Suggestions for dealing with severe morning sickness (preg ment)

I thought it might be helpful for some other folks out there in Internetland to note what things seems to be working for me to help with severe morning sickness. Everyone reacts individually, so you have to do some experimentation to see what will work for you, but maybe some of the stuff that worked for me would work for you.  But first, let’s talk about when you might need some professional help with your morning sickness.

When should I seek help from my doctor about my morning sickness?
We all know that morning sickness is a normal part of pregnancy.  This makes it hard to recognize when it might be so bad that you should really be talking to your doctor about it.  I was paranoid in the beginning that I just was wimpy, not that there was really anything wrong.   But here are the major things I noticed that turned out to be warning flags that this was not just regular morning sickness.  I would think that any of these signs should be enough for you to go talk to your RE or OB about whether you might be suffering from hyperemesis (severe morning sickness):

  1. Severe vomiting and/or nausea that makes it impossible to take in enough fluids (64 oz. or 2 liters/day, minimum).
  2. Loss of 5 or more pounds of weight.
  3. Nausea/vomiting interfering substantially in completing routine everyday tasks such as showering or going to work.
  4. Walking becoming difficult.  In my case, Mr. Nishkanu kept asking me “what’s wrong with you, did you hurt your leg?”.  I would answer “I am too tired to lift my feet.”  Mr. Nishkanu was sure this was psychosomatic but it turns out to be one of the symptoms of hyperemesis.
  5. Extreme exhaustion, difficulty getting out of bed or off the sofa to engage in any everyday activities.
  6. Looking white as a sheet.

The ‘standard’ signs for hyperemesis include vomiting up to 50 times per day, and inability to keep down any food or liquid for 24 hours.  I did not have those standard signs – I did not vomit that much (usually not more than 5 times per day) and I could always keep some food or liquid down – but it was by no means enough, which blood tests confirmed.   So in general I would say that if the nausea seems to be much more difficult to handle than you had expected pre-pregnancy, it is always a good idea to talk to your OB or RE and tell them about your problems.  You do not have to struggle through just because “it happens to everyone.”

My doctor didn’t take my morning sickness seriously, does that mean I am just imagining things?

At the least, your doctor should ask you how much weight you have lost, test your urine for ketones (substances that are excreted when your body is living off your stored fat and muscle instead of from the food you eat), and test your blood for dehydration.  If your doctor dismissed your concerns without checking whether the situation is in fact serious, you should get a second opinion.  It is unfortunately common for doctors to not take hyperemesis seriously.  That doesn’t mean it’s not a problem.

What helps with morning sickness?

Here are the things that are helping me the most with my morning sickness:

  1. An understanding partner who pitches in with everything in the household I can’t do without complaining.  A sweetie like Mr. Nishkanu is a gem indeed.
  2. A sympathetic doctor who takes my illness seriously and got me help when I really, really, really needed it.
  3. Meds.  I didn’t like the idea of taking meds during pregnancy but when my nausea/vomiting got to the point where I couldn’t get adequate nutrients/fluids, I definitely needed them.  My baby needs me to be hydrated, at the least.  Without the meds, I would have to stay in the hospital on an IV for weeks on end.  Thank god for the meds.  The ones I’m on don’t really reduce my nausea that much but they make the difference so that some food and water stays down.  The ones I’m not on actually give me a real appetite and take my nausea totally away, even at the kiddie dose level – what a fantasy that is.  Unfortunately they also slow my heart down dangerously, so I’ll stick with the ones I’m on, thank you.
  4. Focus on getting the fluids in.  The best thing a pregnant person can do is eat a broad, varied, healthy diet.  If you can’t do that, just focus on getting enough calories in.  And if you can’t do that, forget about food and focus on getting in at least 64 oz./2 liters of fluid a day.  You can live for a couple weeks without eating, you cannot live for long without fluids.  Your little one will not starve if you are not eating, but it will have problems if you get dehydrated.  In my case, I was trying desperately to get calories in before I went into the hospital, but was still losing 1 pound per day.  After I got out, I just focused on fluids, and my weight stayed stable as long as I got the 2 liters in, even if I hadn’t eaten much of anything.
  5. Preggie pops.  They are ludicrously overpriced and unavailable in the country where I live, but my brother brought me some as a present when he came to visit.  And what a present that was.   Each preggie pop = 20 minutes of comfort.  And knowing I could get comfort when I really couldn’t take it anymore was a lifesaver.  I don’t leave the house without them any more, and it has saved me from several otherwise embarrassing public puking moments.
  6. Breakfast in bed.  You will read on pregnancy websites that a good tip against morning sickness is to eat a couple of crackers in bed before you get up.  I would do that, the crackers would go down, I would feel all right, then I would get up and massive nausea would ensue.  After a while I figured out that if I just stayed in bed longer, I could postpone the massive nausea part.  I switched to eating my entire breakfast in bed, and then lying there for another half hour or so at least before getting up.  This really helps me to get some more food/liquids in.  The understanding partner who is willing to bring you your breakfast is a major plus here.
  7. Showering.  This may sound strange to those of you who know that taking a shower is my major athletic challenge of the day, but I find that when I am really nauseous and/or really stressed about the morning sickness, it helps a lot to get in the shower, lie down on the bottom or sit down and lean on my knees, and let the shower spray down on me.  Somehow the feeling of the shower water pounding against my skin distracts me from the nausea and gets me into a meditative, relaxed state.  For a while this was the only thing I could do that would give me any physical comfort whatsoever.  It’s terrible for the environment, I know, but I regularly spend a good 20-30 minutes in the shower before I go to bed.  I usually feel a lot better afterwards, although I am also so tired that I have to go straight to sleep.  If I could figure out how to sleep in the shower, I would.
  8. Lying down.  Another tip against morning sickness is to sit up, since supposedly gravity will help you hold the food in your stomach.  I found that 99% of the time, lying down would really help my nausea, whereas sitting up in the worst phases made the nausea go from 0 to 60 within about 10 minutes.  So lie down I did and frequently still do.  Obviously this tip is somewhat incompatible with maintaining most forms of paid employment.
  9. Instant soup.  Mr. Nishkanu found me a local cheap-o brand of all natural, no MSG instant cup of soup which I really like.  Often I found that even if I couldn’t get water or ginger ale down, I could get the instant soup down and often it would actually give me a bit of an appetite for something solid as well.  Instant soup may not be your miracle substance, but it is worth experimenting with different hot and cold liquids to find the thing that makes it the easiest to get your fluids in.
  10. Peppermint.  The favorite home remedy suggested by doctors in this country is ginger in all its forms.  For me, ginger does diddley squat against nausea, but peppermint really helps.  Eating a peppermint tic-tac seems to momentarily overwhelm the nerves that are shouting “Hey lady, get this chow out of here now!” and gets them murmuring “mmm, minty freshness” instead for a while.  Peppermint tea is my best almost-always-stays-down morning beverage.
  11. Eating whatever you are craving at the moment, even if it doesn’t seem particularly digestible.  I am sure that tuna fish sandwiches and french fries with mayo are not on the approved list of foods for people with stomach problems, but when I had strong cravings for them I could really, truly eat them, and eat lots of them, and keep them down.
  12. Recognize that what works will change.  For the first few weeks of morning sickness, my go-to food was pretzels – I could always manage to get a couple down, no matter the situation.  Then one day I opened a new package of pretzels, reached in and…. ew!!  Pretzels had suddenly become a non-food item.  I moved on to animal crackers.  Now I am in the transition phase to toasted white bread.  These shifts annoy Mr. Nishkanu a bit, since our kitchen is getting full of the detritus of food items that used to work but don’t any more.  Today he tried to convince me to eat the rest of the chicken instant soup before buying another flavor.  “You don’t understand!  I can’t eat chicken instant soup anymore!  I have to have mushroom flavour!”  I don’t claim that it’s rational, but whatever my belly is willing to digest, it’s gonna get.  Even if that is totally different from what I could eat yesterday.  Sorry, Mr. Nishkanu!

