No one enjoys the feeling of nausea, especially during pregnancy.
Unfortunately, nausea and vomiting are some of the most common pregnancy symptoms, mainly during the first trimester (source: Journal of Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology).
Symptoms usually present during the 6th to 8th week of pregnancy, and may continue until week 20.
So-called “morning sickness” can happen at any time, not just in the morning!
Nausea and vomiting are unpleasant and stressful. It is important to remember that severe nausea and vomiting (hyperemesis gravidarum) can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, and should be treated by a physician.
Luckily, this is not common, and only about 3% of women struggle with hyperemesis during pregnancy (source: NHS).
If you have a more mild version of nausea such as typical morning sickness for the first few hours of the day, then there are some proactive steps you can take to eat the type of food that will help you recover.
Foods That Help With Morning Sickness and Nausea
There are foods that you can eat to help prevent nausea and vomiting, and also important foods to eat after vomiting to replace fluids, electrolytes, and calories.
You might have already heard of some of these remedies, so as a bonus we’ve tried to give you tasty ways to incorporate these foods into your prenatal diet.
Plus, there are some outliers you might not know about for effective nausea relief.
Ginger has been used for centuries in alternative medicine and is probably one of the most common treatments for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
There are multiple research studies that show that it can be effective for reducing nausea and vomiting in pregnant women, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy.
One randomized, placebo-controlled trial showed that supplementation with 1000mg of ginger over four days decreased vomiting by over 50% and decreased nausea by almost the same amount (46%) (Source: Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Studies).
The mechanism is not yet known, but it may balance hormones that communicate with the digestive system.
Not only can ginger treat nausea and vomiting, but it can also be used to treat stomach pains and discomfort during pregnancy.
Some ideas on how you can take ginger during pregnancy are:
- Consuming the fresh root – for example, grated over a salad, or on top of a spicy sauce, or as an infusion in hot water (with lemon is great, too!)
- Dried, powdered ginger can be sprinkled onto your breakfast oatmeal, granola, yogurt, or in a breakfast smoothie
- Ginger tea is widely available and is made from extract or dried ginger
- Ginger lollipops and candies are increasingly popular – but watch the added sugar intake
- Ginger ale (the soft drink version) might also work to soothe a nauseated stomach
Although ginger supplements and capsules are widely sold, one important note is that there is no recommended dosage for ginger, as it is considered an alternative medicine.
Some Chinese practitioners recommend a maximum dose of 9000mg per day, but currently, there is no worldwide standard.
The American Pregnancy Association says that high doses of ginger – the type found in supplements rather than in food – may be contraindicated in pregnancy (source: APA).
In addition, if you are on medications during pregnancy, it would be important to talk to your healthcare provider, because ginger could interact with them, causing undesirable side effects (source: NCBI)
In a nutshell, ginger is perfectly fine to take as a nausea-fighting food, but it’s not advisable to take it in higher medicinal or supplement amounts.
Cardamom is a spice common in middle eastern cooking and holiday baking.
It’s also one of the most heavily used treatments for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, especially in India. Cardamom essential oils have been used for thousands of years in alternative medicine.
It’s interesting to note that studies show that cardamom can be inhaled as aromatherapy, in addition to being consumed.
One study showed that 500mg of cardamom powder, ingested prior to meals, significantly reduced nausea and vomiting during pregnancy (source: Science Direct).
Another showed that the smell of cardamom oil helped cancer patients with nausea they had as a result of chemotherapy (source: International Journal of Preventative Medicine).
Cardamom comes in a couple of colors – green and black. Green is the most common, with its bright, fragrant flavor, and black has a more musky. almost menthol quality.
Ways you could use cardamom to fight nausea are:
- Using the seeds (ground or whole) in baking, such as spiced biscuits or cookies. In Scandinavia, cardamom rolls are popular (similar to cinnamon rolls). They’re delicious!
- Cardamom tea is widely available and is safe if consumed in normal food/drink amounts. Always check herbal teas for other ingredients that might be blended in.
- Green cardamom pods can be purchased whole – gently press them to release the seeds from the pod and steep in hot water as an infusion
- Cardamom could even be sprinkled into oats or porridge to help fill the stomach and calm nausea during pregnancy.
- As mentioned, inhaling the aroma of cardamom oil may be beneficial – but avoid consuming the oil or extract, as cardamom is only safe in food amounts as an ingredient. Oils are far more concentrated.
As with ginger, there is no recommended or standard dosage for cardamom.
Cardamom should only be taken in culinary / food amounts to be safe during pregnancy and should be avoided in supplement or medicinal form (source: WebMD).
Eating lemons or inhaling lemon essential oil during pregnancy may help to reduce nausea and vomiting.
Most studies show that aromatherapy using lemon is effective, but it wouldn’t hurt to incorporate it into your diet, especially with a drop or two of lemon extract or slices in your water (source: PMC).
The best part about lemon is that it does not have any interactions with medication and no contraindications for pregnancy. In fact – many women crave citrus, and we wrote all about that here.
