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Exercise, Nutrition & Weight

Changes in the body and behavior during pregnancy cause a variety of discomforts in the gastrointestinal system and elimination changes. This information explains what to expect and offers information about dealing with these changes. 

Nausea, with or without vomiting, can occur at any time of the day. Both occur more frequently when the stomach is empty, and are usually worse in the morning. They usually appear during the first trimester, but can last into the second trimester.

Although the specific cause of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy is not known, theories attribute it to hormone levels in the body, changes in the breakdown of nutrients, fatigue and emotional factors, and a host of other changes. 

Prevention and treatment may not stop nausea and vomiting, but usually the symptoms can be reduced. It's helpful to remember this usually only lasts through the first trimester. Considerate treatment by caregivers and significant others can help you get through it.

The following measures can be used in any combination to help:

  • Eat small, frequent meals as often as every 2 hours so your stomach doesn’t get empty
  • Try dry crackers or toast before rising in the morning or any other time before nausea usually starts
  • Eat or drink something sweet before going to bed and getting up in the morning
  • Avoid foods that are spicy, greasy, or have strong or offensive odors
  • Restrict dietary fat
  • Use acupressure wristbands/"seasickness" bands
  • Try vitamin B6 (Ask your healthcare provider before taking)
  • Arise slowly to avoid nausea caused by drop in blood pressure
  • Eat dry meals; drink liquids between meals
  • Eat whenever you are hungry
  • Minimize odors
  • Supplemental iron can increase nausea and vomiting - ask your physician!
  • Stay upright after eating
  • Do not brush your teeth right after eating - it can stimulate the gag reflex

Antiemetics (medications to stop nausea and vomiting) may be necessary in severe cases; however, these should be avoided if possible in the first trimester because of the possible dangers to the baby

Extreme nausea, vomiting more than once per day, signs of dehydration, or nausea and vomiting that persist beyond the first trimester may indicate a more severe problem and should be evaluated by your healthcare provider.


Heartburn is return of the acidic stomach contents into the lower esophagus. This is thought to be caused by relaxation of the stomach due to hormonal changes and lack of room for the stomach due to the size of the uterus and infant. It usually occurs in the second or third trimester and can start occurring earlier with each successive pregnancy.

The following are possible relief measures for heartburn:

  • Eat small frequent meals to avoid overloading the stomach
  • Practice good posture- gives more room for the stomach
  • Stretch your arms up to give the stomach more room to function
  • Avoid fats with meals- they depress secretion of gastric juices needed for digestion; however, some forms of fat shortly before meals has helped some women
  • Limit beverages with meals
  • Avoid very cold foods with meals - to inhibit gastric juices
  • Avoid spicy foods or others that cause indigestion
  • Drink cultured milk instead of sweet milk
  • Use skim milk and low-fat ice cream
  • Eat meals well before bedtime
  • Stay upright after eating
  • Consume at least 6-8 glasses of fluid each day
  • Antacids such as aluminum hydroxide (Amphojel) and magnesium hydroxide (Maalox) can be used. Sodium bicarbonate and Alka-Seltzer should be avoided because of the potential for mineral imbalance

If you have questions or would like more information, please call our Women's Center at 605-322-3444.

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