If you are suffering from severe morning sickness, you have my utmost sympathies.  I hope that some of these tips may help.

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7 Comments »

  1. Liv said

    Very good post, and great information. You might not see this but I am currently giving Mr. Nishkanu a high five for being your buddy through this. He is a gem in-deed.

    Thanks for your rah-rah cheer on my post. You guys had me laughing this morning!

  2. I think this is the best info I’ve seen on this.

  3. Ana said

    Thank you, not just for these tips, but for sharing your experience. I was spending a lot of time feeling guilty and inadequate that I couldn’t keep up with EVERYTHING the way a lot of my pregnant friends & co-workers seem to, but its nice to know that everyone is different, and I’m not the only one totally knocked off my feet by this horrible sickness! (and i’m only in my seventh week….aaaack!)

  4. Cindy said

    You hit the nail right on the head. Everything you explain is so true it sounds like you are telling my story for me. I am felling so terrible day in and day out.

    • nishkanu said

      Ah, my heart just goes out to you. I am so sorry you are going through this. I think it is very hard for people who haven’t been there to understand how difficult it is. I hope things get better for you soon.

  5. Dionna said

    The top three items of my choice that stay down better than anything else was at first apple sauce now some days when I have to much stomach acid I throw that up but usually I don’t. My second is saltine crackers but they have to be a good brand so they don’t taste like hellium. And thirdly one that I have not thrown up and can eat all day is mashed potatoes and gravy for some reason that helps so much and it stays down and hits the spot

  6. kaylee said

    Hello! Everything that you went through with morning sickness is exactly how I’m feeling. I am suffering from severe morning sickness. I cannot keep anything down at all. I had to go to the ER lastnight bc of this. I couldn’t keep anything down all day and began throwing up stomach acid & bile! Very gross! I cannot sleep. I even throw up ice chips. 😦 I’m about 8 weeks along so hopefully the morning sickness will subside eventually. It is definitely worse than any stomach flu I have ever had and almost unbearable. I tried eating crackers, pretzs, ice, pudding, popsicles, etc. Nothing will stay down. Showers do make me feel a little better until I stand up straight. I’m very hungry but nausous at the same time which makes it very difficult to eat. It’s like a vicious cycle. Working is very hard. Especially since I clean houses so the cleaning chemicals often makes me want to throw up. Sometimes I wake up to very intense butterflies in my stomach tht I can’t make go away no matter how much I try to relax. These butterflies often leads me to throwing up. This is my first pregnancy. I can very much relate to your story. But some things just don’t work for me. Almost nothing works for me. The only time I felt good was last night at the ER when they hooked me to an ivy and gave me fluids & nausea med. Any other advice you can give me would be very much appreciated. Thanks , kaylee

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