How to Avoid Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Three Methods:Making Diet ModificationsMaking Lifestyle ChangesUsing Medication

Hyperemesis gravidarum is a condition where pregnant women deal with extreme nausea and vomiting after their first trimester. While most pregnant women experience nausea and vomiting in their first trimester—this is referred to as morning sickness—if it continues past the first trimester, it is considered hyperemesis gravidarum. The condition can make going about your daily life very challenging and lower your morale. If you are concerned you might develop this condition while you are pregnant, there are ways that you can decrease your chances of this happening through diet change, lifestyle modifications, and medication. Scroll down to Step 1 for more information.

Method 1
Making Diet Modifications

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    Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day, rather than three large meals. When you eat small meals throughout the day, your stomach has to produce less acid to digest the food. Less acid means your stomach is less likely to become irritated, so you are less likely to feel nauseous.[1]
    • Eating a large meal can also distend your abdomen, which can actually trigger feelings of nausea that could lead to vomiting.
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    Eat cold foods because they do not smell as strongly as hot foods. You should generally avoid strong-smelling foods if you are concerned about hyperemesis gravidarum. Cold foods generally have less of an aroma than hot foods, so stick to cold dishes. While this might be frustrating, it is most likely worth it if you want to avoid becoming nauseous.[2]
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    Stick to meals that are bland. Spicy food and oily foods can make your gastrointestinal system produce more acid. This is because the spices and oils from the food agitate the walls of the stomach, causing your stomach and pancreas to secrete more bile. Due to the excess production of these digestive acids, the vomiting center in the brain gets activated and can cause hyperemesis gravidarum.
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    Avoid fatty foods. Fatty foods take a longer time to digest, which means that they slow down your digestive system and can increase the amount of acid your stomach is producing.[3] More acid can mean that you will begin to feel more nauseous. Fatty foods include:
    • Fried foods, animal products like lard, commercially-baked cakes and pastries, vegetable shortening, and margarine.[4]
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    Avoid foods that you know trigger your gag reflex. Some foods have stronger smells than others. Everyone is different, so you will have to keep track of the foods that smell a little too strongly for your taste.[5]
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    Stay hydrated. Nausea can be triggered by thirst and hunger, so it is important to stay hydrated if you are concerned about becoming nauseous. Drink your beverage of choice in small sips as chugging a bunch of water can also make you feel nauseous.[6]
    • If you are bored with water, you can add a small amount of fruit juice to the water to give it some flavor.
    • You can also pour a glass of water ( approx 300ml) and add pinch of salt, lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of sugar for a tart, yet sweet, drink.
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    Drink ginger ale. Ginger helps to combat Hyperemesis gravidarum. It increases the movement of the gastrointestinal symptom and stops the signals to the brain that are responsible for making you feel like vomiting.[7]
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    Make a blended juice that is recommended for pregnant women. This drink provides you with nutrients to keep you healthy. The recipe can be altered if some aspect of the flavor or texture is not to your liking. In a blender, combine:
    • One cup of fresh apple juice, 1 frozen banana, 1 teaspoon of blackstrap molasses, 1 glass of yoghurt, 2 teaspoonfuls of nutritional yeast, 1 tablespoon of protein powder, 1-2 tablespoons of honey, 1 glass of low fat milk, 1 teaspoon of kelp that contains a mixture of minerals, and 3 tablespoons of nuts.[8]
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    Up your intake of vitamin B6. You can take vitamin B6 supplements to potentially decrease your chances of vomiting.[9] Again, it is always best to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.[10]
    • The normal recommended dose is 50 mg a day.
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    Talk to your doctor about taking wild yam root. Talking to a doctor or specialist is always recommended before trying a new herb or making drastic changes to your diet. Wild yam root is thought to affect your estrogen levels and decrease the likelihood that you will feel nauseous. The root contains steroidal saponins that can affect your hormones.[11]
    • The dried herb generally comes in 2 to 4 gram capsules that can be taken daily with one cup of water.

