Natural Treatments for Morning Sickness
Most women experience some nausea and vomiting in the morning, during the 1st trimester of pregnancy. Although it is called “morning sickness”, a pregnant woman can experience nausea any time of the day. The precise cause of morning sickness is unclear but doctors suspect it’s due to high levels of the hormone called “human chorionic gonadotropin” (hCG). There are several natural treatments for morning sickness that are both safe and effective.
Ginger is important herb in both Asian cuisine and traditional medicine. The rhizome (i.e. root) is used in herbal medicine to help promote digestion and reduce nausea. In addition, ginger is one most researched natural treatments for morning sickness. Human studies show it relieves mild to moderate symptoms of nausea and vomiting in pregnant1–11.
How does ginger work?
Ginger contains a phytochemical called gingerol that is responsible for it antiemetic effects. It blocks two receptors muscarinic (M3) and serotonin (5-HT3) receptors that are involved in nausea and vomiting12.
How do I take ginger?
- Dried ginger: 1-6 g/day
- Syrup: 1 g/day
- Capsule: 500-1500 mg/day
Find Ginger Products
How safe is ginger?
Ginger was found to be very safe with minimal side-effects10. It may cause mild stomachache, heartburn, sedation, sleepiness and possible arrhythmias4,6,15,18. Moreover, it safe to the developing baby19.
Caution: Ginger roots from Asia are often heavily sprayed and fumigated with fungicides. Spend a little extra and buy the organic rhizomes.
Vitamin B6/ pyridoxine
Vitamin B6, also called pyridoxine, is an essential nutrient that is well established to help with morning sickness. Numerous studies prove Vitamin B6 reduces symptoms of nausea and vomiting during early pregnancy 3–5,7,13.
According to Canadian guidelines, the drug Diclectin is the first-line agent for the treatment morning sickness. Diclectin is a combination of doxylamine (an antiemetic drug) and pyridoxine (Vitamin B6). However current research suggests that Diclectin is no more effective than taking pyridoxine alone14. Vitamin B6 has few side-effects compared to doxylamine that can cause drowsiness, dry mouth poor concentration and memory issues. Therefore, it makes sense that Vitamin B6 should be the first line therapy for morning sickness rather than diclectin.
How does Vitamin B6 work?
Pyridoxal 5′-phosphate (PLP) is the active form of vitamin B6. Numerous enzymes in our body require PLP15,16. However, the precise mechanism of how it helps morning sickness remains unclear.
How do I take vitamin B6?
Find Vitamin B6 Products
How safe is vitamin B6?
Vitamin B6 is considered safe when taken as recommended: it is not associated with malformations, miscarriages or, low birth weight17. Do not exceed recommended dose. Some toxicity, mainly neuropathies, have occurred with high dose Vitamin B6 (100-300 mg/ day). Because diclectin contains vitamin B6, avoid taking additional Vitamin B6 supplement without consulting a naturopathic doctor.
Herbalists use peppermint to alleviate digestive discomfort and nausea. Peppermint can be consumed orally as a tea but most of the research for nausea focuses on the essential oils. Peppermint oil is a highly concentrated form of peppermint and just smelling it can reduce nausea. Aromatherapy using peppermint oil helps reduce several causes of nausea including chemotherapy 18,19 and surgery 20,21 However only one small trial was conducted with peppermint oil for the treatment of morning sickness.22. Because aromatherapy with peppermint oil is an inexpensive, non-invasive and is effective for other types of nausea it is worth trying to see if you benefit from it.
How do I take peppermint oil?
- Add several drops of peppermint oils to a warm wet face cloth.
- Inhale deeply for 5 seconds and then exhale slowly.
- Repeat for several minutes until nausea subsides.
How safe is peppermint oil?
Peppermint, when used as recommended, is considered safe during pregnancy 23,24. Avoiding taking high amounts of peppermint essential oils orally during pregnancy.
Acupuncture is very different than other natural treatments for morning sickness. The acupuncturist inserts fine needles into certain points in the body to move energy called “Chi”. Although it sounds pretty unbelievable, research supports that acupuncture is effective in reducing nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy25–31. Moreover, acupuncture at the following points is effective against a severe form of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum30–33: PC6, UB11, ST37, SP4, KI21.
If you have a needle phobia you may want to consider acupressure. It works on the same principles as acupuncture but rather using needles, pressure is applied to the points. Although some people say it is less effective than acupuncture, acupressure is more convenient for many people. Acupressure helps reduce nausea and vomiting associated with surgery 32,34, radiation therapy35 and chemotherapy 36–41.
How do I find an acupuncturist?
Acupuncture should be performed by someone trained and certified in acupuncture. Seek out a certified acupuncturist or Naturopathic Doctor who practices acupuncture.
How do I perform acupressure?
If you prefer to try acupressure, purchase a Sea-band medical bracelet. It was developed to help people perform acupressure on themselves. One study showed it was effective for morning sickness 42,43.
How safe is Acupuncture/ Acupressure?
No serious adverse events arose when acupuncture was administered during early pregnancy 30. Minor side-effects include bleeding, bruising, and dizziness 44. No safety concerns have been observed with the use of acupressure.
Snack on Soda Crackers
Obstetrician & gynecologists often recommend pregnant women eat frequent meals and snack on soda crackers to reduce the severity of morning sickness 45.
How do I take soda crackers?
- Leave crackers right by your bed and snack on them before you rise to help prevent nausea
Summary of natural treatments for morning sickness
Although morning sickness is annoying, it does not cause any major problems and it will improve after few months. Try one or all the above the natural treatments for morning sickness to see what works for you. Ginger, Vitamin B6, Acupuncture, and aromatherapy are supported by research and very safe. If they don’t make you feel better or you start feeling worse then see a doctor. Some women suffer from a more serious form called hyperemesis gravidarum. If untreated it can lead to complications including dehydration, ketosis, and hypokalemia46. Consult a healthcare practitioner if the vomiting is severe.
Author & Photographer: Matt Gowan, BSc, ND
All images are copyright of Matt Gowan ©2017
Disclaimer: This content is subject to change. The information is intended to inform and educate; it does not replace the medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional. www.nhpassist.com © 2017 NDAssist Inc. and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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