The zest (skin) of the lemon contains many of the important oils and compounds that can help to reduce pregnancy nausea.
Some ways pregnant women can use lemon to fight nausea are:
- Steeping whole lemons in water to make a fragrant tea or infusion would be one easy way to incorporate lemon into your diet. Just be sure to give the skins a good wash, first. We have a guide to washing fruit right here.
- Lemon zest (ideally from unwaxed, washed lemons) could be added to yogurt, ice cream, or frozen yogurt for a delicious, citrusy topping
- The zest, cut into strips could also be candied or made into lemon curd, a delicious spread for scones, biscuits, or bread. Look for ‘unwaxed’ lemons and wash them well.
There is no standard dose for lemon during pregnancy, and eating it after vomiting may be hard on the stomach, as it does have high acidity.
According to an article in Clinical Aromatherapy, peppermint has been a nausea treatment of choice for hundreds of years (Source: Clinical Aromatherapy).
Peppermint is a hybrid from the mint family, and the leaves, stems, and flowers of the plant are safe for consumption.
However, many other plants look like peppermint, so be sure you know its origin if picking it or using the plant yourself.
During pregnancy, peppermint can be ingested to help reduce nausea and vomiting.
Consuming peppermint essential oil during pregnancy is not recommended, though, because it can enter the placenta.
Peppermint works by relaxing the stomach and esophagus, but this might actually make post-emesis reflux worse; in that case, peppermint might work better as a preventative treatment instead of after vomiting (source: Integrative Medicine, 4th ed.)
The recommended dose for ingesting peppermint is two to three cups daily if consumed in a tea (source: Science Direct).
Other ways to consume peppermint are:
- To chew peppermint gum or suck on peppermint candy when you feel nauseous
- Using a mint syrup to flavor sparkling water
- Alternatively, you can steep whole mint leaves in tea, or leave the water to cool for a refreshing infusion. Just wash the leaves first.
- Fresh chopped mint, after being thoroughly washed, can be sprinkled on some Persian-style foods like tagine or Moroccan casseroles
- Mint sauce is popular with pies or meats in the UK, so you could try that out too
- There’s always the virgin Mojito non-alcoholic cocktail, too!
It’s also important to note that peppermint is “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA (source: FDA) though it should still be consumed in food amounts rather than larger, medicinal doses (source: WebMD).
This might seem like a strange one, but hear us out!
During pregnancy, nausea and vomiting can sometimes be linked back to a Vitamin B6 deficiency (pyridoxine).
Pyridoxine is a water-soluble B vitamin that is responsible for a lot of chemical processes in the body, and deficiency can lead to a variety of problems.
Supplementation with Vitamin B6 during pregnancy has been proven to reduce nausea and vomiting (source: Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine).
Subsequently, it can even be helpful for women experiencing hyperemesis gravidarum – a severe form of chronic vomiting during pregnancy that can lead to serious health complications for you and for your baby.
Since the body is usually able to absorb nutrients from food better than supplementation, what better way to consume Vitamin B6 than through food?
Six ounces of ground turkey contains 1.8mg, which is almost 100% of the DRI for pregnant women (source: My Food Data).
The daily recommendation for pregnant women is around 1.9mg (source: Harvard).
Now, it’s important to know that some of the studies that supplement with Vitamin B6 provide large amounts; for instance, one study provided pregnant women with 80mg of Vitamin B6 each day to reduce nausea and vomiting. This amount of B6 should only be taken under medical supervision.
So, you might not notice a huge difference, but eating ground turkey during pregnancy sure wouldn’t hurt.
You could try ground turkey in several ways:
- Use ground turkey in place of ground beef in a burger or meatballs
- Make a turkey meatloaf for a nutritious, hearty meal, or
- Sprinkle seasoned, cooked ground turkey on salads, soups or in stews
There are limited studies on consuming pomegranate during pregnancy for nausea relief, but the research that is out there is promising.
Pomegranate is high in antioxidants and can help to reduce placental oxidative stress, promoting optimal health for your baby.
One study conducted in Dubai found that consuming 5ml of pomegranate syrup (1 teaspoon) with Vitamin B6 reduced the severity of nausea and vomiting by nearly half in pregnant women in just 24 hours (source: Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal)
This means that consuming pomegranate juice or pomegranate arils (the edible seeds in the middle) might be beneficial during pregnancy to help reduce nausea and vomiting.
You could try:
- Adding pomegranate juice to a smoothie
- Sprinkling pomegranate seeds on some yogurt or granola for a delicious snack
- Using the seeds to top salads or other meals – for example, they are delicious with some African or Persian dishes like tabbouleh, pilaf or falafel
This one seems a little bit more common and is even recommended by the American Pregnancy Association as one of the best ways to beat nausea.
Plain crackers (like saltines, soda crackers, or oyster crackers) are made with only a few ingredients, and tend to be very bland (which isn’t a bad thing!)
Crackers are easily digestible and can be eaten throughout the day.
Nausea is more often caused by an empty stomach, combined with your altered hormones.
