Pregnancy: Dealing With Morning Sickness

Introduction

For many women, the toughest part of early pregnancy is morning sickness. If you are suffering from nausea, vomiting, or both, you need safe measures that will bring you some relief. Your best course of action for managing morning sickness is home treatment. By following a few proven guidelines, you are likely to gain significant relief from nausea and vomiting. Home treatment measures for morning sickness include:

  • Changing what, when, and how much you eat.
  • Taking ginger, vitamin B6, or vitamin B12, which may reduce nausea and/or vomiting during pregnancy.
  • Avoiding foods and smells that make you feel sick.
  • Trying acupressure, which seems to work for some women.
  • Taking doxylamine by itself or with vitamin B6. Talk to your doctor about this medicine.

If you have severe, persistent nausea and vomiting, see your doctor or nurse-midwife immediately. This uncommon complication of pregnancy can lead to dehydration and malnutrition, sometimes requiring prescribed medicine or hospitalization.

 

Morning sickness can range from mild, occasional nausea to severe, continuous, disabling nausea with bouts of vomiting. Symptoms may be worse in the morning, though they can strike at any time of the day or night.

Although its cause is poorly understood, morning sickness has been linked to increasing estrogen levels, along with other hormone changes during early pregnancy.1

  • The first signs of morning sickness usually develop during the month following the first missed menstrual period, when hormone levels increase.
  • Women carrying twins or more have more pronounced hormone increases and tend to have more severe morning sickness.

There is no way of predicting how long your morning sickness will last, even if you have suffered through it before. Nausea and vomiting usually go away by 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy. But in some cases, morning sickness can last well into a pregnancy.

Test Your Knowledge

If your mother had morning sickness for half of her pregnancy, you probably will, too.

  • True
    This answer is incorrect.

    You can't predict whether and how long you will have morning sickness based on your own or your mother's past pregnancies.

  • False
    This answer is correct.

    You can't predict whether and how long you will have morning sickness based on your own or your mother's past pregnancies.

  •  

Continue to Why?

 

Morning sickness begins during the first trimester, when the developing baby (fetus) is vulnerable to birth defects. So during the first trimester, use home treatment to treat nausea and vomiting unless your doctor recommends medicine to treat your symptoms.

If you have severe, persistent nausea and vomiting that is causing dehydration or weight loss, your doctor can prescribe a medicine for you that is not known to cause fetal problems.

Test Your Knowledge

No matter how bad it gets, prescription medicine is not advised for treating nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.

  • True
    This answer is incorrect.

    If dehydration and malnutrition become a concern during pregnancy, prescription antinausea medicine is appropriate.

  • False
    This answer is correct.

    If dehydration and malnutrition become a concern during pregnancy, prescription antinausea medicine is appropriate.

  •  

Continue to How?

 

The following are safe, proved treatments for morning sickness. Still, few women gain complete relief from morning sickness treatment.

  • Certain antihistamines like doxylamine or dimenhydrinate, taken as your doctor advises, may relieve morning sickness.2 If one of these antihistamines alone does not relieve your morning sickness, you can try taking it with vitamin B6.3
  • Ginger, taken regularly as a powder in a capsule, grated fresh into hot water for a tea, or in syrup or crystallized form, may relieve morning sickness after a few days of treatment.3
  • Vitamin B6 and B12, taken regularly as your doctor advises, may reduce nausea and vomiting.
  • Acupressure, firmly placed on the P6 point (the inner side of your arm, in line with your middle finger and one-sixth of the way between your wrist and elbow), relieves nausea for some women.

Follow these guidelines for minimizing nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.

  • Keep food in your stomach but not too much. An empty stomach can make nausea worse. Eat several small meals every day instead of three large meals.
  • For morning nausea, eat a small snack (like crackers) before you get out of bed. Allow a few minutes for the snack to digest, then get out of bed slowly.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink a lot of fluids. Try a sports hydration drink, as well as water, broth, or juice.
  • Eat more protein, and cut your fatty food intake.
  • Avoid smells and foods that make you feel nauseated. Citrus juice, milk, coffee, and caffeinated tea commonly make nausea worse.
  • If you are taking iron supplements, ask your doctor if they are necessary. Iron can make nausea worse.
  • Get lots of rest. Stress and fatigue can make morning sickness worse.

Contact your doctor immediately if you vomit more than 3 times a day or are unable to take fluids, especially if you also have pain, fever, or both.

Test Your Knowledge

Ginger will immediately relieve nausea and vomiting. You only need to take it when you're feeling sick.

  • True
    This answer is incorrect.

    Although ginger ale or ginger tea may ease mild nausea, your best bet for treating morning sickness with ginger is with regular daily treatment.

  • False
    This answer is correct.

    Although ginger ale or ginger tea may ease mild nausea, your best bet for treating morning sickness with ginger is with regular daily treatment.

  •  

Continue to Where?

 

Now that you have read this information about morning sickness, you can take action toward curbing your symptoms. If you have any questions about home treatment or are considering using doxylamine, talk to your doctor or nurse-midwife.

References

Citations

  1. Cunningham FG, et al. (2010). Prenatal care. In Williams Obstetrics, 23rd ed., pp. 189–214. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  2. Festin M (2009). Nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy, search date May 2008. BMJ Clinical Evidence. Available online: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
  3. Kelly TF, Savides TJ. (2009). Gastrointestinal disease in pregnancy. In RK Creasy et al., eds., Creasy and Resnik's Maternal-Fetal Medicine: Principles and Practice, 6th ed., pp. 1041–1057. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised August 15, 2013

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