Understanding Morning Sickness

Reviewed by James Brann, MD
The nausea and vomiting that comes with some pregnancies is often called morning sickness. You may have mild symptoms, or more severe ones. As well, it may be called morning sickness, but you can suffer from it at all times of the day. Many pregnant women with morning sickness report feeling sick all day. The good news is, oftentimes morning sickness will get better after the first several months of being pregnant.
Although common, not every woman gets morning sickness. While up to nine out of 10 women report feeling nauseous during early pregnancy, many of them never throw up.

When might morning sickness develop? The answer to this varies greatly between different women and different pregnancies. Generally, though, symptoms of morning sickness usually begin within the first couple of months of pregnancy. Oftentimes, women say it’s the worst during the second and third months of pregnancy. Many women start feeling better by month four or five, but for some women they still feel bad.

What’s causing my morning sickness? There’s no clear-cut answer to this one. Doctors aren’t exactly sure why being pregnant causes vomiting and nausea, nor do they know for sure why some women have it worse than others do.

Do I need to see my doctor? If you have severe symptoms due to morning sickness, you should give your doctor a call immediately. This includes:
  • Losing weight
  • Suffering from dehydration (loss of too many fluids) - Watch out for signs of it including you feel dizzy when standing, your urine is a dark yellow or you’re not urinating much.
  • Experiencing cramps or belly pain
  • Fetal muscle tone
  • Throwing up repeatedly during the day, or every day. This could be dangerous if you also find blood in your vomit.

If you’re having trouble keeping anything down without throwing it up, you may need an IV. This is when a nurse or doctor puts a tube in your vein to help you get fluids. You may also want to find out about taking a medicine to help control the vomiting and nausea.
How can I feel better? If you don’t have any of the severe symptoms listed above, you can try a few other things, including:

  • Frequent snacking with smaller meals
  • Make sure you eat a lot of carbohydrates or protein
  • Eating right when you start feeling hungry, or even before
  • Drinking clear, cold beverages that are sour or fizzy (try ginger ale or lemonade)
  • Smelling fresh orange, mint or lemon
  • Eating lollipops that are ginger-flavored
  • Not lying down immediately after eating
  • Brushing your teeth right after a meal
  • Avoiding nausea-creating things like strong smells, loud noises, hot environments and stuffy rooms, and a lack of sleep. See if you can determine which drinks and foods are more likely to stay down, and try to avoid the ones that make you feel the worst. This will vary from person to person.
  • Taking vitamins with a snack at bedtime instead of in the morning

What about medicines? There are certain medicines out there that may help with your vomiting or nausea, some of which are safe for pregnant women. Be sure and talk with your doctor, but here a few suggestions:

  • Vitamin B6
  • Doxylamine (goes by the brand names of Good Sense Sleep Aid or Unisom) - Sometimes doctors suggest combining this with vitamin B6. There’s also a medicine that combines the ingredients that the FDA approved called Diclegis.
  • Diphenhydramine (goes by the brand name of Benadryl) - Will make you sleepy
  • Meclizine (goes by the brand name of Dramamine) - Will also make you sleepy
In addition, you may try wearing “acupressure” bands on your wrists. Some women report feeling better after wearing them. The purpose of the bands is to help reduce motion sickness or morning sickness.

How can I prevent morning sickness? You can start by taking vitamins. Doctors recommend that all women who are pregnant, or might get pregnant in the near future, should take 400 micrograms of folic acid. If you take vitamins before you get pregnant, and during the early months of pregnancy, you may find it reduces your vomiting and nausea.

Is morning sickness hurting my baby? Generally, your baby will likely be okay. It’s fine to start off a pregnancy gaining weight slowly. By the end, though, it’s recommended most women gain between 25-35 pounds. The good news is, even those women who experience the worst morning sickness generally will end up delivering a healthy baby.

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