Therefore eating a few crackers throughout the day is a great way to keep your stomach feeling satiated and can prevent nausea (source: American Pregnancy Association).
High Carbohydrate Foods
“High carb” is more of a general group of foods, but they all have a few common characteristics; they are starchy, bland, filling, and easily digestible.
Any and all of these foods have been suggested to help combat nausea during pregnancy (source: Virginia Center for Women).
Some common foods included in this list are toast, bagels, plain pasta, potatoes, rice, grits, oatmeal, porridge, and dry cereal.
One way to up the nutritional value of a high carbohydrate food is by pairing it with a little bit of protein or fat (just a little bit; too much fat could make nausea worse).
Be wary of sugar content too, as some high-carb foods can also be high in added sugars.
Some simple ideas include:
- Toast with a peanut butter spread
- Cream cheese thinly spread on a bagel, or
- A bit of cheese with grits or porridge for a savory breakfast
This is also a general category, but the crucial thing to remember is that fluid is very important during pregnancy.
Fluid needs do increase during pregnancy; an NHANES study recommended that fluid needs during pregnancy range between 3000-3800ml/day for women in the US and Canada (source: NHANES).
In Australia and NZ, the recommendation is to increase fluid by 700ml/day,
In Europe, the recommendation is to increase fluid by 300ml/day.
No matter where you live, it’s important to drink adequate fluids throughout your pregnancy.
In order to meet these fluid needs, drinking one cup of water per hour is a great goal.
Combatting nausea by drinking a cool liquid might prove to be very beneficial, and some studies show that cool liquids might even work better than warm liquids.
Also, drinking small amounts of liquids between meals can help to prevent dehydration and combat nausea (source: Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health).
For more ideas on this, you can check our article on ten drinks you can enjoy when you’re pregnant, besides water.
It might also help to try avoiding large amounts of fluid during meals, as it can overload the stomach.
What To Eat After Vomiting During Pregnancy
Sometimes it just happens. You try everything, but vomiting during pregnancy can just be plain unavoidable.
It might be caused by a smell, a taste, or no particular trigger.
So, what should you eat after you vomit?
Broth or Soup
Vomiting depletes your body of water and some nutrients.
Prolonged vomiting can cause electrolyte imbalance, and should never be taken lightly.
After vomiting, it’s critical to replace those fluids and electrolytes that are lost; specifically sodium, potassium, and magnesium (source: PMC).
A great way to do this is by consuming a brothy soup. Alternatively, you could add water to your favorite soup flavor and thin it out a bit.
Chicken soup is common, and consuming a soup without a lot of added fat, spices, or flavors might be the most effective way to replace nutrients lost after vomiting.
One study found that taking chicken noodle soup before exercise had a positive effect on water retention (source: Human Kinetics Journal) and may therefore also be of help after throwing up during pregnancy.
Bananas, rice, apples (usually as a sauce), and toast (or BRAT for short) are the four main foods in the BRAT diet.
This is not a long-term diet and should only be used for 1-3 days. However it can be a good way to replenish nutrients immediately after nausea and vomiting during pregnancy (source: Oregon Clinic).
The carbohydrates in these foods are easily digestible and can help to give you energy.
Bananas are a great source of potassium, which is lost during periods of prolonged vomiting (source: PLOS One Journal).
They are also all low in acid, meaning that they won’t cause a lot of heartburn after you vomit.
Vomiting causes rapid loss of fluid and electrolytes, and although food can replace some of what’s lost, a beverage containing electrolytes can be very helpful.
Electrolyte imbalance, in addition to dehydration, can lead to harmful side effects for you and for your baby, so proper hydration and rehydration is crucial during (and after) pregnancy (source: Journal of Obstetric and Gynecologic Nephrology).
Many of the popular “electrolyte” drinks like sports drinks do contain electrolytes, but they also have other additives like flavourings, colorings and sugars. However, some women find that they offer some relief.
For more on this, you can read our guide to sports drinks during pregnancy, which includes popular brands like Gatorade and Powerade.
The other option is electrolyte replacement with a powder or solution. Often referred to as “oral rehydration salts” (ORS). There are many brands on the market.
These solutions are a combination of carbohydrates, sodium, potassium, and magnesium, and can be mixed with water or may already come in a beverage form.
The most important thing to remember is that excess added sugar and filler is not ideal; it gives your body “empty calories” and does not offer nutritional value.
Small amounts of added sugars are OK, though, as they can help to give you back the carbohydrates that you need.
Some ORS have even been formulated based on the standards of the World Health Organization, and have been proven as effective methods for rehydration and dehydration prevention.
One such example is Drip Drop, sold on Amazon, though there are many of them available.
Overall, nausea and vomiting are never pleasant but are often common during pregnancy.
Many foods can be consumed during and after to help combat the symptoms and calm the stomach.
Eating small, frequent meals, consuming liquids all throughout the day, and incorporating as many of these items as possible is a great way to give your body what it needs for a healthy pregnancy!