Dealing with Sickness During Pregnancy

Did you know that as many as 8 out of 10 women feel nauseous during pregnancy?  There may or may not be vomiting associated with it.  No one knows exactly why women have nausea and vomiting when they are pregnant.  It is probably due to all of the changes taking place in your body, such as high levels of hormones in your blood. 

Understanding Morning Sickness

The symptoms can be very unpleasant and can interfere with your daily routine. The good news is that nausea and vomiting isn’t usually harmful to you or your unborn child. Nausea and vomiting (called as morning sickness) can be one of the first signs of pregnancy, and usually begins around the 6th week of pregnancy.  It can occur at any time of the day, and for most women, it seems to stop at the 12th week of pregnancy. There are no studies that can support what causes the morning sickness. 

There are theories about hormonal changes, abnormal gastric motility, as well as psychological factors.   Other hormones may also play a part in causing the sickness, including estrogen and thyroxine.   If the pregnant woman is tired, hungry, stressed, or anxious, the nausea may be worse.  If the woman is expecting twins or triplets, the vomiting is more often due the high levels of pregnancy hormones.  This is probably why some women's symptoms last well beyond their first trimester.

Managing Sickness

If there is a trigger for the nausea, such as the smell of fried food, it is better to avoid that.  Other triggers could be:  stuffy rooms, perfumes, and heat.   Brushing the teeth can bring it on in some.  Sometimes, the iron supplements can cause gastric irritation. Therefore, it is wise to stop the prenatal vitamin and take a standard multivitamin instead.   The folic acid supplements are, however, continued even after the symptoms are better.  It is good to eat before or as soon as hunger sets in, since an empty stomach can aggravate nausea.  Eating frequently, in small quantities, the high-carbohydrate and low-fat meals, is recommended.  Rich, fried, fatty, and spicy foods are the real culprits. 

Powdered ginger (1 to 1.5 grams in divided doses over 24 hours) has helped some women in improving the nausea.   Some women find lemon-drop candies helping them.  It is good to keep the body hydrated with sips of water or lemon juice.   Relaxation and complementary therapies reduce the stress levels and nausea.

When To Seek Help

If the nausea and vomiting are unstoppable, let the health provider know.  There is a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum (too much vomiting while pregnant) that can be serious.   If there is persistent vomiting and is accompanied by weight loss exceeding 5 percent of the pre-pregnancy weight, one could fall in this group.  The biggest worry is dehydration.  If you don’t pass urine very often, or have dark yellow urine, and you cannot drink enough liquid to correct this condition, you may probably require IV fluids. 

Many women want to avoid taking medicine when they are pregnant.  However, changing your diet and daily routine might not be enough to relieve your symptoms.  You shouldn’t feel guilty about wanting to feel better, and your health-care provider can prescribe medication to help reduce your nausea and vomiting.

In India, there are many brands of anti-vomiting medicines containing doxylamine (an antihistamine) and pyridoxine (vitamin B6) with or without folic acid that are approved for the treatment of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy.  The safety and efficacy of these drugs are well established.  Studies have shown that no harmful effects are experienced by babies. 


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