Written by Dr. Emily Cunningham, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UK Women’s Health Obstetrics and Gynecology.
No one really knows what causes morning sickness, but chances are you’ll experience it at some point during your pregnancy. Tell-tale signs include nausea and vomiting that are often more severe in the morning but can occur at any point throughout the day.
From elevated hormone levels to swings in blood sugar, morning sickness is thought to have a variety of causes. The worst week of morning sickness is usually in the middle of the first trimester, and by the second trimester most women feel better.
If you’re dealing with morning sickness and looking for relief, here are some things to try:
- Get lots of rest. Fatigue can cause nausea even when you are not pregnant.
- Try frequent small meals that include some protein or fat. The old advice of eating crackers may help temporarily, but a little cheese and turkey on the crackers will bring longer relief by keeping your blood sugar stable. Sipping on flavored beverages all day not only improves hydration, which makes you feel better but may also help those with excess saliva production.
- Antacids. Tums contain calcium and are good for pregnancy. In some cases, the heartburn and gagging is helped by 20mg of Pepcid every day.
- Antihistamines. Doctors often prescribe antihistamines such as Phenergan to help with nausea, but 25mg of Benadryl (diphenhydramine) as needed every six hours may also help.
- An older remedy for nausea was one-half of a Unisom tablet (doxylamine, 12.5mg) every six hours. Remember that any antihistamine may cause fatigue, so be careful.
- Vitamin B supplementation. Some people have less nausea when they take 50 mg of extra vitamin B-6 every day.
- Ginger. Ginger snap cookies, ginger ale and candied ginger all have been said to improve nauseaalthough this evidence is not conclusive.
- Prescription medications for morning sickness have improved during the last 10 years. Doctors often recommend Zofran, Kytril, Reglan, Compazine or others to help with the nausea. Of course, all have side effects that should be discussed with your doctor.
Serious morning sickness
Although more than half of pregnant women will have morning sickness, only a small percentage will experience the extreme form of the condition called hyperemesis.
Women with hyperemesis have relentless vomiting and nausea that can result in dehydration, weight loss and nutritional deficiencies. Hyperemesis needs to be treated aggressively with medications and fluids and should not be ignored. Call your doctor immediately if you’re experiencing these symptoms.