Pregnancy Nausea

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Finding a good herbalist

Much of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist or truly holistic practitioner to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program. There's a short write-up to suggest how you might go about finding such a person here

Strategies

At least half of all pregnant women experience significant nausea during their pregnancies. Whilst it is usually described as ‘morning sickness’ many women experience it any time of day or night.

There isn’t really a consensus on what causes morning sickness. The fact that many women feel better when they can keep something down suggests hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) may play a part. At least there does appear to be a general agreement among experts that mild symptoms of nausea and vomiting during the first trimester are predictive of positive pregnancy adjustment and outcome!

You are best to stay away from pretty much all drugs during pregnancy if at all possible but I've always found one or a combination of the following strategies helps so long as you keep them up and don't be too quick to give up if the nausea comes back again!

Ginger

Top of the list is ginger. This well-known herb has a long tradition of being useful in alleviating symptoms of gastrointestinal distress, including the nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. You can read about Ginger in much more detail here.

Ginger’s action has been studied in the most severe form of morning sickness, known as hyperemesis gravidum. This condition can require hospitalisation as the vomiting is so severe and frequent.

In a double-blind trial, Ginger root powder at a dose of 250mg four times per day brought about a significant reduction in both the severity of the nausea and the number of attacks of vomiting in nearly eighty percent of the women studied.

These clinical results, along with the safety of ginger and the relatively small doses of Ginger that are required has seen it becoming accepted and recommended from many obstetrical practices. Given the serious problems associated with anti-vomiting drugs in pregnancy many medical publications today now recommend ginger as a safe and effective treatment for morning sickness.

It is best to find the form of ginger that is most agreeable to you at the moment, for example:

  1. 250mg ginger powder (about 1/6th of a tsp) mixed in a cup of hot water (adding some honey can help), make stronger or weaker as preferred & only take as much as desired.
  2. Fresh ginger, cut up approximately one dsp. Simmer in water for 5 minutes, strain and drink hot. Some extra lemon & honey go well with this preparation. Again take more or less as your body seems to prefer.
  3. Ginger extracts, these would probably be supplied by a herbalist. Extracts provide the most potent form of ginger when needed and only drop doses should be used.

Safety Note:
Don't worry! You may read or hear cautions about using ginger in pregnancy. Please be assured as to its complete safety when used in the kind of dosages described above. The traditional Chinese use of ginger to stimulate menstruation (which is where this concern comes from) involves dosages well over eighty times higher than the levels we use for morning sickness!


Zingiber officinale (Ginger root)

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Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 has been a very popular treatment for morning sickness for many years. This vitamin is extremely important for breaking down and eliminating the increased levels of pregnancy-related hormones that continue to circulate around the body after they have activated their target tissues.

Two well-designed studies in the 1990’s provide good scientific support for this popular recommendation to pregnant women. In the first study, fifty-nine women were randomly assigned to receive either 25mg of vitamin B6 every eight hours or a placebo. After seventy-two hours only eight of thirty-one B6-treated patients still had nausea, compared to negligible changes in the placebo group.

In another double-blind study, 342 pregnant women (less than 17 weeks pregnant) received either a placebo or 30mg of vitamin B6. Patients graded the severity of their nausea and recorded the number of vomiting episodes over the previous twenty-four hours before treatment and again during the five consecutive days of treatment. Compared to the placebo group, there was a significant reduction in nausea and vomiting in those who has the B6. Based on the results of this study, vitamin B6 was recommended by the authors as a first-line treatment for nausea and vomiting of pregnancy.

Vitamin B6 can be readily obtained from food as you can see by the image below. If you will take it as a supplement then dosages should not exceed 60 mg. Many good B-complex and multivitamins will have therapeutic levels of B6 within them (over 25mg) and these are probably healthier than taking a single B vitamin in many cases...

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Raspberry Leaf

Tea made from raspberry leaves has been widely recommended for curbing the nausea of pregnancy. You can read more detail about this fascinating herb here. Raspberry leaf is used for a number of pregnancy related problems, including threatened miscarriage, labour pains and, of course, morning sickness.

Whilst some women quickly grow to like the tea, the leaves are certainly not as nice as the berries! It may help to add some honey or trying the tea with a little pinch of added ginger powder, or a sprig of fresh mint may also make it more palatable.

In the last months of pregnancy, to prepare and strengthen the uterus, Raspberry leaf can be made into a stronger tea into which the juice of an orange is squeezed, this tea ideally taken a couple of times a day.


Rubus idaeus (Raspberry leaf)

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Peppermint

Peppermint owes its medicinal value to menthol, a cooling, and pain-numbing stomach soother. In the medical literature of the nineteenth-century physicians (many who primarily still used herbs back then) recommended menthol vapours for morning sickness. Read more about Peppermint here.

It can be worth trying a few sips of Peppermint tea whilst inhaling the steam to see if nausea and queasiness is relieved. Another way to benefit from peppermint is to use the essential oil, a few drops can usually be rubbed straight onto the stomach, women with sensitive skin might need to first mix the peppermint oil with a little of another carrier oil, such as almond, olive or sunflower oil.


Mentha piperita (Peppermint)

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Let food be your medicine!

A small piece of grapefruit, orange, mandarin or some lemon juice has been reported by many to help relieve morning sickness and enable the stomach to take on some further food after a few minutes.

Dry toast and dry biscuits have also been found to be well tolerated by some women for whom many types of food in the morning are unlikely to stay down.

Perhaps it is the ‘blandness’ of these foods but another explanation is that they help to absorb excess amounts of stomach acids and once the stomach is settled enough to accept some food it is usually much easier to keep normal nutrition happening throughout the day.

Get rest & snacks!

Get plenty of rest. The more nausea in pregnancy you have the more you will be tired. Give yourself permission to rest and relax as much as you need to.

Since nausea typically starts on an empty stomach, eat small, easily digested amounts of food throughout the day. It may help to have some crackers or biscuits beside your bed and to eat something even before you get out of bed in the morning. You also might find that having a snack containing some protein before going to bed helps to reduce the empty stomach/low blood sugar that can trigger the nausea after waking. Good luck to the both of you!

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Constitutional Health Note

Finally, you might benefit from learning about your constitution to know what kind of foods, herbs, exercises etc. will work especially well for your health in general as well as what might potentially help you with the amazing, but sometimes arduous, journey of pregnancy. As it happens the majority of the patients I have personally worked with who have had particularly bad morning sickness have been the damper constitutions, the Tigers, and then to a lesser extent the Bears, but in any case there is a brief introduction to this great subject here and a more detailed section on working out which constitution you are here.

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!

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© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd