Home Page

E-mail this page   Printable View

Pregnancy and Nutrition

Managing Morning Sickness

Nausea—or “morning sickness,” as it is often called—is very common during the first trimester of pregnancy and can actually occur at any time of the day. 

Morning sickness is caused by the hormonal changes that occur in your body during pregnancy. For some women, the nausea will last throughout pregnancy, but for most, it disappears by the fourth month. For many women, an empty stomach triggers nausea, so it often occurs first thing in the morning.

Some researchers at Cornell University believe that morning sickness may be a way to protect the developing fetus from toxins and pathogens. Their studies found that the foods that most commonly cause nausea are meat, fish, and eggs, as well as strong and bitter–tasting vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts and bitter–tasting drinks such as coffee.1

It’s true that meat, fish, and eggs are more likely to contain pathogens than most other foods. And many toxins have bitter tastes, so an early pregnancy aversion to bitter foods would likely be protective. In societies where meat and animal products are not consumed, morning sickness is nearly nonexistent.1

Whatever the cause, morning sickness still must be managed. Many new moms are concerned that they are not eating enough to nourish their fetus during this important time. Therefore, it is important to find ways to minimize the symptoms of morning sickness and eat healthy foods that do not cause nausea.

Some mothers have success with the following strategies:

  • Avoid an empty stomach. Frequent small meals and nutritious snacks often help stave off nausea.
  • Keep food near the bed. Try eating a small amount of bland food before getting up in the morning to ward off early morning nausea. Good choices include dry crackers or plain bread.
  • Eat healthy foods that are well tolerated. During the first trimester, many mothers experience aversion to certain foods. Take note of which foods you are comfortable eating and try to use them to plan balanced meals. For additional help, seek out the advice of a nutritionist. On days when you are feeling better, try broadening your choices to include other nutrient–rich foods.
  • Avoid liquids with meals. If you experience nausea from drinking liquids with foods, try separating them by consuming your water or other beverages between meals.

Flaxman SM, Sherman PW. Morning sickness: a mechanism for protecting mother and embryo. Q Rev Biol. 2000;75:113–48.