8 ways to find morning sickness relief

8 ways to find morning sickness relief

Written by Dr. Emily Cunningham, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UK Women’s Health Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Dr. Emily Cunningham

Dr. Emily Cunningham

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.

Next steps:

Learn more about birth defect prevention

January is Birth Defect Prevention and Awareness Month and a perfect time to learn more about what you can do to avoid birth defects.

Many birth defects occur during the early weeks of pregnancy, some of which can have lifelong effects and are a major cause of infant mortality.

Testing for birth defects

Usually between the 16th and 18th weeks of pregnancy (and sometimes up to the 22nd week), you will be offered a screening called alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) screening. This test involves drawing blood from mom, with screening results usually available in one to two weeks.

The results are used along with other information, such as the mother’s age, any existing health problems or history of congenital diseases, and what medications or drugs she may be taking to determine the risk for birth defects.

High levels of alpha-fetoprotein may indicate a neural tube defect or problems with the baby’s esophagus or intestines. Low levels may indicate a genetic issue such as Down syndrome or Edwards syndrome. This screening test is not a diagnosis, but indicates there is a risk of these issues, and further testing may be needed.

Even with positive results, only 1 in 16 to 1 in 33 infants may actually have a neural tube defect or other issue. If results are positive, a second AFP test may be obtained, with an ultrasound. Further testing might also include an amniocentesis.

What you can do

Taking at least 400 mcg of folic acid daily, before and during pregnancy, has been shown to decrease the risk of neural tube defects. Folic acid, a B vitamin, is added to many cereals, breads, pastas and rice. You may also receive this nutrient through beans, peas, orange juice, broccoli or green leafy vegetables. Check the nutritional label of foods to see if they meet this important nutrient requirement.

Even if you don’t plan to get pregnant, be sure you receive the recommended daily requirement to help your body make new cells every day. Be sure you are as healthy as possible to begin your pregnancy and to decrease your baby’s risk of birth defects.

More information

American Pregnancy Association

March of Dimes

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Prematurity Awareness Month

Tips to prevent preterm birth

November is Prematurity Awareness Month. Prematurity and its complications are the leading cause of death in children younger than 5 in the world today. Infants born before 37 weeks gestation have more complications than full-term babies, including problems with feeding and digestion, vision and hearing, and breathing.

Each November, the March of Dimes publishes a Premature Birth Report Card, which grades the U.S. and each state individually on prematurity rates for the previous year. The goal is to be at 8.1 percent, an objective set by the Healthy People 2020 initiative, a science-based, 10-year program to improve the health of all Americans. This year, the U.S. has a rate of 9.6 percent and earns a C letter grade. Kentucky’s rate is 10.7 percent, which unfortunately gives our state a D.

It is clear that there is room for improvement within our state and country. And while some risks for premature birth cannot be avoided, there are things you can do to help prevent a preterm birth. Here are a few tips:

  1. Stop smoking, or cut down to less than a half-pack per day. We know that smoking contributes to preterm birth, and a baby who lives in a house with smokers is also 3.5 times more likely to die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome than a baby who doesn’t.
  2. Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  3. Get prenatal care. It does make a difference.
  4. Practice oral hygiene and see your dentist: oral infections can lead to systemic infections that can cause preterm labor.
  5. Practice stress reduction. Be aware of how you are handling stress and get sufficient exercise and rest to help get you ready for your new family member.

We don’t know why some babies come early, but we do know the above methods can help prevent it. Delivering at full term will help your baby be healthier, stronger and avoid the complications that come with preterm birth.


What you need to know about contractions

What you should know about contractions

As you near the end of your pregnancy, you may begin to experience occasional contractions.

Your uterus practices contractions before you actually begin labor, sometimes for four to six weeks before your due date. These practice contractions feel more like the baby is “balling up”. They generally don’t last long (30-60 seconds), and don’t increase in intensity or frequency. Often if you walk around, empty your bladder, drink water, or take a bath, these practice contractions — sometimes called “Braxton Hicks” — will stop.

You should begin timing your contractions so you can determine if they are getting longer, stronger, or closer together.

Timing your contractions

Contractions should be timed from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next. This is how far apart they are, or their frequency.Your nurse or physician will ask you for this information when you come to the Birthing Center Triage.

Contractions may be timed by using a watch with a second hand, or by using a free app available for your smart phone. Begin to time some of these practice contractions so you will be familiar with timing them when you begin laboring.

While the duration of your contraction, from beginning to end, is important too, we will be most interested in how far apart they occur. If you are having contractions every 10 minutes, or four to six in an hour, and you are less than 37 weeks gestation, you should come to the Birthing Center Triage to be evaluated for preterm labor.

Labor contractions

True labor contractions often include cramping, and may start in your back and move around to your front. The discomfort may even be felt in your groin and thighs. The methods you might use to make the practice contractions stop will not work for true labor contractions. These contractions become longer, stronger, and closer together. They may be accompanied by spots of blood or a discharge.

If you are over 37 weeks gestation and live in Lexington, we usually recommend that you wait until your contractions are 5 minutes apart for about an hour until you come to the hospital. This is so you can use comfort measures at home, and eat and drink what you want.

Once you are admitted to the hospital in labor, we don’t allow you to eat and drink, and give you ice chips and IV fluids. During your early labor at home, you will be able to use early labor comfort measures and eat and drink what you feel like. When your contractions are five minutes apart, you will be admitted, and will no longer be interested in eating and drinking.