Pregnancy and “morning sickness”…not just a morning phenomenon!

Post by Carrie Bonsack, CNM, MS

As a certified nurse midwife and a mom of two, I can attest to the misery of morning sickness. I was lucky or shall I say, very unlucky to have it with both of my pregnancies.  I still have a strong sensory aversion to the scent of cucumber melon! I had a car deodorizer in this scent and every time I would drive to work I would throw up. I even had to keep gallon size Ziploc bags in my car for emergencies!

You may be feeling like you are hugging the toilet more than your loved ones, but don’t worry it will eventually go away so that you may experience the joy of pregnancy! Let’s go over a few facts about morning sickness.

What is it?

Nausea and vomiting is a common condition in pregnancy also known as “morning sickness”.   This condition is so common that is has been shown to affect 70-85% of pregnant women[1].  Morning sickness can occur at any time during the day. Some women may have nausea only, while others have both nausea and vomiting.

In most cases, morning sickness will not harm you or your baby.  A severe form of morning sickness, Hyperemesis, is where the woman can’t stop vomiting, lose at least 5% of pre-pregnancy weight, and presence of ketones in the urine. Women with hyperemesis need medical attention.

Why am I sick and how long will this last?

Hormones are thought to be a cause of morning sickness, although the true reason is unknown. Women, who are pregnant with twins, have had it with a previous pregnancy, or who have a history of migraines or motion sickness are more likely to have nausea and vomiting.

Symptoms usually start between the 4th and 9th week of pregnancy, and typically last until between the 12th and 16th week of pregnancy[2] .  There is no magic cure, but here are some helpful hints.

What can I do that helps me feel better?

Taking a multivitamin before getting pregnant can reduce the severity of morning sickness symptoms.

  • Rest as much as possible
  • Powdered Ginger capsules (250mg) one capsule during the day and one at bedtime may help[3].
  • Eat small, frequent meals (5-6 times/day rather than 3 big meals)
  • Eat high protein snacks (milk, yogurt, peanut butter)
  • Eating crackers or dry cereal before getting out of bed in the morning may help
  • Taking folic acid and a multivitamin vitamin or chewable/gummy children’s vitamin without iron for the first trimester may help.
  •  Acupressure wrist bands (Sea Bands) may help[4]
  •   “Preggy Pops” are lolly pops made of brown rice syrup, sugar and essential oils, that come in several different flavors created to help relieve morning sickness.
  • Slices of lemon with salt are used by some women
  • Your medical provider may decide to place you on a medication such as Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) and/or Doxylamine (an antihistamine), or other antiemetics such as Phenergan or Zofran if these measures don’t help.

What should I avoid doing?

  • Certain smells can trigger nausea or vomiting, so try avoid bad smells.
  • Avoiding fatty and spicy foods may help

When should I seek help from a medical provider?

If you have tried the above recommendations for nausea and vomiting and are still feeling sick you may need to seek medical treatment from your HealthNet midwife, nurse-practitioner, or physician. At the health center, your provider will find out if you are having morning sickness or if something else is causing your nausea and vomiting.  Your provider will work with you to determine if you need medications to help relieve the sickness. If you are dehydrated, you may need to have fluids placed in your body through an intravenous line (IV).

Call for these symptoms of dehydration (not enough fluids in your body):

  • You cannot keep down food or fluids for 24 hours
  • Your urine is dark and you are not urinating very much
  • You are dizzy or feel like you might faint
  • You are vomiting blood
For more information about HealthNet’s OB/GYN or midwifery services, please visit www.indyhealthnet.org or call 317-957-2000.

[1] Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 52. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol 2004;103:803–15 (Reaffirmed 2011)
[2] Gill, S., Maltepe, C., & Koren, G. (2009). The effectiveness of discontinuing iron-containing prenatal multivitamins on reducing the severity of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. Journal Of Obstetrics And Gynaecology: The Journal Of The Institute Of Obstetrics And Gynaecology, 29(1), 13-16. doi:10.1080/01443610802628528
[3] Dennehy, C. (2011). Omega-3 fatty acids and ginger in maternal health: pharmacology, efficacy, and safety. J.Midwifery & Women’s Health. 56:584-590.
[4] Can Gurkan, O. and Arsian H. (2008). Effect of acupressure on nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Complemet Ther Clin Prac. 14: 46-52.

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