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Tips for Coping with Morning Sickness

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

“Morning Sickness” is actually a Misnomer

Learn the tips to cope with morning sickness.

Though morning sickness doesn't always come hand in hand with pregnancy, approximately half of all women who are pregnant will experience morning sickness. The term “morning sickness” is actually a misnomer. Feelings of nausea, heartburn and even vomiting can strike at any time during the day.

What causes morning sickness? There are many theories. Some believe that the changing hormone levels in a woman's body result in nausea and a general sense of malaise. There are other researchers that have suggested that morning sickness is a protective mechanism that prevents the mother from ingesting potential harmful items such as teratogens or abortifacients.

For most women morning sickness disappears shortly after the first trimester, or at about 13 weeks.

Coping Tips for Morning Sickness

If you have morning sickness, fortunately there are many things you can do to cope. Here are some time tested remedies that help relieve some of the symptoms of morning sickness:

  • Eat several small meals per day instead of three large ones.

  • Have some crackers and soda or water by the bed and try eating a few before you rise in the morning. An empty stomach often results in more nausea.

  • Drink lots of fluids. Some women find carbonated water flavored with lemon to be quite soothing.

  • Try some ginger or ginger ale, which is well known for alleviating nausea.

  • Eat foods that are high in protein and carbohydrates.

  • Avoid fatty or spicy foods, which are more likely to cause nausea.

  • Get plenty of rest and take prenatal vitamins. If your vitamins make you nauseous, try taking them with meals.

  • Avoid strong odors or smells that can induce nausea.

  • Avoid lying down immediately after eating.

Hyperemisis - When Morning Sickness Gets Serious

Occasionally morning sickness can turn into a serious condition that poses a risk to you and your baby.

Some women have a combined lack of appetite and experience excessive vomiting. This can result in malnourishment and dehydration, and may require a brief hospital stay.

Doctors will sometimes diagnose a woman with a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) or severe morning sickness. This form of severe morning sickness usually only affects less than 1 percent of pregnant women. It is characterized by persistent and extreme nausea and vomiting, where the affected individual might vomit as much as 10-30 times per day.

A woman with HG may also lose 10 to 20 percent of her body weight and experience electrolyte imbalances due to the extreme vomiting. Dehydration and liver damage can occur.

For most women hyperemesis gravidarum becomes less severe as the pregnancy progresses, much like typical morning sickness. Treatment usually involves intravenous fluid hydration.

Some women with the condition will also receive anti-emetic drugs to help with nausea and stop the vomiting.

Morning sickness is a common ailment of pregnancy that often gets better over time. Occasionally a woman might experience some mild morning sickness for the duration of their pregnancy. Fortunately there are a number of things you can do to help alleviate the symptoms of morning sickness.

If you are concerned that you might have a more severe form of morning sickness or are vomiting several times per day for an extended period of time, be sure to consult with your health care provider for advice.

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