How to Manage Morning Sickness

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I chose the title of my post carefully because after six pregnancies I still haven’t found out to get rid of morning sickness completely (I know….boo! hiss!). Some women do find complete relief in one way or another, but for most of us it’s a matter of learning how to cope until the tincture of time works its magic. All I can offer here are tips on managing morning sickness.

If there’s a “morning sickness remedy” out there, you can bet this mother has tried it. I have strapped on Sea Bands, subjected my wrists to accupressure, sucked dozens of Preggie Pops, brewed far too many cups of ginger and peppermint tea and even tried over-the-counter medicines like Dramamine and Emetrol syrup. With one of my pregnancies I even resorted to “audio therapy” (please don’t laugh) to get rid of the nausea! Unfortunately, none of these remedies made any difference for me.

Here’s my list of “remedies” that actually did provide some relief:

B6 and Unisom Combo: This is a “Class A” remedy that many doctors and midwives suggest to expectant mothers in lieu of expensive prescription medication. Here’s the regimen my midwife assigns me. Go to the pharmacy and buy several packages of generic Unisom (doxylamine) tablets and a big bottle of B-Complex which contains about 25 mg of B6 in each tablet (you can split pills if all you can find is the 100 mg tablets). Use a pill cutter to split the doxylamine tablets in two. Each night before bed take 1/2 of a Unisom and 1 of the B-Complex tablets. It will make you sleepy, and you’ll most likely feel very sleepy the next day. Take this same combo again in the morning. At mid-day, take only the B-complex. That night…..the combination. So each day, you’re taking 3 doses of B-complex and 2 of the Unisom.

Note: your pharmacy may be able to compound this B6/doxylamine formula with orders from a doctor or midwife.

After a couple of days the “sleepy effect” of the Unisom wears off. Continue this daily regimen as long as your morning sickness continues. Even better, start taking JUST the B-complex as soon as you get a positive pregnancy test. Let it start going to work early. I have used the B6/Unisom remedy for my last 2 pregnancies and it provided a good deal of relief PLUS it helped my morning sickness to go away earlier. Previously, I would be sick for 16 to 20 weeks. Now it’s gone by 12 weeks. LIFESAVER.

Blood Sugar Maintenance: One of the most helpful books I’ve ever read during pregnancy is Marilyn Shannon’s Managing Morning Sickness. It’s a skinny little paperback that you can finish in about 20 minutes.

The main premise behind Shannon’s book is that pregnancy affects the way sugar is processed in a woman’s body and can lead to hypoglycemia-type symptoms. This explains why a lot of pregnant women suffer not just from nausea, but also headaches, weakness, dizziness, fainting and irritability. Low blood sugar exacerbates morning sickness and increases your misery. Therefore, Shannon’s solution is a diet that is anti-hypoglycemic. That means making each meal or snack a combination of protein and complex carbs (since proteins alone do not raise blood sugar fast enough).

Marilyn Shannon’s advice has helped me tremendously. Making sure that I eat proteins and carbs together has lessened my morning sickness and had the added bonus of keeping headaches and fatigue to a minimum.

But wait, you might say. It’s all well and good to recommend eating proteins and carbs, but I don’t feel like eating anything so what am I supposed to do??

I understand completely! My very first pregnancy was my absolute worst. Unable to stomach the thought of eating anything, I would often lie on the couch fainting from hunger yet terribly sick at the same time. Inevitably this led to gagging and dry heaves. Pure misery!!

There’s a better way. Granted, this is a departure from Marilyn’s book because she doesn’t recommend soda at all, but I can tell you that the first thing I head to the store for when I get a positive test is soda pop – more specifically, caffeine-free Coca Cola. I open a can and let it go flat in the fridge. When that sick-starving (hypoglycemic) feeling starts to rise up….I pull out the cold Coke and start taking small sips. It’s something I can “tolerate” putting in my mouth and it immediately starts to raise my blood sugar and the nausea lessens. And then…….carpe diem! Now that the nausea is somewhat lessened, it’s easier for me to eat. Time to grab my protein-carb snack and start working on getting that down. Once that’s done, my nausea is almost completely gone – for the time being…..until the next cycle starts!

Granted, Coca Cola might not be your thing. Heck, we don’t even keep soft drinks in the house. But for pregnancy I make an exception. It’s the “gateway” which allows me to eat the foods that will help me feel better. And you can choose your own poison – Sprite,  Orange Crush, ginger ale, lemonade….anything will do. It just needs to be a sweet drink with real sugar in it that you can tolerate sipping. The key is to put the soda aside and start eating the minute your blood sugar rises and you start to feel a little better.

And if you get tired of that particular flavor of soda after a while, ditch it and choose a different one!

Blood Pressure Maintenance: This was another invaluable insight I gained from Marilyn Shannon’s book. Have you ever noticed when pregnant that you can feel quite nauseated when upright, but after lying down the sick feeling eases up a little? Low blood pressure may actually be the culprit. The list of low blood pressure symptoms reads just like a textbook on morning sickness – dizziness, light-headedness, nausea, poor concentration, depression and fainting.

So what are the dietary keys to regulating blood pressure? SALT and WATER – two things that just so happen to be extremely important for pregnant mothers to consume.

The salt in our diet helps power blood to the brain by raising blood pressure. This might explain why so many expectant mothers crave salty foods and find relief after eating them. So don’t avoid salt while pregnant or feel guilty when indulging in a salty snack. Just try to maximize the benefits by pairing it with protein, as discussed above. And drink all the fluids you can because this will help increase your blood volume.

