Morning sickness certainly isn’t fun. Along with heartburn, pregnancy acne, and constipation, it can be just one of the strange but common things that happen during pregnancy. What causes it? When will it go away? And what can I do to feel better? We’ll unpack these questions in this post, and share some natural morning sickness remedies that can help you get through those rough weeks (and maybe even avoid morning sickness all together).
How common is morning sickness?
It’s pretty common! About half of pregnant women will experience vomiting during early pregnancy, and even more—up to 80% of women—will experience nausea to some extent along the way.
Morning sickness is poorly named though because it can happen all. day. long. Morning sickness gets its name because symptoms are more likely to hit earlier in the day and fade as the day goes on, but for many women, morning sickness goes on all day (and the need for morning sickness remedies does too!).
How long does it usually last?
Morning sickness usually begins around 4–6 weeks (0–2 weeks after a missed period) and usually subsides by 12–14 weeks. However, some women have a condition, hyperemesis gravidarum, that makes morning sickness not only severe, but possibly life-threatening, and it can last throughout the entire pregnancy.
What causes morning sickness?
No one knows for sure what causes morning sickness, but there are some compelling theories out there. Depending on your cause, certain morning sickness remedies are going to be more likely to work.
Hormones from pregnancies
The most widely accepted explanation for morning sickness is that it’s hormonal. The hormone hCG rises rapidly in the beginning of pregnancy, which is often blamed for making women feel queasy and sick. No one knows why, but hCG is a suspect because the peak of hCG coincides with the peak of morning sickness (the end of the first trimester).
Many women have found that pre-pregnancy and during-pregnancy liver support made a huge difference in the severity of their morning sickness—or eliminated it altogether in a second pregnancy. It makes sense, since pregnancy hormones put a lot of additional stress on the liver.
Your adrenals work in tandem with your liver and pancreas. During times of stress (like pregnancy), your adrenals call on the stored sugar in your liver for energy. If the adrenals are overly stressed, it can use up all of your stored sugar and then cause tissue breakdown for energy. This is where a highly nutritious diet comes in. Eating enough for you and a growing baby is essential to keeping your adrenals from going into overdrive. This may be one reason that eating continuously during bouts of morning sickness and supporting adrenals with targeted supplements are good morning sickness remedies for some women.
H. Pylori overgrowth
This study found a strong association between an H. pylori infection and hyperemesis gravidarum, a very severe form of morning sickness. I’ve read stories of moms who had terrible morning sickness—even to the point of hyperemesis gravidarum—treat the H. pylori between pregnancies and then have zero sickness in their next pregnancy.
Monolaurin was most effective against H. Pylori, but there haven’t been any studies to see if it’s safe during pregnancy. It is a “pure sn-1 monolaurin (glycerol monolaurate) derived from coconut oil.” It is non-toxic and can be taken for life. But again, not enough research has been done about its safety during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor before taking any supplement.
Low blood sugar
Many believe that low blood sugar from the extra caloric drain from the placenta causes morning sickness, though there are no studies to support this theory. However, many women find relief by not letting their blood sugar level drop too low, but it could also be related to stressed adrenals (which get even more stressed when blood sugars drop!).
Many moms who experience morning sickness in a first pregnancy have found that treating a magnesium deficiency helped relieve morning sickness in their next pregnancy. Our soils are depleted and our water is highly filtered, so most of us don’t get enough magnesium. However, it’s important to remember that vitamins and minerals work in tandem, and that you may have more than just a magnesium deficiency—in which case it’s important to be sure you are also getting enough B vitamins, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K, and vitamin A too, preferably from food sources.
Some believe that an electrolyte imbalance may cause or contribute to morning sickness, however, it may just be a side effect of vomiting. Some women have found relief in adding electrolytes to their diet by drinking this safe, DIY elixir.
Some believe that carrying a girl can lead to more morning sickness, though there aren’t any studies to support this. In my case this was true, but it was also my second pregnancy (and I was more depleted).
