For many of our patients here at Westchester Health, morning sickness should really be called “morning-noon-and-night sickness.” For some pregnant women, the symptoms are worse in the morning and ease up over the course of the day. For others, they last all day long. The intensity of symptoms can also vary from woman to woman. Although morning sickness usually subsides after the first three months of pregnancy, it can be a real hardship for some women. Even a mild case of nausea can wear women down, and constant nausea and vomiting can leave them exhausted and miserable (on top of all the other demands on their body from the pregnancy).
As we tell our expectant mothers-to-be, pregnancy can be really tough but it’s all worth it in the end!
What causes morning sickness
Although doctors don’t know with certainty what causes nausea during pregnancy, it’s probably a combination of:
- Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a hormone that rises rapidly during the early stages of pregnancy
- Estrogen, another hormone which rises rapidly in early pregnancy
- An enhanced sense of smell and sensitivity to odors (possibly resulting from higher levels of estrogen)
- A sensitive stomach
How long will it last?
About 50% of women who experience nausea during pregnancy will feel complete relief around 14 weeks. For many others, however, it takes another month or so for the queasiness to ease up. In either case, it may return later and/or come and go throughout pregnancy. A small percentage of women have symptoms that persist continually until delivery.
NOTE: If you have severe, persistent nausea and vomiting and are unable to take in fluids (causing dehydration), see your doctor right away, as this may be a condition called “hyperemesis gravidarum” (H.G.). H.G. is characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss and an imbalance of electrolytes. Mild cases are treated with dietary changes, rest and antacids, but more severe cases often require an inpatient stay in the hospital so that the patient can receive intravenous (IV) fluids and nutrition.
To help lessen the severity of morning sickness, we offer these 10 important tips:
- Eat small, frequent meals and snacks throughout the day so your stomach is never empty.
An empty stomach can make nausea worse so eat several small meals through the day instead of three large meals. High-protein foods and complex carbohydrates might be especially helpful. And whatever you eat, eat it slowly.
- Keep simple snacks, such as crackers, by your bed.
When you first wake up, nibble a few crackers and then rest for 20-30 minutes before getting up. When you do get up, do so slowly. Snacking on crackers may also help you feel better if you wake up nauseated in the middle of the night.
- Avoid lying down after eating (especially on your left side).
This can slow digestion. Stay upright for 1 hour after meals.
- Stay hydrated.
Drink a lot of fluids, such as a sports hydration drink, as well as water, broth, juice or ginger ale.
- Eat more protein and cut out fatty foods.
Avoid barbecue ribs, fried chicken, cheesy pizza and burger with fries which can only make your morning sickness worse (and your baby doesn’t need the grease).
- Avoid smells and foods that make you feel nauseated.
Citrus juice, milk, coffee and caffeinated tea typically make nausea worse.
- Get lots of rest.
Stress and fatigue can make morning sickness worse so if at all possible, get as much rest as you can, even it’s just a short nap or taking a few minutes to put your feet up.
- Get fresh air.
Taking a walk or opening a window might ease your nausea.
- Try aromatherapy.
Some women find scents such as lavender, lemon, mint or orange useful in combatting morning sickness. Try putting a drop or two of an essential oil on a handkerchief of Kleenex to sniff when you start to feel queasy.
- Consider anti-nausea medication.
If you’ve been unable to find relief from your nausea no matter what you’ve tried, talk with your doctor about prescription medication that could help. There’s no need to suffer, and waiting too long to take appropriate medication may make your condition more difficult to treat.
Some pregnant women are more likely than others to get morning sickness
You’re more likely to have nausea or vomiting during your pregnancy if any of the following apply:
- You’re pregnant with twins or higher multiples. This may be from the higher levels of hCG, estrogen or other hormones in your system.
- You had nausea and vomiting in a previous pregnancy.
- You have a history of nausea or vomiting as a side effect of taking birth control pills (This is probably related to your body’s response to estrogen.)
- You have a history of motion sickness.
- If your mother or sisters had severe morning sickness, there’s a higher chance you will, too (genetic predisposition).
- You have a history of migraine headaches.
- You’re carrying a girl. Several studies have found that about 55% of women with severe nausea and vomiting in the first trimester give birth to a girl.
Having a hard time with morning sickness? Please come see us.
If you’re experiencing persistent morning sickness and want some relief, please make an appointment with Westchester Health to see one of our OB/GYNs. The sooner we can evaluate and start treating your symptoms, the sooner we can help you feel better and enjoy your pregnancy.