Method 2
Making Lifestyle Changes

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    Avoid anything that triggers your gag reflex. While smell is the largest trigger, simply being in a place where you know the smell was once can make you gag. Even thinking about certain food can make you feel nauseous. Keep track of what makes you feel nauseous and write them down. Avoid these things as much as possible.[12]
    • Smells are not limited to food. They could be the way the subway smells, sprays, chemicals, or stinky feet.
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    Eliminate environmental factors that can trigger nausea. Two common environmental factors that you should avoid if you are concerned about nausea is cigarette smoke and bright lights. Of course, you should avoid cigarette smoke as much as possible because it is not good for your baby when you inhale it, even if it is second hand. Stay away from people who are smoking and ask any family members or friends to avoid smoking near you. Bright lights can trigger nausea and vomiting, so keep the lights in your house dim if you can.[13]
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    Take pills with a lot of food or water. When you take a pill, there is a chance that it will trigger your gag reflex, which in turn can cause you to feel nauseous. You will most likely take a few pills each day to keep your baby healthy.
    • When you take these pills, take them with a gulp of water, or put them in something like yogurt, which can be swallowed without chewing.
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    Avoid things that cause your stress or anxiety. Stress can trigger the vomiting center in the brain, so it is a good idea to stay as stress-free as possible. If you are feeling stressed or anxious, talk to a trusted friend or family member about what you are going through. Often, talking to someone can relieve your stress.[14] You can also stress-free activities like:
    • Yoga.
    • Meditation.
    • Watching a favorite movie.
    • Gardening.
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    Listen to your body and rest when you need to. Working yourself to the bone can make you really tired. When you are exhausted, it is much more likely that you will become nauseous. No one knows your body better than you, so listen to it—take breaks when you need to and don’t be afraid to simply rest when you begin to feel tired.
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    Wear loose clothing. Wearing tight clothing can make it difficult for you to breath. Shortness of breath can cause nausea so it is a good idea to wear loose clothing that is comfortable and will allow you to breathe as deeply as you like.[15]
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    Lose weight before you become pregnant. Weight loss before pregnancy can also reduce the chances of hyperemesis gravidarum. Since high levels of estrogen play a part in hyperemesis gravidarum, it may help to reduce those levels. Women who weigh more generally have higher levels of estrogen, so if you are very concerned about hyperemesis gravidarum, you can try to lose weight before you become pregnant.[16]
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    Create a good exercise routine for yourself before you become pregnant. A healthy mind can lead to a healthy pregnancy. Exercise causes your body to pump out endorphins, chemicals that make you feel happy. When you are happier, you feel less stressed. Stress can actually have an effect on your gastrointestinal system and can cause you to feel nauseous.[17]

Method 3
Using Medication

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    Prevent hyperemesis with a prescription for metoclopramide or ondansetron. Drugs like ondansetron and metoclopramide are used to avoid hyperemesis gravidarum. These drugs are considered 5HT3 receptor blockers. These are the receptors in your body that get activated when your body wants to vomit. These medications block the receptors, thereby keeping your vomit triggers from being activated.[18]
    • Metoclopramide is generally prescribed as 5 to 10 mg taken every eight hours.[19]
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    Talk to your doctor about antiemetic drugs. Antiemetic drugs can decrease feelings of nausea or the desire to vomit. However it is recommended that you talk to your doctor about what medications might be right for you. Some antiemetic drugs that are used to combat nausea include[20]:
    • Promethazine.
    • Chlorpromazine.
    • Metoclopramide.
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    Consider taking prednisolone if you have hyperemesis gravidarum. Prednisolone has been shown to have an effect on hyperemesis gravidarum. It can stop vomiting and can also help you gain back the weight that the condition has caused you to lose. Steroids decrease the stimulus to the brain centers that are responsible for vomiting.[21]
    • Prednisolone is administered three times a day for a period of a week depending on the severity of hyperemesis gravidarum and then reduced in stepwise fashion.


  • If you are suffering from severe nausea and vomiting, talk to your doctor immediately, particularly if it is after you first trimester.

Sources and Citations

  1. Sherman PW, Flaxman SM: Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy in an evolutionary perspective.Am J Obstet Gynecol 2002
  2. McGarry, K. A., & Tong, I. L. (2013). The 5-minute consult clinical companion to women's health. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Health.
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Article Info

Categories: Pregnancy