Protection against toxins that could harm baby
Some experts believe that morning sickness is an evolutionary protection against food poisoning and components of foods that may be harmful during pregnancy. One reason may be because the baby’s susceptibility to toxins peaks at about 3 month gestation—the time when morning sickness usually starts to subside. This could be the reason that many pregnant women have aversions to alcohol, coffee, meat, eggs, and the like. On the other hand, some experts argue that this doesn’t make sense, since the foods that are typically eaten during the weeks of morning sickness are of little nutritional value (crackers, bread, etc.), while the foods that cause sickness are the best and most nutrient-dense pregnancy foods, like protein-rich meat, eggs, and fish.
Another theory that isn’t supported by hard science is that our bodies go through a detoxing period during the first trimester, in an effort to create the cleanest environment for our baby. So nausea and vomiting could be a side effect of that detoxification process.
How to avoid and treat morning sickness
First and foremost, make sure you are doing the basics… like eating a balanced diet, sleeping at least 8 hours a night, and getting fresh air and exercise most days. Regarding the “perfect pregnancy diet,” here are some tips to eat well even when you’re feeling lousy:
- You may not need a lot of extra calories daily, but you will probably find that you are hungry more often than usual, so a healthy snack (or 4!) is a great idea. Don’t let yourself get too hungry.
- Be sure that almost everything you eat is nutritionally dense. If you are too nauseous in the first trimester, stick to brown rice with sea salt, gelatin and avocado thrown in smoothies for extra protein, bone broth, fresh fruits (gummies may go down well), and anything else that you can stomach.
- As best as you can, eat balanced meals with adequate protein, fat, and complex carbs for the best blood sugar regulation.
- Keep food by your bed to nibble on before getting up in the morning. Some moms do better with carbs to help offset the nausea (think bananas and crackers), while others (like me with my second pregnancy) feel better on protein and fats.
Natural morning sickness remedies
When these steps aren’t enough to make those early weeks bearable, consider these remedies—but always talk to your doctor before adding any of these products to your regime.
Pyridoxine – Take 50 mg of vitamin B6 with each meal for short-term use only. If you have the MTHFR mutation, you’ll need a methylated version like this one. Do know that some people do not properly eliminate B6, even though it is a water-soluble vitamin. You want to watch for any signs of B6 toxicity while taking.
Gut health support – A healthy digestive system is important for overall health but becomes especially important during a physically stressful time like pregnancy. Since about 80% of the immune system resides in the gut, it only makes sense to optimize the gut in order to have good health. Probiotics help support the gut and lower inflammation (which also helps the liver do its job). You can get probiotics via supplement or in fermented foods such as kimchi, kefir, homemade yogurt, and homemade sauerkraut.
Digestive Enzymes – Digestive enzymes can help you break down your food for optimal digestion, which helps avoid queasiness. HCL (hydrochloric acid—don’t let the name scare you!) and pepsin are two digestive aids that pregnant women can take to improve digestion. HCL helps balance stomach pH, while pepsin helps break down proteins. Enzyme-rich foods, such as ripe papaya (avoid unripened papaya because it may cause contractions), pineapple, avocado, and fermented vegetables, can naturally help the body prepare for digestion when eaten before a meal.
Morning sickness elixir – Combine 1 Tbs. of raw apple cider vinegar in 1 quart of water; add the juice of 2 lemons and 1 Tbs. of raw honey, and mix. Drink throughout the day. This elixir is very alkalizing and great for alleviating a sour stomach.
– Though you can find magnesium in supplement form, you can also increase your magnesium stores directly through the skin (it’s absorbed even better this way!). Take epsom salt baths, and use magnesium oil on the skin. If you prefer capsules, magnesium glycinate is a good source that doesn’t disrupt the bowels. You can also boost your magnesium stores with food.
Homeopathic remedies – Some are gentle and safe during pregnancy, but always talk to your doctor before taking anything! Natrum Muriaticum 6X has been used for morning sickness and may help baby get into an optimal position for birth. It may also be helpful for afterpains, postpartum blues, and mastitis. If you are also having acid reflux or heartburn, you can add Natrum Phos. 6X.
Peppermint – Ingest via tea or natural candies. Peppermint is great for soothing an upset stomach.
