Health A to Z

Morning sickness

One of the not-so-joyful aspects of pregnancy, nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP) is common; affecting up to 80 percent of pregnant women.

Morning sickness, Morning sickness causes, Morning sickness symptoms, Morning sickness prevention

While morning sickness tends to occur mainly during the first seven to 12 weeks of pregnancy, about 20 percent of women suffer with it for longer, sometimes throughout the whole pregnancy. And about one percent will have excessive vomiting, called hyperemesis gravidarum. Morning sickness can make you feel really lousy but in most cases it’s not harmful to the mother or baby. However, when it’s severe, untreated morning sickness can cause dehydration and other effects, such as weight loss, that are potentially harmful to mom and her baby.

Morning sickness causes While the exact cause is not known, morning sickness may be caused by increasing levels of the hormone estrogen and other pregnancy hormones or low blood sugar. Other factors, such as stress, fatigue, traveling and certain foods can exacerbate the problem. Woman carrying twins or triplets tend to have more severe morning sickness.

Morning sickness symptoms Both day and night, you may experience waves of nausea, vomiting and a sensitivity to odours, such as foods, perfume or cigarette smoke, which may make you queasy.

Morning sickness diagnosis/tests If you only feel mildly nauseous or vomit occasionally during your first trimester, you can probably manage it with simple diet changes.  But talk to your midwife or call your doctor if your morning sickness does not improve even with the use of home remedies (see below); you’re vomiting more than three times daily; your morning sickness lasts beyond the fourth month or you’re losing weight or cannot keep food or liquids down. Your doctor will examine you for signs of dehydration and may order urine and blood tests and possibly an ultrasound. Some severe cases of morning sickness require hospitalization.

Morning sickness treatment There’s no need to suffer unnecessarily since there are ways to combat and treat morning sickness. Avoiding the foods that trigger your symptoms and other simple diet changes may be enough to quash morning sickness. If it’s not, taking vitamins B6 and B12, as your doctor advises, may help ease nausea and vomiting. The prescription medication Doxylamine succinate/pyridoxine HCI (Diclectin), a combination of an antihistamine and vitamin B6, is recognized by Health Canada as safe to use in pregnancy.

Morning sickness prevention
These strategies will help you ward off that queasy tummy:

Avoid nausea triggers Second-hand smoke, stale air and cooking odours can make you feel sick. Open the windows to keep the air fresh in your home to reduce odours. Since taking your prenatal vitamins in the morning can make morning sickness worse, take any prenatal vitamins at night.

Change your diet Eating some dry toast or a few soda crackers as soon as you wake up (keep some by your bed) and a small snack at bedtime can help reduce nausea. It’s also wise to avoid big meals and instead snack every hour or two while drinking plenty of fluids. Choose foods that are protein-rich and high in complex carbohydrates, such as peanut butter with apple slices or cheese with crackers.  Ginger foods, such as ginger ale or ginger tea have been proven effective for morning sickness. And foods rich in vitamin B6, such as whole grains and beans, may also be helpful.

Wear wrist bands Some women may feel better wearing acupressure wrist bands, available at pharmacies which put pressure on the inner wrist.

Sleep it off Get plenty of sleep since stress and fatigue can worsen nausea. Women usually need more rest during the first trimester.

Outside resources
Motherisk: Morning Sickness
Women’s Health Information: Nausea and Vomiting During Pregnancy