Parenthood Pregnancy / Obstetrics Women's Health / Gynecology

What is morning sickness and how can I treat it?

An individual suffering from morning sickness also feels exhausted and nauseous, and may vomit. It can be extremely unpleasant although it is rarely harmful.

Morning sickness is also referred to as nausea gravidarum, pregnancy nausea / vomiting, emesis gravidarum, and pregnancy sickness. For many women, morning sickness symptoms are their first signs of pregnancy.

Morning illness affects approximately 80 percent of all pregnant women. Women who use oral contraceptives or HRT (hormone replacement therapy) may have morning sickness-like symptoms too.

In the vast majority of cases, morning sickness, although an unpleasant experience, has no health risk for the baby and is a regular part of pregnancy. Indeed, some studies say that morning sickness during pregnancy can be a sign of a successful pregnancy, with lower rates of miscarriages and stillbirths compared to pregnancies without nausea or vomiting.

Important facts about morning sickness

  • Morning sickness can occur at any time of the day or night.
  • The exact causes are still not known.
  • There are a number of home remedies that can help treat the symptoms of morning sickness.
  • A small amount of evidence suggests that ginger might ease the nausea.
  • Morning sickness may be a sign of a healthy pregnancy.

Treatment

Morning sickness treatment

Treatment by a doctor is not needed for most morning sickness cases. There are, however, several things that could relieve symptoms. You will find a full list of these in our top tips in our article to alleviate morning sickness. But here are only a few ideas:

Resttiredness can make nausea worse. It is important that we get plenty of rest.

Liquids – fluid consumption should be regular, rather than less frequent and in large quantities, and in small amounts. This will assist in may vomiting. It will help to suck ice cubes made from water or fruit juice, or try lollipops.

Food – eating more meals a day, with smaller portions, especially high-carbohydrate meals, may help. Dry and savory foods are typically better tolerated than sweet or spicy foods, such as crackers or crispbread. Cold meals are also handled better than hot meals, since they have less scent.

Empty stomach – morning sick pregnant women should try to stop getting an empty stomach.

Early morning – many women find it convenient to eat plain biscuits about 20 minutes before they get up.

Triggers – it does not take long to identify nausea triggers. Avoiding them leads to reducing the incidence and severity of nausea and vomiting.

Medical treatment – if symptoms are still serious, the doctor can prescribe a short course of anti-sickness (antiemetic) medication, which is safe to use during pregnancy, while attempting self-care measures.

Ginger supplementsome studies have shown that ginger supplement may help reduce symptoms of nausea during pregnancy. This is something that women can buy from a reliable source. Ginger supplements are available for purchase in natural food stores.

B-6 and doxylamine – this combination is sold over the counter as Unisom SleepTabs. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has approved it for first trimester treatment of morning sickness. In up to 70 percent of cases, studies find this combination to be effective in reducing nausea and vomiting. Side effects include sleepiness, dry mouth, headache, nervousness and pain in the stomach. Unisom SleepTabs can be ordered over the counter.

Diclegis – this drug has been approved by the FDA for use by pregnant women. One clinical trial showed that in 44 percent of women with morning sickness, Diclegis relieved nausea absolutely. Another study found that over 70 per cent of women reported symptom changes.

Acupressure – this is the application of pressure on specific points on the body to control symptoms. It requires the wearing on the forearm of a special band (sometimes called a sea-band). Some limited evidence indicates that this can help improve the effects of nausea and vomiting in pregnant women but there is a lack of large-scale trials.

Causes

Morning sickness is most common during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Morning sickness is most common during the first trimester of pregnancy.

The exact causes of morning sickness are not yet understood but most accept that hormonal changes are likely to play a role:

Estrogen levels – Researchers suggest this could be due in part to a rise in estrogen production, which can be 100 times higher duringEverything you need to know about estrogen pregnancy relative to levels seen in non-pregnant women. There is no evidence however to suggest a difference in levels of estrogen between pregnant women with or without morning sickness.

