I’m going to cut to the chase: Morning sickness sucks. I work with so many women who contact me early in their pregnancy, excited about the journey ahead but miserable at the hands of that horrible nausea that often occupies the first trimester. With women wanting to avoid medical intervention wherever possible, I’m often asked for natural remedies for morning sickness, and I thought I’d share what I’ve come up with.
Despite its name, morning sickness can strike at any time of day, and it’s sometimes just the constant nagging of nausea rather than anything productive. Although it can be totally miserable, remember that this is the manifestation of your body and hormones adapting to pregnancy, and it’s likely to lessen (or hopefully disappear!) after the first 12 weeks or so. Whilst some women report no nausea, around 80% do, so for a start you’re not alone! Of these women, severity of sickness varies from moments of nausea to full on hyperemesis gravidarum (HD) which requires specialist treatment that I won’t be talking about here.
So if you’ve just found out that you’re expecting and you’re feeling a bit ropey, be pro-active early and start implementing some of these natural remedies to make those first few months as comfortable, enjoyable, and sick-free as possible!
When I teach hypnobirthing, I talk a lot about negative emotional cycles and adrenaline (fear-tension-pain), so I was really interested to read how our stressor hormone – cortisol – is linked to nausea in its very own cycle. One of the main functions of cortisol is to increase blood sugar and when we’re producing excess cortisol due to stress or low energy levels, it responds by taking your blood sugar through huge spikes and crashes, which then results in fatigue and nausea, feeding straight back in to the feeling of stress. So we feel sick as the body adjusts to pregnancy, the sickness makes us stressed and fatigued, our cortisol levels creep up and create more feelings of nausea and stress.
Now normally, magnesium balances our cortisol levels by filtering excess levels from our blood stream. Sometimes though, the hormones we produce when we’re pregnant inhibit our ability to absorb magnesium efficiently, so the high cortisol levels remain in our blood and and this then triggers the vicious cycle I’ve just explained above.
To combat this you can up your magnesium intake before you conceive, or if it’s too late for that, add magnesium to your daily routine now that you’re pregnant. Ideally you want to use a magnesium spray like this one, as oral absorption remains difficult in pregnancy. Simply apply 5-10 sprays in the morning and evening and rub into the skin. Alternatively you could use magnesium flakes like this to make a bath or foot soak, and if you do want to opt for an oral dose too, something like this Super Nutrient Pregnancy Supplement could be a good bet.
Not just for motion-sick coach-trip fanatics, these snazzy travel bands can actually help with morning sickness and nausea symptoms. They work using acupressure points on the wrist by restoring the balance of negative (Yin) and positive (Yang) ions in the body. You simply pop a band on each wrist with the button placed face downwards over the Nei Kuan point. To find the Nei Kuan point (it’s important that you do), place your middle three fingers on the inside of each wrist with the edge of the third finger on the first wrist crease. The correct point is just under the edge of your index finger between the two central tendons. With no negative side effects, it’s probably worth a shot if you ask me, and quite handy to keep hold of if your child goes on to develop travel sickness.
I’ve worked with lots of mums who’ve used acupuncture, acupressure and reflexology to help ease the symptoms of fatigue and nausea in early pregnancy. Make sure you find a therapist who is qualified and insured in maternity treatments (check out my team page if you’re London-based) and you’ll definitely enjoy the relaxing benefits of these treatments, hopefully alongside an ease in your sickness and fatigue. Reflexology in particular will help to stimulate the pancreas reflex to help balance your blood sugar and reduce those pesky cortisol spikes mentioned above.
Peppermint is very safe to use in pregnancy, and has a calming and numbing effect which instantly relaxes your stomach muscles. I absolutely love Pukka’s Three Mint tea – it’s sweet and refreshing rather than bitter and makes a great alternative to caffeine during pregnancy. If you’re not a fan of drinking it, you could use the essential oil by burning it around the house, adding a few drops to a bath, or inhaling from a handkerchief that you keep on you throughout the day.
If you’re not a peppermint fan, lemon is an effective alternative, and a good tip I came across was to keep some lemon wedges cut up in the freezer, and then pull one out to nibble on whenever nausea calls.
Another great natural remedy for morning sickness and nausea is simple ginger. Ginger has long been used for stomach related discomfort and again, is a very safe option for pregnancy. You’ve probably thought about drinking it in tea form (handy to keep at work and as a replacement for caffeine) or nibbling ginger biscuit, but my favourite idea is to knock up some candied ginger. Not only will it help keep your blood sugar levels up when you may not feel like eating much, but it tastes delicious and feels like a bit of a treat! The Daring Gourmet has a great recipe over here. You could keep a little pot in your handbag so that you always have a tasty remedy with you that you can call on at a moment’s notice.
With all we know about the link between cortisol levels and symptoms of nausea and fatigue, it makes sense to me that relaxation plays a big part in feeling well in early pregnancy. Because you won’t look pregnant at this point, it’s very easy to forget about all the hard work going on in your body behind the scenes. Add to the mix that you probably haven’t told many people your news, it’s tempting to just carry on as normal, but that can be at the cost of your emotional and physical wellbeing. If you’re pushing yourself too hard, your stressor hormones will spike (yep, that’s the coritsol again) and remember that this leads to increased feelings of nausea and fatigue. One of the best things you can do to combat this is to listen and respond to your body’s needs. This means getting lots of rest wherever you can (think early nights and weekend naps!) and using a relaxation aid such as my guided relaxation for pregnancy MP3 which will help you to physically and mentally relax on a very deep level, leading to a reduction in cortisol and an enhanced feeling of wellness.
I do hope this has given you some helpful ideas for combating morning sickness and nausea in early pregnancy, and if you have any other tips and tricks that have worked for you, please leave them in the comments below! Remember that your body is working really hard, and it’s essential that you listen and respond to its important messages. You’re going to need to do this for the rest of your pregnancy, and into motherhood, so it’s good to get practicing now.
Culturally we are obsessed with doing, and it’s important to remember that sometimes there’s just as much value in not.