Morning sickness refers to the nausea and vomiting that occurs during pregnancy. The name is a misnomer – morning sickness can strike at any time of the day or night. It generally occurs from the 4th to the 12th or 14th week of pregnancy, but some women may experience it during their entire pregnancy. Morning sickness is not harmful for the unborn child. But rarely it can be severe – called hyperemesis gravidarum – and may even require hospitalization, and treatment with intravenous (IV) fluids and medications.
It is not clear what causes morning sickness, but the hormonal changes of pregnancy are thought to play a role. Some of the metabolic and physical factors thought to play a role are:
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy (high oestrogen levels)
- Blood pressure fluctuations (low blood pressure)
- Change in the metabolism of carbohydrates
- Chemical and physical changes
- Traveling, fatigue, emotional stress, and some foods
- Rarely, severe or persistent nausea or vomiting may be caused by a medical condition unrelated to pregnancy — such as thyroid or liver disease.
Morning sickness is characterized by nausea with or without vomiting. Symptoms can also include loss of appetite, and depression and anxiety. Symptoms are most common during the first trimester, and can begin as early as two weeks after conception.
When to see the Doctor
You must contact your Ob/Gyn if you notice any of the following:
- Severe nausea and/or vomiting
- You pass only a small amount of urine or pass urine that is dark in color
- You cannot keep down liquids
- You feel dizzy or faint when you stand up
- Your heart races
- You vomit blood
Most cases of morning sickness do not require treatment, and symptoms ease as pregnancy progresses. However, your doctor may prescribe vitamin B-6 supplements and anti-nausea medications for severe cases. Hyperemesis gravidarum may require hospitalization and treatment with anti-nausea medications and intravenous fluids.
Lifestyle and home remedies may be helpful in relieving morning sickness in some women.
- Be careful and particular with your diet. You should eat more carbohydrate or protein rich, easily digestible foods, which are low in fat. Salty food or food containing ginger may be helpful at times.
- Snack at regular intervals throughout the day instead of having large meals. Eating a few plain sweet biscuits or dry crackers/Rusk after waking up may help reduce the nauseous feeling. Avoid food that triggers nausea or makes it worst, like greasy and spicy food.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Sipping cold water, ginger ale or other ginger-flavoured drinks may be helpful. It may also help to suck on hard candy, ice chips or ice pops.
- Take regular walks outdoors, and breathe fresh air.
- Prenatal vitamins can sometimes make some women feel queasy. In that case it is advisable to take the vitamins at night or with a snack. It may also help to chew gum or suck on hard candy after taking your prenatal vitamin. If these steps don’t help, ask your doctor about other ways you can get the iron and vitamins you need during pregnancy.