What helps reduce nausea in pregnancy?

Photo of a pregnant woman with nausea

Common medications for nausea and vomiting are often used for this purpose in pregnancy too, as is ginger. But there is only little scientific research on their effectiveness in pregnant women.

Nausea and vomiting are common in early pregnancy: At least half of all women are affected by nausea in the first few months. It is often called morning sickness because it tends to be worse in the mornings, but it may last all through the day too. Although it can be difficult to deal with nausea and vomiting for several weeks, these problems usually don't have any consequences for the pregnant woman or her child.

About 1 out of 100 pregnant women experience an especially severe form of morning sickness with frequent and violent vomiting called hyperemesis gravidarum. This can lead to weight and fluid loss, which can also endanger the child. So it usually has to be treated at a hospital.

When is nausea most common?

Nausea typically starts between the sixth and eighth week of pregnancy and is gone by the end of 16 weeks. It lasts longer in some women, though. Nausea and vomiting become more of a problem if you feel extremely unwell and it becomes difficult to eat enough and follow a balanced diet. Severe nausea may also be a sign of other illnesses, such as gastroenteritis (stomach bugs), migraines, or gallbladder or disease.

It is not known why nausea is so common in pregnant women. Hormonal changes are believed to play an important role.

It hasn’t been proven that stress or other emotional issues can cause these problems or make then worse.

Which medication-free treatments can help?

Many pregnant women try to manage their nausea without using medication. Many react to triggers like certain smells and foods, heat or noise. It can help to pay attention to when you start feeling nauseous and whether triggers are identifiable, so they can be avoided.

Eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day, drinking a lot of fluids and eating a low-fat diet are strategies that help some pregnant women. There is no good research testing different diets, changes in lifestyle or psychological support to see whether they relieve nausea and vomiting in pregnancy.

If women vomit a lot as a result of severe pregnancy-related nausea, they are given infusions (a drip) at the hospital to replace the fluids lost. They then typically stop eating solid foods for several days.

How effective are the medications?

Only very few studies have looked into the use of medication for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. This is in part because hardly any clinical studies are done on pregnant women, as a precaution to prevent any harm to the child.

Common medications for nausea and vomiting:

  • Vitamin B6 products (pyriodoxine) can relieve nausea somewhat. It is not clear whether they prevent vomiting too.
  • Doxylamine is an older drug used to treat allergies (an antihistamine). Because it causes , it is mainly used as a sleeping pill. Studies have shown that it can relieve nausea and vomiting in pregnancy when combined with vitamin B6. Products that only contain doxylamine are also available. It is not clear whether they relieve these problems as well.

Other medications:

  • Dimenhydrinate is also an medication used to treat nausea and vomiting.
  • Metoclopramide stimulates the movement of the stomach and bowel, and is commonly used for nausea and vomiting.
  • Promethazine is mainly used to treat restlessness and agitation, but it's also approved for the treatment of nausea and vomiting.

Only the combination of Doxylamine and vitamin B6 has been explicitly approved in Germany for the treatment of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. The other medication can be prescribed "off-label" by a doctor. It is then especially important to get professional advice about their effects, including possible side effects.

Only a few studies have looked into the effectiveness of medication when used specifically to treat hyperemesis gravidarum (especially severe pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting), so it’s difficult to say whether they can help.

How effective are herbal products like ginger?

Studies suggest that certain ginger products can help relieve nausea in pregnant women. These include ginger capsules or syrup (250 milligrams of ginger per dose) taken three or four times a day. It is not clear whether drinking ginger tea or getting a lot of ginger in your diet helps.

There is no that herbal products relieve the nausea.

How safe are medications and herbal products?

Some studies looked at whether drugs for nausea and vomiting increase the risk of miscarriages or malformations in children. To date there is no for this, as long as the medications are taken only for a limited time and as prescribed.

Depending on the product or medication in question, various side effects can occur. Ginger may cause heartburn, but it is usually well tolerated. Older antihistamines like doxylamine make people feel very tired, and sometimes drowsy or dizzy. Metoclopramide affects the nervous system and might cause movement disorders. Vitamin B6 is usually well tolerated.

How well do "alternative" treatments work?

Many pregnant women also try alternative or complementary medicine. Acupressure is commonly recommended, for example using acupressure wristbands that are supposed to apply gentle pressure to certain areas. Research on acupressure has produced conflicting results – some studies see an effect, others do not. There is no that helps. This is also the case for homeopathic remedies. So the effects of alternative or complementary treatments for severe pregnancy-related nausea are not clear.

Boelig RC, Barton SJ, Saccone G et al. Interventions for treating hyperemesis gravidarum. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2016; (5): CD010607.

Emami-Sahebi A, Elyasi F, Yazdani-Charati J et al. Psychological interventions for nausea and vomiting of pregnancy: A systematic review. Taiwan J Obstet Gynecol 2018; 57(5): 644-649.

Jarvis S, Nelson-Piercy C. Management of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. BMJ 2011; 342: d3606.

Khorasani F, Aryan H, Sobhi A et al. A systematic review of the efficacy of alternative medicine in the treatment of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. J Obstet Gynaecol 2020; 40(1): 10-19.

Matthews A, Haas DM, O'Mathúna DP et al. Interventions for nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2015; (9): CD007575.

O'Donnell A, McParlin C, Robson SC et al. Treatments for hyperemesis gravidarum and nausea and vomiting in pregnancy: a systematic review and economic assessment. Health Technol Assess 2016; 20(74): 1-268.

Pharmakovigilanz- und Beratungszentrum für Embryonaltoxikologie (Embryotox.de). Hyperemesis gravidarum/Emesis gravidarum. 2022.

IQWiG health information is written with the aim of helping people understand the advantages and disadvantages of the main treatment options and health care services.

Because IQWiG is a German institute, some of the information provided here is specific to the German health care system. The suitability of any of the described options in an individual case can be determined by talking to a doctor. informedhealth.org can provide support for talks with doctors and other medical professionals, but cannot replace them. We do not offer individual consultations.

Our information is based on the results of good-quality studies. It is written by a team of health care professionals, scientists and editors, and reviewed by external experts. You can find a detailed description of how our health information is produced and updated in our methods.

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Updated on September 21, 2022

Next planned update: 2025


Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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