M. Riley is a mother of three children and has written for numerous parenting sites about the joys and struggles of modern-day parenthood.
I have three lovely children, but I hated being pregnant. This is because I puked my guts out for over five months of each pregnancy. I spent less time marveling at the body’s ability to grow another human being than I did marveling at the body’s ability to produce so much vomit on an hourly basis.
What Causes Morning Sickness?
Why was I lucky enough to experience intense morning sickness three times in a row? According to the Mayo Clinic, risk factors for morning sickness include the following:
- Previous nausea when taking estrogen-containing birth control pills
- Morning sickness during a prior pregnancy
- Being pregnant with multiples
- Being pregnant with a girl
- A family history of morning sickness
I didn’t have multiples, despite the protestations of strangers who insisted a belly as large as mine must house more than one baby, but I had every other risk factor. In retrospect, each bout of morning sickness should not have been a surprise, but I held out hope the next pregnancy would be different—that a cure was around the corner. It wasn't.
Seven Morning Sickness Myths
Any pregnancy condition will illicit tons of advice, and I was desperate for relief, so I tried almost everything. Unfortunately, morning sickness has no proven treatments. Anecdotally, some remedies work for some women; however, I was not one of those women.
Since none of the recommendations helped me, I decided to compile a list of morning sickness myths, a cheat sheet for all the well-meaning advice givers who were shocked their particular suggestion wasn’t the cure.
Myth #1: Morning Sickness Goes Away at 12 Weeks
Morning sickness eases by the end of the first trimester for most women, but not always. I clung to this myth with every pregnancy, hopeful I’d find relief on a specific date. My morning sickness laughed at the calendar and continued full speed for an extra two months, and then reappeared at random intervals throughout the rest of the pregnancies. At 16 weeks pregnant, I learned to carry a barf bag in my purse after a neighbor caught me vomiting on his lawn when I couldn’t make it to my house.
Morning sickness has no proven treatments.
Myth #2: Women Can Control Whether They Get Sick
I particularly dislike this myth for obvious reasons. Nausea (other than the sound and splatter of vomiting) is difficult for others to see, so when it continues for weeks and months, some people start to wonder if a woman needs to employ mind over matter.
They think, maybe if you decide to feel better, you’ll start to feel better. This is like saying, you broke your arm and half of the bone is sticking through, but maybe if you decide your arm isn’t broken, the pain will go away.
Personally, some past nausea sufferers expressed empathy for my plight and then mentioned they had been lucky enough to never throw up because they wouldn’t let themselves get sick. I believe they believed this, but I don’t believe this is why they didn’t get sick. If they didn’t spend half the day in front of a toilet, it’s because they didn’t have to, not because they didn’t want to.
Myth #3: Sea Bands or Acupuncture Will Ease Morning Sickness
Sea bands might look cool, but they will not relieve morning sickness. Perhaps minor nausea will benefit from the placebo of acupressure points, but major running to the bathroom sickness is not going to be appeased by gentle pressure on the wrists. This is like trying to fix that broken arm with a band-aid.
As for acupuncture, the evidence is mixed, with most showing acupuncture works better on nausea than no treatment, but just as well as sham acupuncture, which means it’s also likely to be a form of placebo. It has no effect on how much a woman vomits.
As a result, acupuncture might help mild morning sickness, but barely. When I was dehydrated, exhausted, and nauseated, when taking a shower was an accomplishment, driving all over town to sit still for some needles that may or may not temporarily ease symptoms wasn't worth the money or effort.
Myth #4: If All Else Fails, Medication Will Help
For many women, this myth might be true. Antiemetics can help stymie vomiting, but not as often as you would think compared to their uses in other medical situations. Even the gold standard antiemetic Zofran didn’t work for me.
I also tried Unisom, Reglan, and Compazine. Compazine was the only drug to stop the vomiting, but I had a horrible reaction that made me feel crazy. To this day, when filling out medical forms I need to note my adverse reaction to this medication and describe it as “wanted to rip my skin off, think I went crazy.”
Myth #6: Go All Natural With the Vitamins B6 and B12
I really wanted vitamins B6 and B12 to work. I tried different doses over many weeks. Unlike the meds, these vitamins didn’t have obvious side-effects. For a few weeks I thought the vitamins were working, at least a little. Eureka!
However, after forgetting to take them while traveling, I noticed my symptoms weren’t any different without them in my system.
Myth #7: Try Ginger, Peppermint, or Coconut Water
The “consume something” recommendations were the most common. Anyone who heard of my plight would enthusiastically recommend ginger. I tried ginger tea, candied ginger, pickled ginger, ginger snaps, ginger ale, and fresh ginger. Ditto for peppermint variations.
I wanted to try coconut water, supposedly nature’s Gatorade, but I found the taste so repulsive I couldn’t keep it down for more than a minute. To be fair, these items might provide temporary relief for some women, or, in my case, a strange twitch whenever someone utters the word ginger.
What Is a Miserable Pregnant Woman to Do?
Now that I’m years past my morning sickness woes, I’ve become the advice giver. My repeated bouts of morning sickness have become lore in my family, so occasionally I’ll be asked to help a friend of a second cousin twice removed.
I want to say, “That stinks, nothing worked for me.” Recognizing that this advice is unhelpful, I instead suggest the typical conservative treatments that didn't help me: Try ginger, nibble on saltines, sip fizzy drinks, and eat small meals.
However, the most important advice is keep yourself hydrated, get an IV if you need it, get help if you have small children, moan, and wait it out. It can only last as long as you gestate the baby. Thankfully, you have a crying bundle of light at the end of the messy tunnel.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2018 M Riley