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How to manage early pregnancy nausea

Nausea and vomiting are frustrating symptoms of pregnancy, but that doesn't mean you have to suffer. Learn more about the causes, and potential treatments for, this common ailment.

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Early pregnancy nausea, or morning sickness, is a common symptom that about 70 percent of pregnant people experience during their first trimester. Nausea and vomiting are early signs of pregnancy that may indicate it’s time to take a pregnancy test—if you haven’t already done so.

If you want to have an abortion and are up to 10 weeks pregnant, Hey Jane offers virtual abortion care to help you navigate the process. You can speak with one of our licensed clinicians via text or a quick phone call, have abortion pills and comfort treatments (like anti-nausea medicine) delivered within days, and complete treatment from the comfort of your home.

No matter what your next step is, you don’t have to continue suffering through morning sickness as there are a few methods you can try to feel better. Continue reading to learn how you can manage early pregnancy nausea. 

What causes early pregnancy nausea?

The exact cause of early pregnancy nausea isn't known, but many providers point to changes in hormones as the most likely cause. Hormonal changes, such as the increase of the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), may affect your digestive system, leading to nausea and vomiting.

Other possible causes of early pregnancy nausea include:

  • Low blood sugar or blood glucose
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Changes in metabolism (the process that turns food into energy to fuel your body)

Your morning sickness might worsen from things like:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Being very tired
  • Eating or smelling certain foods
  • Motion sickness
  • Heat or warm weather

Managing early pregnancy nausea symptoms

If you’re dealing with early pregnancy nausea, you likely want immediate relief from your symptoms.

Here are tips to manage, and potentially prevent, morning sickness during your pregnancy:

1. Make adjustments to your dietary habits

You may be able to reduce early pregnancy nausea symptoms by making a few changes to your diet and lifestyle habits. While these may work for many people, listen to your body to see what sounds good to you! If the thought of even bland food makes you queasy, skip it! If a food you usually enjoy sounds good to you (tacos maybe?) then it's okay to eat.

Tips to reduce nausea during pregnancy:

  • Eat bland foods like bananas, dry toast, crackers, applesauce, or Jell-O
  • Eat foods high in protein and complex carbohydrates like nuts, seeded crackers, yogurt, or cottage cheese
  • Stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids such as lots of water, ginger ale, ginger tea, or broth
  • Snack on a few crackers first thing in the morning to settle your stomach
  • Opt for smaller, more frequent meals instead of three large meals
Table explaining tips to help nausea such as eating bland foods, high protein foods, hydrating, and trying new snacking habits.

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2. Try acupressure wristbands or acupuncture

Acupressure is a type of Traditional Chinese medicine that involves applying pressure on an area of your body using fingers or a device to improve symptoms. Research suggests acupressure can treat nausea, vomiting, and other stomach problems. Acupressure wristbands, which are typically available at most grocery stores and pharmacies, have a button that presses on a specific acupressure point on the wrist to relieve nausea and vomiting. You can also order them online at retailers like Amazon.Acupuncture is another science-backed way to treat nausea and vomiting in pregnancy with few side effects. Your local acupuncturist may be able to provide a lot of relief.

3. Take ginger

Ginger is seen as the gold standard for relieving nausea—and it’s for a good reason. This herb contains antiemetic medicinal properties, meaning that it’s effective against nausea and vomiting. Ginger is available in candy, tea, and ginger ale, and supplements or you can consume it raw. 

4. Smell rubbing alcohol

A quick trick for managing early pregnancy nausea is to smell rubbing alcohol. According to research, rubbing alcohol, also known as isopropyl alcohol, may treat nausea within four minutes of inhaling it. You can put a drop or two of rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball or pad and take a few whiffs for quick relief. Since you likely already have these products at home, this method could save you a trip to the store. 

5. Try supplements or prescription medications

If all else fails, or you’re not a fan of home remedies, you can try over-the-counter or prescription options. Vitamin B6 is a go-to for pregnant people dealing with morning sickness. Available over-the-counter or as a prescription, a typical dose of vitamin B6 for nausea relief is 10 to 25 milligrams (mg) three times a day.Make sure you don’t exceed the recommended amount of vitamin B6, as excess intake may cause nerve damage, skin defects or lesions, light sensitivity, dizziness, and, coincidentally, nausea in long-term dosages above 250 mg/day. Your healthcare provider will advise you on vitamin B6 dosage during pregnancy.Another option to consider is medication with doxylamine which is available over-the-counter under the brand name Unisom or with a prescription for Diclegis (a combination of Unisom and vitamin B6). This medicine can treat nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, as well as allergies and insomnia. It’s important to note that this treatment doesn't work on demand and is most effective when taken regularly to keep symptoms of nausea and vomiting at bay.

When does pregnancy nausea end?

Morning sickness typically gets better around the end of the first trimester, around 12 to 14 weeks into a pregnancy, but can last longer. 

If you’re having an abortion, morning sickness is usually the first symptom that goes away (typically within a day or two after treatment). If using abortion pills, you may experience nausea during treatment—especially if you’ve already been feeling nauseous during the pregnancy. At Hey Jane, we include ondansetron, a prescription-strength anti-nausea medicine, in your shipment to help. 

Sometimes, early pregnancy nausea may become serious—possibly leading to hyperemesis gravidarum. This severe form of morning sickness causes nausea that lasts for several hours a day and can cause vomiting more than four times a day. This condition may also cause dehydration and weight loss. If you suspect you have hyperemesis gravidarum, it’s best to seek medical attention ASAP. A health care provider can evaluate you to see if you have the condition and provide treatment if necessary. 

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Written by

Taneia Surles, MPH

Taneia Surles, MPH, is a freelance writer, editor, and public health professional specializing in sexual health and wellness. She has bylines in Health, Healthline, mindbodygreen, and Well + Good.

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