Morning sickness is no fun, and it can make the first few months of pregnancy pretty wretched.  The good news is, that for most women who experience some nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy, it starts to go away in the third month and is a distant memory a month later.  There is a severe form of morning sickness called “hyperemesis gravidarum” which causes weight loss, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalance – serious problems which require immediate attention from your midwife or obstetrician.  It may be necessary to use intravenous hydration and strong drugs to combat this extreme morning sickness – sometimes in the hospital – but this is rare.

For the more common morning sickness, there are a number of safe and effective remedies. Among them are acupressure, herbal medicines, and homeopathy. Acupressure has been shown in a randomized, placebo-controlled study to control nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (Journal of Reproductive Medicine 46:9, September 2001). The point at which to exert the pressure is three of the woman’s finger widths above the transverse crease of the inner wrist, directly between the two tendons felt here (the tendons of palmaris longus and flexor carpi radialis.) You can apply the pressure for a short period of time with your fingers; a positive effect is usually felt within five minutes. You can also buy a wrist band to apply continual pressure to this point. It is called a BioBand or Sea Band; you can buy BioBands or Sea-Bands at travel stores and some pharmacies. Alternately, you can make your own. Form a wrist band with Elastic, and sew onto it a rounded button. Take care that when in place there is firm, but not uncomfortable pressure exerted on the point. For more information on acupressure and acupuncture in pregnancy, visit the web site of Debra Betts, an acupuncturist from New South Wales in Australia.



Herbs that are useful for nausea include ginger, raspberry leaf, and peppermint or spearmint. All of these can be taken in teas. Ginger is also available as a candy, as crystallized ginger-root, as a condiment for food, and as ginger-ale. Sip small amounts of these teas, hot, cold, at room temperature – whichever appeals to you the most – at frequent intervals. Keep some ginger candy by the bedside and suck on it when you first wake up.

Homeopathic remedies may work even when nothing else does. Homeopaths suggest starting with remedies labeled 6c, and take these every two to eight hours as needed. If the remedy hasn’t helped by the third dose, it’s probably the wrong remedy. Here are a few to try: for nausea later in the day accompanied by intolerance to heat and a dry mouth, try pulsatilla, a remedy derived from the windflower. For constant or persistent nausea and vomiting accompanied by excessive salivation, try ipecac, derived from the dried root of a South American plant. If these don’t work, ask a homeopathic practitioner for other suggestions. (Adapted from New Choices in Natural Healing for Women, Rodale Press, Inc., 1997; NS, 2/2002).

For severe cases where these remedies aren’t helping, an old prescription drug, formerly called Bendectin, has been re-approved by the FDA after 30 years of possible safety concerns which kept it off the market.  During that time, many midwives, knowing the ingredients of Bendectin, would tell morning-sickness sufferers to try a combination of Vitamin B6 and Unisom tablets or Benadryl.  The trade name for the new formulation in the United States is Diclegis.

According to the Journal Watch from the New English Journal of Medicine, the new approval was based on a randomized trial in which Diclegis outperformed placebo among some 260 pregnant women. In addition, says the FDA, epidemiologic studies show that the drug does not harm the fetus.  The doxylamine succinate component of the drug can cause drowsiness, so women should not drive or perform other activities that require alertness when taking this medication.
For more information about herbs in pregnancy, check the list at the GardenGuide web page, or buy Susun Weed’s book, Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Years, widely available in bookshops and on the internet.
According to an article by Anahad O’Connor in the Health section of the New York Times (Jan 16, 2007), studies have shown that there is a lower rate of miscarriage (about 30% lower) among women who have nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy.  However, researchers have not found any relationship between morning sickness and other pregnancy outcomes, or figured out why it means miscarriage is less likely.

A widespread belief holds that morning sickness can be a sort of blessing in disguise, or at least a favorable sign. Many dismiss this notion as folklore, but studies suggest that the truth is not so clear-cut.

Studies have shown a lower rate of miscarriage among women with nausea and vomiting of any severity during pregnancy. The most recent, published in The International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2006, found that of 7,000 women studied, those who had nausea in the first three months were far less likely to miscarry. That appeared to support a study by the National Institutes of Health that found that women who had morning sickness in the first four months of pregnancy were 30 percent less likely to miscarry.

The reasons are unclear. Increased nausea and vomiting are associated with higher levels of a hormone produced by healthy placental tissue, and one theory suggests that the sickness may help women avoid foods that could harm a developing fetus.

But many women have normal pregnancies with no morning sickness, and many miscarry without getting sick. And many studies have failed to find any relationship between morning sickness and other adverse outcomes, like stillbirth and birth defects.

THE BOTTOM LINE Morning sickness is associated with a lower rate of miscarriage, though it is not necessarily a sign of a healthy pregnancy.