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Nauseous at Work?

Handling physical discomforts on the job.

Morning sickness is one of the most common discomforts of pregnancy. Ranging from annoying to debilitating, this almost ubiquitous ailment can be particularly challenging if you have to contend with it while at work.

Morning Sickness Is Not Restricted to the A.M.
Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy usually peaks between six and ten weeks of gestation and can hit at any time of day. Because it frequently occurs in the first trimester, it is not uncommon for symptoms to present themselves before you have officially announced your pregnancy to your work colleagues.

Fortunately, whether your symptoms are mild or severe, there are a number of on-the-job tactics you can use to discrete and easy to adopt in those early weeks before your co-workers know you are pregnant.

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Don’t Just Rush Out the Door
Never underestimate the value of eating breakfast. Have something to eat every morning before you settle in at work, even if it is just a light breakfast (and if you work at night, don’t head in on an empty stomach).

Keep Snacks at the Ready
Though you may be experiencing a number of food aversions, do your best to avoid having an empty stomach during the day. Keep light snacks close by — a granola bar at your desk or nuts in your purse — that are easy to access between meals.

Steer Clear of Strong Aromas
Though you cannot control all of the odors at or on the way to work, try to avoid strong aromas like coffees and heavily perfumed colognes and lotions.

Seek Over-the-Counter (OTC) Solutions
OTC remedies can also decrease symptoms and are easy to incorporate into your work schedule.

Sipping on seltzer or a digestive tea (mint, ginger, lemon) at your desk or in meetings is safe in pregnancy, easy to accomplish at most jobs and may offer some much-needed relief.

Many women also find that pairing a vitamin B6 supplement with their daily prenatal vitamin helps abate morning sickness. If you find that your symptoms are worse in the earlier part of the day, avoid taking your prenatal vitamin while you are at work — this may exacerbate your symptoms and make a day at the office more difficult.

Acupressure wristbands that compress P6, a pressure point on the inner arm, have proven to be a useful, low-cost, non-pharmacologic intervention. They can be found at most drugstores and can be worn comfortably and inconspicuously in any work setting.

When to Contact Your Provider

If none of the above lifestyle changes or OTC remedies makes you feel better at work, speak with your healthcare provider about pharmacologic options. There are many anti-nausea medications that can be helpful and are safe in pregnancy when taken in limited doses.

Additionally, it is important to call your healthcare provider immediately if you are unable to keep down foods or liquids. If this is the case, you may have a condition called hyperemesis gravidarium, which might make you feel incapable of working. It often leads to dehydration and necessitates intravenous fluids, a prescription for an anti-nausea medication and time away from your job.

Although nausea and vomiting in pregnancy can make working feel almost impossible at times, in most cases this very common ailment goes away. The good news is that second trimester of pregnancy is typically met with a welcome reprieve from symptoms of fatigue, breast tenderness and nausea — so you can expect to feel a little more like yourself.

Sarah Kleinman, CNM, is a Certified Nurse Midwife in Boston who delivers babies at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Newton-Wellesley Hospital.

Have any morning sickness solutions to share with other expectant moms? Email em@cwpg.com.

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Written by Sarah Kleinman, CNM

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