Nausea and vomiting are common during pregnancy, especially during the first part of pregnancy. Although it is often called “morning sickness,” it can occur at any time of the day.
Most cases of nausea and vomiting are not harmful. However, these symptoms can have a serious effect on your life, including your ability to work or do normal activities. When nausea and vomiting are severe, they can affect your health.
This pamphlet explains
- causes of morning sickness
- what you can do for morning sickness
- when additional treatment is needed
Causes of Morning Sickness
Although no one is certain what causes morning sickness, increasing levels of hormones during pregnancy may play a role. In most women, symptoms of nausea and vomiting are mild and go away after the middle of pregnancy. In a small number of women, nausea and vomiting can be severe. This condition is called hyperemesis gravidarum. It can lead to loss of weight and body fluids.
When to Call Your Health Care Provider
Nausea and vomiting can cause you to lose fluids. If fluids are not replaced, this can lead to dehydration. You should call your health care provider if you have the following signs and symptoms of dehydration:
Effects on Pregnancy
Most mild cases of nausea and vomiting do not harm you or your baby’s health. Morning sickness does not mean your baby is sick. It can become more of a problem if you cannot keep any food or fluids down and begin to lose weight. If your nausea and vomiting are severe, or if you have symptoms caused by loss of body fluids, call your health care provider (see box).
What You Can Do
There is no cure for morning sickness. Some research suggests that women who are taking a multivitamin supplement regularly at the time they become pregnant are less likely to have severe cases of morning sickness.
If you experience morning sickness, there are several things you can do that might help you feel better. You may need to try more than one of these remedies:
- Get plenty of rest.
- Avoid smells that bother you.
- Eat five or six small meals each day instead of three large meals.
- Eat a few crackers before you get out of bed in the morning to help settle your stomach.
- Eat small snacks high in protein (such as a glass of milk or a cup of yogurt) throughout the day.
- Avoid spicy foods and fatty foods.
Ginger has been shown to be helpful for some women. Taking three 250-milligram capsules of ginger a day plus another capsule right before bed may help relieve nausea. Remember to talk with your health care provider before taking any herbal medication or supplement or trying any treatment. You also can try ginger ale or ginger tea made with real ginger.
If you have severe nausea and vomiting, and changes in your diet do not work, you may need medical treatment. Your health care provider will first find out whether your nausea and vomiting are due to morning sickness or if there is another medical cause. If other causes are ruled out, certain medications can be given. Vitamin B6 may be suggested first. Doxylamine, a medication found in over-the-counter sleep aids, may be added if vitamin B6 alone does not relieve symptoms. Drugs that combat nausea and vomiting may be prescribed in severe cases. If you are dehydrated from loss of fluids, you may need to receive fluids through an intravenous (IV) line.
Nausea and vomiting are common during the first part of pregnancy. If you have these symptoms, you may first want to try a few diet and lifestyle changes. If these changes do not relieve your symptoms or if your nausea and vomiting are severe, let your health care provider know. You may need additional treatment.
Hormones: Substances produced by the body to control the functions of various organs.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum: Severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy that can lead to loss of weight and body fluids.