As seen in the plot of almost every sitcom, morning sickness may be one of the first clues your body gives you when you're newly pregnant — but feeling wretched in the morning is hardly funny when it happens to you. This early pregnancy side effect may occur anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks into your pregnancy and could last all day long, according to the American Pregnancy Association. To get back on your feet (and get your head out of the toilet), figuring out how to manage this pregnancy symptom is a must.
For the most part, the medical experts agree that "morning sickness" is a misnomer. Anywhere from 70 to 85 percent of pregnant women experience nausea or vomiting during pregnancy for anywhere from two to six hours per day and often in the afternoon or evening. And an estimated 0.5 to 2 percent of women experience morning sickness so severe that it may cause a danger to mother and baby, often diagnosed as hyperemesis gravidarum, making it important to visit your doctor right away.
For the expectant moms who’d just like to keep some food down, one of these natural remedies might cure what ails ya, or at the very least, make you feel a little bit better.
Pregnant ladies, get ready to make ginger your new best friend — a home remedy that new moms swear by and doctors endorse. Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author of Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and 5 Surprising Steps to Cure It, says, “Ginger has a long and safe track record in traditional medicine — healers have been using it for more than 2,000 years. Science is catching up to its longstanding health benefits too. Many preclinical and clinical studies show that ginger possesses natural nausea-reducing effects, particularly for pregnant women experiencing morning sickness. A study looking at ginger’s use in easing nausea from seasickness, morning sickness and chemotherapy-induced nausea found ginger performed better than placebo in all three areas.”
Dr. Axe recommends calming your stomach with his morning sickness-fighting tea. “Drinking ginger tea throughout the day can help ease morning sickness. You can buy organic ginger tea, but it’s easy to make your own too.” He explains, “To make it at home, cut ginger root into thin slices, and place them in a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes. Strain the ginger, and drink. It’s that easy.”
Rosie Pope, star of Bravo’s Pregnant in Heels with four kids under the age of 10, tells SheKnows, "Natural ginger (if you can handle it) works well. Try it in a form you can take, from herbal tea to dried ginger or lollipops, but make sure it contains real ginger."
Ginger may be one of the most popular at-home nausea remedies, but peppermint comes in a close second. Peppermint (in the candy or tea form) can reduce nausea and calm an upset stomach throughout the day, Dr. Ashe, D.O., M.D., medical director of Be Well Medical Group, explains.
This may be one of the easiest DIY morning sickness remedies that you can tuck into your purse for later. According to Dr. Ashe, sniffing a fresh-cut lemon or adding it to your water may help to prevent the queasies. Likewise, Dr. Ashe recommends, “Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.”
Next up: Grapefruit
This tip may be a one-off, but it’s healthy enough that it’s worth trying. According to one mother of two girls who struggled with morning sickness during her first trimester morning, noon and night, eating grapefruit was the only thing that could hold off the symptoms for a good 45 minutes. In addition to munching on grapefruit to settle the stomach, Zaida Khaze of Wiggletot Diaper Changer recommends listening to what your body is craving. “It is fair to say I was eating grapefruit all day, every day. I wonder if that was my body telling me I had a folic acid deficiency.”
5. Eat before you feel sick
As Pope explains, trying to eat when you have morning sickness may seem counterintuitive, but it’s exactly what your body needs to keep nausea to a minimum. If you’ve noticed a pattern of feeling sick at a certain time of day, try to eat before the morning sickness strikes. Pope says, “Morning sickness is one of those things that is helped by exactly the opposite of what you feel like doing. Whatever you can get down, small amounts and often!"
Dr. Sherry Ross, M.D., OB-GYN and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, agrees, saying, “Eating small meals every two hours, high in protein, helps stabilize blood sugar levels and minimize symptoms associated with morning sickness.”
6. Bland carbohydrates
The old crackers-and-soup-on-a-sick-day trick seems to hold water, which means Mom may have been on to something. When nausea strikes and your appetite disappears, Dr. Ashe recommends filling up on soothing, plain foods, like “crackers or dry cereals and other bland complex carbohydrates.” Dr. Ross adds, “Saltine crackers are quite helpful!”
7. Vitamin B6
Bringing your nausea down to a manageable level may all come down to a vitamin deficiency. Dr. Ross says, “Vitamin B6 (25 milligrams) taken three times a day has been effective for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. It's not clear how it works but has a great track record.” And while Dr. Ashe agrees, she reminds us that it is still important to consult with your doctor before beginning any new vitamins or supplements during pregnancy.
Next up: Acupressure
With approval from your doctor, Dr. Ross backs acupuncture and acupressure as easy and safe alternatives to help to beat the woes of morning sickness. “Acupuncture and acupressure use the PC6 pressure points to relieve mild nausea and vomiting,” she says.
If you don’t have time to book a treatment, acupressure morning sickness bands have been created by a fellow sufferer of morning sickness for just this purpose. Romy Taormina, the mom behind Psi Bands, says, “I suffered from debilitating morning sickness during my pregnancies, and the only thing that helped to relieve that nausea was acupressure wristbands. However, I was dissatisfied with existing products on the market that were drab, not waterproof (so I could not wear them in the shower, or else they would get waterlogged), and they would stretch out (made from elastic) so they wouldn’t stay static on the acupressure point that is clinically proven to relieve the nausea. So I did what mothers of invention do: I created a product, Psi Bands, a medical device/acupressure wristband for the relief of nausea that is drug-free (safe for Mom and baby), waterproof, stylish, adjustable (so no more slipping/sliding) and affordable.” (Psi Bands, $15; available at CVS, Target and Amazon)
9. Treat yourself
When you’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work, consider this full permission to treat yo’self. (You’ve earned it anyway — growing a baby is hard work.) As a last-resort morning sickness fix, Pope recommends something sweet. “Think of morning sickness like travel sickness. A little cold, fresh air and some sugar can go a long way. Even better, candy that has been in the fridge! I know, I know, not so healthy, but trust me, after four kids and helping so many others, it's way better than throwing up all the time."
Dr. Ashe recommends ice chips or frozen beverages, like lemonade and slushie drinks, for those days when you can’t keep anything down.
Keep it in perspective
OK, OK, so maybe none of these natural morning sickness remedies have worked for you, and your doctor says your health is fine. Right now, it all comes down to keeping yourself comfortable and keeping things in perspective — even when you feel like you haven’t eaten a good meal in weeks. "Hold onto the fact that this too shall pass (except for a very tiny percentage of people). Knowing it will end somewhere around 12 to 14 weeks — really, truly will end — makes a person feel a lot better! Or at least tolerate those bouts of nausea better,” Pope says.
Originally published May 2012. Updated September 2016.