Progesterone levels – Their progesterone levels often increase while a woman is pregnant. Strong progesterone levels relax muscles in the uterus ( womb) to avoid early childbirth. However, the stomach and intestines can also be relaxed, resulting in excess stomach acids and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease or acid reflux).

Hypoglycemia – low blood sugar, caused by the mother’s body’s placenta draining energy. There’s no research to support this, however.

Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) – This hormone is first released soon after conception by the developing embryo and then by the placenta later. Some experts say a correlation between hCG and morning sickness is probable.

Sense of smell – There may be an increase in odor sensitivity during pregnancy, which can over-stimulate common causes of nausea.

Risk factors

Any pregnant woman has potential to experience morning sickness. The risk is higher however if:

  1. before the pregnancy, the woman had experienced nausea or vomiting from motion sickness, migraines, some tastes or smells, or birth control pills
  2. the mother had experienced morning sickness in a previous pregnancy
  3. the mother is expecting more than one baby

Morning sickness as an evolutionary survival adaptation

Some researchers believe that morning sickness may be an evolutionary adaptation that protects pregnant mothers from food poisoning and their infants. If a woman with morning sickness doesn’t feel like consuming foods that may be potentially tainted, such as poultry , eggs, or meat, and chooses low-contamination foods such as rice , bread, and crackers, the chances of survival for her and her child will be improved.

Adult humans have defenses against plant toxins, including a wide variety of liver-generated detoxification enzymes. These defenses are not completely developed in the developing baby yet, and even relatively small concentrations of toxins may be harmful.

Developing organs of the baby are most vulnerable to toxins from 6-18 weeks, more or less the time that peaks in the morning sickness.

Symptoms

In spite of its name, morning sickness can occur any time of day. It hits into the middle of the night for some people.

Nausea and vomiting, or only nausea without vomiting, can involve morning sickness. During the first trimester of pregnancy it is much more common.

Pregnant women should call their doctor if:

  • symptoms of nausea or vomiting are severe
  • they pass only a small amount of urine
  • their urine is a dark color
  • they cannot keep liquids down
  • they feel dizzy when they stand up
  • they faint when they stand up
  • their heart races
  • they vomit blood

The condition is called hyperemesis gravidarum, which occurs in around 1-2 percent of all pregnancies when symptoms are quite serious. When nausea and vomiting arise, it is typically during the 6th week of pregnancy.

Most pregnant women note that, after the 12th week of pregnancy, morning sickness improves. Symptoms linger during the entire pregnancy unfortunately for some.

Any dietary changes are typically all that is required to treat morning sickness and get plenty of rest. Even if presented romantically and humorously, morning sickness can adversely affect the quality of life of the mother and how she carries out her daily activities. Women who receive support from family and friends tend to cope much better.

Complications

Hyperemesis gravidarum is a very rare but serious type of morning sickness, estimated to affect between 1-2 percent of all pregnant women. Symptoms go away in 90 percent of cases of hyperemesis gravidarum by the fifth month of pregnancy.

Typically, severe symptoms include:

  • cannot keep fluids down because of severe vomiting
  • serious risk of dehydration and weight loss
  • alkalosis (a dangerous drop in the normal acidity of the blood)
  • hypokalemia (low blood potassium)

Women with serious symptoms should seek urgent medical assistance. In certain cases, hospitalization and treatment with intravenous fluids may be essential.

If a woman has hyperemesis gravidarum, there are very limited risks of causing harm to the baby. If she experiences weight loss during pregnancy, the risk of giving birth to a baby with a low birth weight rises.

Diagnosis

Morning sickness diagnosis is typically a simple matter of recognizing the hallmark symptoms.

If suspected of having hyperemesis gravidarum, the doctor can order various urine and blood tests. There might also be an ultrasound scan to check the number of fetuses and look out for any underlying disorders that may lead to nausea and vomiting.

If there are high levels of ketone in the urine, it is likely that the vomiting causes the mother to become malnourished.