Ginger – Ginger is a great remedy for queasiness, but only in food form, as supplements can lead to spastic uterus. Things like ginger smoothies or homemade ginger ale are great beverages to soothe a queasy stomach. If you don’t have time (or desire) to make it homemade, you can get natural ginger ale, and ginger chews at many health food stores including Whole Foods.
Liver support – The liver is under a huge strain when you’re pregnant. Not only does it need to keep up with regular maintenance, but it has to process all of the added pregnancy hormones, too. Additionally, the liver and gallbladder are integral parts of the digestive system. When the liver isn’t working well, digestion doesn’t work well, and vice versa. Milk thistle, dandelion root, wild yam root (not for pre-pregnancy), and lemon in water are natural morning sickness remedies recommended for liver support by Shonda Parker in her book, The Naturally Healthy Pregnancy. You can also find these herbs in tea form. Again, talk to your doctor if these would be OK for you.
Other liver support supplements include Beta TCP and ox bile (both great for gallbladder support too), as well as eating liver (whole or in capsule form). You can overdo it on liver though. Don’t eat more than a pound a week at most if you’re eating whole liver. Also be aware that liver is high in vitamin A, so if you are already taking cod liver oil daily, you’ll want to cut your consumption of each by half (1/2 lb. of liver a week, 1/2 Tbs. of cod liver oil a day).
Potatoes – I found that eating potatoes helped with my morning sickness. It may be because they absorb excess stomach acid or maybe because they have alkalizing properties.
Bentonite Clay – Our bodies don’t digest the bentonite clay; it just passes through our GI tract while absorbing excess hormones, bacteria, toxins, etc. that may be sparking the nausea. African women have used it for centuries to fight morning sickness. Be sure to talk to your doctor first, and take it at least 60 minutes away from supplements. A good starting dose for most women would be 1/4–1/2 tsp of bentonite clay in lots of water. You can work your way up to 1 tsp a day, but be aware that starting at this high of a dose may be too much. It may not sound like much, but even just a little bit of clay can soak up a LOT of area. It may be detoxing you, so go slow! Start small and work your way up to be sure it doesn’t bother you.
Acupressure – Pressure points can be an amazing relief for some women who are suffering from morning sickness. There are three great pressure points you can do at home. To practice acupressure, place firm pressure on the chosen point for 2 minutes. If it’s helpful, you can repeat this every 2 hours. Here are some points to try:
- KID 6 – This point is one thumb width below the protruding bone on your foot.
- KID 27 – Feel your collar bone. Use your thumb to notice the depression in the middle of your breastbone. Two thumbs width to either side of that, just below the collar bone is the pressure point.
- PC 6 – Look at your inner wrist. Measure three finger widths from the hand up your wrist. This is the pressure point. This is also the pressure point that is targeted with sea bands. Sea bands can be a no-fuss way of getting acupressure benefits.
Probiotics – Breaking down and fully digesting your food is important for getting adequate nutrition, but it also prevents issues like undigested food lingering in your GI tract, causing gas, inflammation, and even nausea. Probiotics also help balance imbalanced gut flora, which which will lower the burden on your liver (which may help with queasiness too!), help lower overall inflammation in the gut, and help to lower adrenal stress from having to deal with gut inflammation, systemic inflammation, a burdened liver and more. And we know that upwards of 80% of the immune system resides in the gut, so having a healthy GI tract is key to overall health and immunity. Just trust us, probiotics are good! Find one from a reputable company (Klaire Labs and Metagenics just to name a few) with a variety of strains and tens of billions of CFUs (colony-forming units) if possible (you can do up to 50–100 billion CFUs, though this is a therapeutic dose and can be too heavy duty for some!).
This too shall pass…
All in all, morning sickness is usually not the end of the world, and will pass in time. Actually, according to this study, morning sickness may be a good sign that your pregnancy is healthy (though lack of morning sickness doesn’t mean it’s an unhealthy pregnancy!). That’s good news for those days when morning sickness hits the hardest.
How about YOU?
Did (or do) you have morning sickness? Did any natural morning sickness remedies work for you? Share with us in the comments below!