What is morning sickness?

Morning sickness, also called nausea gravidarum, is nausea and/or vomiting during pregnancy, and can be the first sign of pregnancy. It usually occurs around 6 weeks and ends around the 12th week, but in a few unlucky women can continue throughout the pregnancy. Despite its name, it can affect a pregnant woman at any time of day. About 50% of pregnant women will experience morning sickness.

There is a greater possibility of having morning sickness if:

• Nausea or vomiting had occurred prior to the pregnancy from motion sickness, migraines, some tastes or smells, or birth control pills.
• There had been morning sickness in a previous pregnancy.
• There is more than one baby in gestation.

Is it harmful?

There has been some indication that morning sickness actually may show that the placenta is developing well. It is not harmful unless you experience excessive vomiting and can’t keep any food down. That condition is called hyperemesis gravidarum which develops in 1-2 percent of all pregnancies and if left untreated can result in the loss of nutrients, electrolyte imbalances, and dehydration. Talk to your doctor or health provider if you have any of the following symptoms:
• Severe nausea or vomiting
• Only a small amount of urine is passed
• Urine is a dark color
• Liquids can’t be kept down
• Feel dizziness when standing up
• Fainting when standing up
• Racing heart
• Vomiting blood

What causes morning sickness?

Increased hormone levels in a pregnant woman’s body are probably the culprits. Nausea can be brought on by smells, tastes, or just waking up and getting out of bed. Even the smell of a food you have enjoyed previously, such as lasagna or coffee, can set it off.

What are some treatments for morning sickness?

• Rest. Tiredness can make nausea worse. Getting plenty of rest is vital.

• Liquids. Fluid intake should be continuous small amounts, rather than large amounts less often. Sucking on an ice cube made of water or juice can help.

• Food. Try to avoid having an empty stomach. Many women find it helps to eat a plain biscuit or cracker about 20 minutes before getting out of bed in the morning. As with liquids, meals should be eaten more often with smaller portions throughout the day. High carbohydrates meals and dry foods such as crackers or crispbread are usually better tolerated than sweet or spicy foods, and cold meals are usually better tolerated than hot ones because they have less odor.

• Ginger. Some studies show that ginger supplements can help with nausea. It should be purchased from a reputable source.

• Triggers. It doesn’t take long to identify nausea triggers. Avoiding them helps reduce the frequency and severity of nausea and vomiting.

• Medical treatment. If symptoms are still severe, your doctor may recommend a short course of anti-sickness medication which is safe to use during pregnancy.

B6 and doxylamine. This is sold over the counter as Unisom sleep tablets. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have recommended this combination for treating morning sickness during the first trimester. Trials have shown it to be effective at reducing nausea and vomiting in up to 70 percent of cases. There can be side effects, including drowsiness, and dry mouth.

Diclegis. This drug is FDA-approved for use by pregnant women. One clinical trial reported that 44% of women had their nausea completely relieved and over 70% reported improvement in symptoms.

Usually some dietary changes and getting plenty of rest are all that is needed to treat morning sickness. Although it can sometimes be viewed humorously, morning sickness can seriously affect a pregnant woman’s quality of life and how she goes about her daily activities; receiving support from family and friends can help her cope much better.