pregnancy-and-kids/pregnancy/helpful-advice-during-pregnancy/morning-sickness. [Accessed 24 December, 2020].
- Herrell HE. Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. Am Fam Physician. 2014;89(12):965-970. [Accessed 24 December, 2020]. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25162163/
- Festin M. Nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy. BMJ Clin Evid. 2014;2014:1405. Published 2014 Mar 19. [Accessed 24 December, 2020]. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3959188/
- Betz D, Fane K. Human Chorionic Gonadotropin. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; August 30, 2020. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30422545/ [Accessed 24 December, 2020].
- Bpac NZ. Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. November, 2011. Available at: https://bpac.org.nz/bpj/2011/november/pregnancy.aspx . [Accessed 24 December, 2020].
- National Health Service UK (NHS). Nausea and morning sickness. 5 March, 2018. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/vomiting-and-morning-sickness/ . [Accessed 24 December, 2020].