Bedside Maintenance: Don’t skimp on sleep if at all possible. The more sleepy you are, the worse your nausea will be. I’m usually up at 6 am each morning, but when I’m pregnant that’s not an option. I learned very quickly that rising very early set me on course for a day of nausea and vomiting. During pregnancy I will allow myself at least an extra hour of sleep. And when I do wake up, my best friend is right there at the bedside with me – Quaker Oatmeal Squares. I love those things! And they are not too hard to eat even when I’m pregnant because the morning sickness doesn’t hit me instantaneously. It sort of builds slowly as I rouse myself. So before I sit up, I start munching on dry cereal. And then I feel good enough to take my B6/Unisom combo with some water. And then slowly……slowly…..I head to the kitchen to prepare my protein/carb breakfast.

And yes, sometimes I’m even sipping a little cold Coke while preparing my breakfast…

Avoid the Grocery: This was not an option for me with my first pregnancies because my husband was in the military and we were far from family, but now I can make a small list and ask someone else do the food shopping. I have some really terrible memories of dragging myself through the grocery store, trying desperately to find something that looked appealing while on the verge of gagging because of the sights and smells of food everywhere. I now avoid the grocery store whenever I can during the first trimester. It’s just not worth it.

What about Medication? Even after trying all the remedies above, you still might be suffering a great deal from nausea and/or vomiting. Some women are just extremely sensitive to the hormones of pregnancies. And a few others don’t get the usual relief after the first trimester is over but keep suffering until the baby is born. There are a few medications that doctors prescribe for severe morning sickness.

  • Phenergan is a Class C antihistamine that doctors will often try first for morning sickness, before moving onto something stronger or more expensive. My experience with phenergen was that it helped “a little” but made me SO sleepy and dopey that I could barely function.
  • Tigan is another antihistamine that is less commonly prescribed. It is not as powerful as Phenergan and not as well-researched.
  • Zofran is an anti-emetic which places in Class B, making it a potentially safer choice than the other two drugs. Current research has justified its use as a safe choice for mothers suffering from severe nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. Many woman have found complete relief with this medication and consider it a miracle pill. But just as many others (including myself) have found it helps just a little. It may also be expensive and some insurance plans do not cover it. Mine does, so I will usually just fill the prescription once and use it during the first really bad weeks. I have taken Zofran for the past 3 pregnancies with no noticeable side effects for me or baby.

Most women who are suffering are desperate to try almost any suggestion for morning sickness relief, so if you have a tip to share, please comment below! And obviously, any decisions about medication should be discussed and approved by your prenatal care provider.

I also welcome any questions you might have. And in case you were wondering why on earth I’m writing about morning sickness today……….it’s because I’m expecting again!!

I’m six weeks along and morning sickness has kicked in, but using my tried-and-true methods above, I’m “mostly” staying on top of it. I don’t feel great, but I’m not running to the bathroom, either.

For those of you who are expecting, I hope my tips help you find a little bit of morning sickness relief. But above all, have a happy and healthy pregnancy!

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  1. Sea Bands were the most amazing thing for my last pregnancy! Those and Luna Bars kept by my bedside and eaten before I got out of bed EVERY morning, for nine months… Needless too say I got a bit sick of them after each pregnancy 😉 But I would highly recommend the Sea Bands, I found them at Walmart for under $10, totally worth it! Congratulations and good luck keeping the morning sickness at bay!! 🙂

    • Hi Nicole,

      Thanks for your comments! I actually tried the Sea Bands but they just didn’t work for me at all; I’m glad you found some relief, though. And I like your idea about the Luna Bars. Never tried that. They are nutritious and high in protein so that’s something I might try out this time around.

      All the best,
      Anne

      • That’s too bad they didn’t work :-/ It really is something different for every woman and/or pregnancy huh? I’m pretty sure it was the protein that did it for me 🙂

  2. Hi. I’m in nigeria n dont av any access wat so eva to d sea bands n luna bars or d kinds of medication. I dont even knw wat they are. Wat else can i do bout my mornin sickness. Cudnt even go to work today cos of it. HELLLLLLLLLLLP.

    • If you can, try to eat small amounts of protein and carbs/grains throughout the day and never let yourself get very hungry. It will make the sickness worse. I’m so sorry you are feeling bad – I’m still sick, too, but hanging in there. Anne

  3. Thank you for your tips! Can you give some examples of protein/carb snacks & breakfasts?
    I just bought B6 and Unisom from the store. 😝

    • Here are few, Jennifer:
      BREAKFAST
      -Bagel with cream cheese
      -Egg and toast
      -Yogurt topped with granola
      -Sausage or ham on a biscuit

      SNACKS
      -Apple slices with peanut butter
      -Banana with peanut butter
      -Boiled egg or deviled egg with crackers
      -Tuna with crackers
      -Cheese slices and granola bar
      -Snack mix with nuts in it
      -Deli turkey rolled up in a tortilla

  4. Zofran is not safe. It has been linked to birth defects. Please either remove it from your list, or note that fact. B6 can be purchased from a health food store or online- I have seen it in 100mg doses, but can be split to get the appropriate dosage..

    • Christina, the study that appeared to show a possible link to cleft palate and heart defects has since been followed up with 2 studies that show just the opposite. In fact, one recent UCLA study suggested that taking Zofran may actually reduce the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. I can send you the info on the studies if you like. And of course, any type of medication (whether natural or otherwise) should always been dispensed on a case-by-case basis, and with the knowledge of an expectant mother’s care provider. Thanks for stopping by to comment! ~Anne