Do I have nausea from morning sickness or prenatal vitamins?

Do I have nausea from morning sickness or prenatal vitamins?

Morning sickness is defined as nausea and vomiting occurring in pregnancy (FYI this condition is a misnomer because morning sickness can occur at any time of day, not just in the morning). However, some people can also experience nausea during pregnancy due to their prenatal vitamins. How do you know if your prenatal vitamins are influencing your morning sickness when several factors may be contributing to this discomfort? We’ll discuss some of the causes of nausea in pregnancy and ways to handle it.

Causes of nausea in pregnancy

Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP), or morning sickness, is commonly experienced during pregnancy by a large percentage of people. Yet, studies claim the cause of this disorder remains unclear. Evidence suggests that several factors, including genetics and hormones, can contribute to the discomfort of NVP. Hormones shift dramatically in pregnancy, particularly during the first trimester. This initial change of hormone levels is associated with moderate to severe nausea and vomiting, though this morning sickness usually disappears by the start of the second trimester. You may experience NVP to different degrees. Some factors that predispose some women to developing more severe morning sickness include the following:

  • Being pregnant with multiple babies
  • Having a history of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy
  • Having a history of motion sickness
  • Having a history of migraines
  • Your first pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • High levels of stress

Prenatal vitamins and nausea

Nausea is a potential side effect of taking prenatal vitamins. Studies suggest that iron contributes to nausea, so choosing a prenatal vitamin with a smaller, yet still beneficial, amount of iron may ease your discomfort. There are prenatals without iron if this is your preference. Since it can be challenging to sort through the options, we suggest chatting with your primary care provider, as well as a nutritional expert, for help finding the right prenatal vitamin for you. 

Vitamins on an empty stomach

There’s opposing advice on whether taking your prenatal vitamins on an empty stomach is the best method. Some water-soluble vitamins can compete to be absorbed, but they can also cause you discomfort. It may be beneficial to ask nutritional experts about balancing comfort and efficacy in your situation. Several sources suggest that you take supplements containing iron on an empty stomach to promote proper absorption. Iron can be taken with water or orange juice one hour before or two hours after a meal. However, iron (and vitamin C) can cause stomach sensitivity or nausea. If nausea is bothering you, eating a small snack with the vitamin may help. Discuss with your primary care provider about options to help with this.  


Ways to ease nausea in pregnancy

Some experts suggest a three-step process to ease your nausea. First, make subtle changes to your lifestyle. Sleep patterns, activity levels, and diet can all impact how nauseated you ma yfeel. In addition to lifestyle changes, you could also try treatments like consuming ginger or wearing wrist acupressure bands. There’s evidence suggesting that pressure points in your wrist can influence feelings of nausea. Always discuss with your primary care provider the best option for you. Depending on your particular situation, there may also be some medications that can be prescribed to help with the nausea.

Why do vitamins make me nauseous?

Different factors may be linked to your nausea when taking your prenatal vitamins. Several micronutrients, including iron and vitamin C, can cause discomfort when they are taken on an empty stomach. Consider your dietary sources of the vitamins and minerals in your prenatals as well. Are you getting more than the recommended amount of certain micronutrients between your diet and your prenatal vitamin? This may also be contributing to your discomfort.

Best time to take prenatal vitamins

Prenatal vitamins, particularly those with a lot of iron, can be hard on your stomach and contribute to nausea. To avoid stomach sensitivity, you can try:

  • Taking your vitamin with food
  • Taking your prenatal vitamin at night (if you were taking it in the morning)
  • Taking the vitamin with a bit of orange juice
  • Changing the form of your prenatal vitamin (e.g. switching from capsules to gummies)

How to manage nausea from vitamins

If your nausea is caused by your prenatal vitamins, it may be due to the amount of iron in the vitamin. You can try a prenatal with less iron, even no iron (with the okay by your primary care provider). If this doesn’t fix the problem, try decreasing your nausea by:

  • Drinking small amounts of water frequently through the day rather than large amounts at a time
  • Eating small amounts every 2-3 hours
  • Keeping to a plain diet, avoiding foods that are greasy, fried, or spicy
  • Eating cold foods, rather than hot
  • Avoiding strong-scented foods and other aromas that make you feel queasy
  • Getting more rest
  • Decreasing your stress levels with your preferred self-care methods (make sure they’re safe in pregnancy)

If you have concerns about nausea you’re experiencing, we suggest speaking with your OBGYN or primary care provider.


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