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Pregnancy Complications

Morning Sickness ~ Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy

Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy

Nausea, sometimes accompanied by vomiting, is an unpleasant side effect of pregnancy. Sixty to eighty percent of all pregnant Western women experience this nausea, or 'morning sickness,' with half of these experiencing vomiting as well. Despite its common name, morning sickness can occur at any time of the day.

Nausea is usually limited to the early weeks of pregnancy, beginning in the first 4 to 16 weeks and disappearing by 14 to 17 weeks after a woman's last menstrual cycle.

Researchers have developed theories about why it occurs, but to date no specific cause has been identified. Some suggested causes include hormonal changes and the stress and anxiety of becoming pregnant. Despite the discomfort of morning sickness, it is usually not dangerous to the mother nor fetus. In fact, research shows that women who experience morning sickness have better outcomes of pregnancy including decreased incidence of miscarriages.

However, if nausea and vomiting are persistent, severe, and prolonged, medical treatment may be necessary. This condition, also known as hyperemesis gravidarum, occurs in two percent of pregnant women and can result in electrolyte imbalance, dehydration, and nutrient deficiencies which can affect your pregnancy. It is important to quickly report severe nausea or vomiting that affects your ability to eat to your physician.

Treatment

Although uncomfortable, most cases of morning sickness are easily treated with small dietary and environmental manipulation. There is no universal cure, as the cause is yet unknown and each women reports different triggers. It may also be helpful to keep a journal of your symptoms and day to day activities to help pinpoint when your symptoms are absent or severe. This can help you, and your physician, understand your triggers and help in developing strategies to minimize nausea.

Dietary Strategies
The nausea experienced during pregnancy is one of the few that is relieved by having food in the stomach. Below are some tips to help you reduce nausea and vomiting by making changes in your diet.

Coping With Nausea
  • Eat and drink slowly.
  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals eating every 2-3 hours.
  • Drink cool, clear beverages between meals, rather than with meals.
    Sorts or electrolyte drinks or decaffeinated, carbonated beverages may help. Dehydration can cause nausea and put your pregnancy at risk, it is important to be sure you are getting adequate fluids every day.
  • Eat dry, bland foods.
    Some women report having a small amount of crackers or toast before rising in the morning helps reduce nausea.
  • Avoid offensive foods.
    This can include garlic, onion, acidic fruits and vegetables, and/or spicy foods.
  • Avoid fatty or fried foods.
    These are slow to digest and keep food in your stomach longer. This increases your chances of vomiting.
  • Minimize food odors.
    Eat cold or low odor foods in well-ventilated areas.
  • Shorten food preparation time.
    Or have someone else prepare the food.
  • Avoid alcohol.
    Alcohol is never recommended during pregnancy. Alcohol may increase your chances of vomiting and may contribute to dehydration.
  • Limit caffeine.
    Caffeine containing foods and beverages can affect the gastrointestinal tract. This may increase your chances of vomiting, may contribute to dehydration, and should be avoided.
  • Do not lie flat for at least 2 hours after eating.
    If you need to lie down after eating, lie on your right side as the stomach empties from left to right.
  • Practice safe food handling and preparation techniques.
    Food borne illness can often cause nausea and vomiting, protect yourself against these diseases.


Environmental Strategies
Aside from your diet, there may be some environmental triggers that can worsen your morning sickness. Most women report that strong odors, drastic changes in temperature, and strong emotions contribute to their nausea. By modifying your environment, you may be able to prevent some morning sickness.

Avoiding Environmental Triggers
  • Ensure your environment has good ventilation.
    This is especially important in your bedroom and kitchen where odors can be strong. Most women with morning sickness report cracking a window in their bedroom helps decrease morning nausea.
  • Practice good hygiene.
    Both for yourself and those around you, practicing good personal hygiene will help decrease odors that may trigger nausea. Some women report that good oral hygiene and avoiding perfumed health care products helped reduce morning sickness.
  • Keep your environment clean.
    Avoid lingering odors, especially in bedding, curtains, the kitchen, and the bathroom by cleaning frequently.
  • Avoid strong odors.
    Get help from family and friends in tasks that produce strong odors such as cleaning or changing the cat litter.
  • Avoid cigarette smoke.
    Smoking and second hand smoke may both jeopardize your pregnancy as well as contribute to nausea.
  • Decrease stress.
    Reducing stress may help alleviate morning sickness. This may mean practicing meditation or relaxation techniques, reducing your workload, or more frequent resting.
  • Review your medications with your physician.
    Medications, herbs, and vitamins and minerals may be contributing to nausea. Prenatal vitamins prescribed during the second and third trimesters contribute important vitamins and minerals that you may not be able get in your diet. Be sure to discuss any intolerance of prenatal vitamins with your physician.
  • Avoid vigorous activity.
    Vigorous activity is not recommended during pregnancy and it may also aggravate nausea.
  • Wear loose fitting clothing.
    Tight or binding clothing around the abdomen causes increased pressure on the stomach and may contribute to morning sickness.

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