Most women experience morning sickness at some stage during pregnancy. What are the safe natural remedies to ease the symptoms of this common but sometimes debilitating condition?
Morning sickness, or the loss of appetite, nausea and sometimes vomiting that usually marks the first trimester of pregnancy, is no joke for those who suffer from it. And for those women who feel sick into the afternoon and evening, and even on into the second and sometimes even the third trimesters, it can be a nightmare.
Although health experts aren’t exactly sure what causes it, it’s generally believed that hormonal changes in pregnancy are responsible for the condition. Low blood sugar counts and an increased sensitivity to smell may also be contributing factors.
“Fifty to 90 percent of pregnant women experience some form of morning sickness, from mild to moderate and severe,” says East London gynaecologist Dr Kudakwashe Chimusoro. But the news isn’t all bad.
“Morning sickness is generally thought to stop the mother from eating potentially harmful foods during the delicate time when the early foetus’ organs are forming, which in turn reduces the risk of congenital or birth abnormalities,” says Dr Chimusoro, and adds, “There’s a better pregnancy outcome when there’s been [morning sickness].” And for most women, the symptoms ease off or disappear completely after 12 to 14 weeks.
That’s all very well, but what can those women who begin each day hanging over the loo do to ease the symptoms? “Eat whatever makes you feel good and avoid odours that trigger nausea,” advises Gauteng dietician Maryke Oberholzer.
“Bland foods like crackers, rice cakes, plain baked potatoes, plain toast, pretzels, plain cereal and plain popcorn all work well, as do plain vegetables and fruit.” “Eating frequent small meals instead of fewer large meals should also help,” adds Dr Chimusoro.
Foods that may ease the symptoms
Even if eating is the last thing you feel like doing, you have to get food into your stomach. “Foods rich in vitamin B6 and magnesium, such as wholegrains, meats, nuts and leafy green vegetables, may help reduce the symptoms,” says Maryke.
Although some pregnant women can’t bear the smell of cabbage cooking, cabbage in any form – including raw – can soothe the stomach and relieve nausea. (It does cause flatulence, though.) Dr Chimusoro suggests toast with bitter jams like marmalade, and black rooibos tea with rusks.
“Every pregnancy is unique, and not all morning sickness remedies will work for you, but there are a few natural remedies that may help to ease the symptoms,” says Maryke.
- GINGER in almost any form is widely known as a stomach soother – try sipping a ginger ale or ginger tea, nibbling ginger biscuits, or having ginger jam on toast.
- Drink LEMON or PEPPERMINT tea.
- Inhale the scent of lemon peel or fresh ROSEMARY.
- Suck MINTS or chew gum (but avoid peppermint if you have heartburn).
- Suck ICE CUBES made from water or fruit juice.
- Chew FENNEL seeds after meals or drink fennel tea.
When to seek help
If no home remedy works, ask your doctor for help. “Pyridoxine, which is a form of vitamin B6, works in some women, and there’s a safe range of medication available for use under clinician’s supervision,” says Dr Chimusoro.
In rare cases, the nausea and vomiting can be so bad that it causes excessive weight loss and dehydration, which can be harmful to both mother and baby. This is when you need to see your medical practitioner urgently.
“There are other causes that need to be looked out for in the very ill, in those who’re severely dehydrated, and in women with persistent and severe cases of morning sickness,” says Dr Chimusoro.
“It could be a bladder infection, a bowel infection such as appendicitis, an ear infection, a thyroid or liver disease, or a sign of an abnormal pregnancy.”