Minimize Morning Sickness


Last night was typical of my struggles with hyperemesis gravidarum, aka the morning sickness from hell. At 3 a.m., I dutifully trod into the kitchen to make the baby's bottle, but by the time we were settled into the rocking chair and she was happily drinking, I had to hurl.

I eyed the garbage can in the corner—could I toss my cookies in there with minimal interruption to my daughter's meal? Should I take her with me to the bathroom and try to hold her in a gentle, comforting manner while puking up my guts? Or should I just ditch her in the crib with a pacifier and make a break for it? I chose option C.

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While 50% to 90% of women experience some nausea and vomiting during their pregnancies, a scant 1% to 2% have bouts so severe that they can't drink water without barfing. During my last pregnancy, I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum when I ended up in the hospital on an IV because I was severely dehydrated.

Judging by my increasing queasiness and sprints to the bathroom during this current pregnancy, I'm going down the same nauseating road again. For others in the same predicament, here are seven tips for minimizing morning sickness:

Next Page: Tip #1: Never eat something that doesn't sound appealing [ pagebreak ] Never eat something that doesn't sound appealing. No matter how much I wanted something yesterday, how nutritious it is, or how eager the face of the person offering it to me—I will throw up anything that I am not specifically craving at that moment.

Find the one liquid that won't come back up. One gulp of juice sends me to bed for hours, and water on its own makes me puke. Last time the only beverage I could stomach was orange Gatorade. This pregnancy it's what I appetizingly call "old tea"—decaffeinated tea that I've steeped for a long time and then let cool. It's bitter and strong, and it's kept me out of the hospital so far.

Steer clear of any conversations about food. And stay out of the grocery store. Standing for an extended period of time while gazing at a thousand nauseating food choices will fell me for the remainder of the day.

Medicine can be your friend. Suspicious of potential side effects, I took no drugs during my first pregnancy, but I wasn't taking care of two children back then. I could stay horizontal and watch Monk for days on end. Last pregnancy, with a 2-year-old running around, I had no choice but to try the antinausea drug Zofran, and it helped. Although the evidence that Zofran is safe for pregnant women is mixed, it takes the edge off the nausea long enough for me to feed my family and get my oldest off to school. There are other remedies for excessive morning sickness, such as Unisom and vitamin B6. Unisom conked me out for 48 hours, and I've found that the vitamin has little effect, although Trader Joe's makes a smart version that dissolves under the tongue (no swallowing), just for gals like me.

Sometimes moving helps. For some reason, certain activities temporarily stop my nausea. Playing the piano, for example. Another is working on challenging math problems, such as our family budget. Driving the car or getting in a swimming pool also seem to make the nausea dissipate temporarily.

Don't freak out about nutrition. Forcing myself to eat something, even a prenatal vitamin, will guarantee it comes back up, making it permanently unappetizing. My cravings have led me on a tour through spinach, beans, sunflower seeds, chicken mole, peanut butter, and similarly nutritious foods. The medical evidence shows that babies born to HG mothers are fine, despite all of the vomiting and aversions.

Give birth. For the next 30 weeks, I will be horrendously uncomfortable and I must be careful to suck down enough liquid to keep me out of the hospital. I can live with that fate, knowing there is a cure.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have something I have to do.