Morning Sickness - Prevention and Treatment
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Pregnancy sickness, better known as Morning Sickness, is a
pregnancy-related condition of nausea and vomiting. According to
current research, morning sickness in some form affects
approximately fifty percent of all women during the first three
months of pregnancy and usually disappears sometime during the
fourth month. Morning sickness tends to be more severe during the
morning hours but can occur anytime during the day or night.
According to many doctors, in most cases morning sickness will
not affect the fetus and in fact is a good sign of fetal growth.
In some cases a pregnant woman will experience severe nausea
and vomiting, known as hyperemesis gravidarum. A direct result of
this condition is the inability to keep any foods or liquids
down. If left untreated, hyperemesis gravidarum may lead to
dehydration and malnutrition. The first course of action in these
instances is to carefully monitor the mother's intake of liquids
and soft foods and to encourage the mother to limit her
activities. If this measure does not prove effective, then the
mother may be hospitalized. Special IV fluids may be used to keep
her hydrated and to combat the loss of important nutrients (see
the Prevention and Treatment section).
The pregnant woman should seek medical attention under the
If the woman has been vomiting for more than 12 hours.
If blood has been seen in the vomit.
If signs of dehydration occur: dry mouth, little or no urine.
If there is a fever of over 102 degrees Fahrenheit.
If there is weight loss of more than a few pounds.
If the woman is feeling faint, lightheaded, or dizzy.
If the woman sees no improvement in a few days.
The exact causes for morning sickness are unknown. Research
points to the following causes: the physiological changes which
take place in early pregnancy, low blood sugar, the changes in
the way the body metabolizes carbohydrates and hormonal changes.
It is thought that these hormonal changes don't cause sickness
directly but make some women more susceptible to the stimuli that
cause sickness. Research is being conducted to determine whether morning
sickness is actually involved in helping the pregnant woman to
modify her diet in order to produce a healthier baby. In the
first 12 to 14 weeks when the baby's organs are developing it is
important that toxins do not enter the embryo and if they do, that
they don't stay there for long. Morning sickness may be nature's
way of protecting the embryo from naturally occurring plant and
bacterial toxins in the mother's diet by causing her to become
repulsed by smells and tastes that indicate toxicity.
It should be noted that an empty stomach can lead to nausea.
Prevention and Treatment
There are many treatments for morning sickness. It is
important to know that not every treatment will work for every
woman. In fact, sometimes nothing works. The best strategy is to
try several until you hit upon one that works for you.
A word of caution is necessary before presenting the list of
Prevention and Treatment. The general rule is that one should
check with one's practitioner before starting any new treatment
(herbal teas, extra vitamins, medications etc.) for morning
sickness. Adverse side affects are possible with many of the
The following is a list of the more common methods for the
prevention and treatment of morning sickness:
- Eat small, frequent snacks
- Rice cakes or whole-wheat crackers can help counteract
those pangs of nausea. Sometimes feeling sick may
actually mean you are hungry and regular small snacks can
help by boosting your energy levels. You may want to have
these items next to your bed for first thing in the
morning or in the middle of the night. Also, carry some
with you in case you start to feel queasy while on the
road. Consider having six smaller meals during the day
instead of three larger ones. This will help keep your
stomach full and your blood sugar steady throughout the
day. Make sure you don't overeat.
- Eat foods high in carbohydrates and protein
- Foods high in carbohydrates and protein help fight
nausea. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables and carbohydrate-rich foods like bread, plain baked potato, plain biscuits
or crackers. Avoid hard-to-digest, high-fat foods that
leave the stomach slower than carbohydrates and proteins,
thereby aggravating the nausea.
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Drink plenty of fluids such as water, herb teas, diluted
fruit juice, sparkling mineral water and/or other soft
drinks in between meals to replace the fluids you're
losing by vomiting and to help neutralize stomach acids.
Drink in between meals, rather than with meals (about an hour
after solids), which helps to prevent distention of the stomach
that may trigger vomiting. Don't drink alcohol - you
probably wouldn't want to anyway and it can be bad for
- Eat when and what appeals to you
- Trust your cravings providing they are healthy. You may
fear that giving in to a craving will worsen your nausea,
but usually the opposite is true. If you want brown rice
with tofu for breakfast and multi-grain Cheerios for
dinner, then by all means do so. As long as you are
meeting your daily nutritional requirements, it doesn't
matter when you eat particular foods. Also, missing an
occasional meal is not going to harm the developing
fetus. As long as you can maintain sufficient daily
intakes of water and prenatal vitamins, you don't have to
worry about the effects of morning sickness on your baby.
- Avoid the particular odors that make you sick
- Many pregnant women have hypersensitive noses, and odors
can trigger nausea. Let someone else cook while you get
out of the house, or use the microwave instead of the
stove. Open the windows after meals to clear out cooking
odors. If the sight or smell of cooking makes you feel
worse, ask someone to help out in the kitchen or stick to
foods that are relatively easy to prepare and cook. You
might also try sucking on clear blue mints (sold in bags
in the grocery store) to calm your stomach when food
odors or smoke, etc. make you sick - it blocks out
- Make time to rest
- Studies show that fatigue, worry and stress exacerbate
morning sickness symptoms. You should give yourself some
time to rest and relax. Learn how to pamper yourself and
conduct your life at a slower pace. Nap whenever you get
the chance. It's not always easy if you have other
children to look after or go out to work, but having a
break and putting your feet up for a while can help.
- Pregnant women who participate in a regular exercise
program decrease their risk of morning sickness, without
endangering their fetus, according to a study of almost
400 women. Women who exercised had lower rates of
bloating and nausea than did non- exercisers. (Medical
Tribune 33(12), June 25, 1992).
- Ginger, the spicy root that is used to flavor some of our
most beloved exotic dishes, is also praised for its many
medicinal properties. Ginger is a time-proven remedy for
cramps, indigestion and upset stomach. It has also been
used for stimulating the circulatory system, easing cold
symptoms and sore throats, and helping to cleanse the
kidneys and bowels. Ginger is also effective for motion
sickness and morning sickness. In the early 1980's a
double-blind study found that 75 percent of expectant
mothers who took ginger for morning sickness experienced
complete relief (LANCET, March 20, 1982). The mothers
were given three capsules, or about 94 mg., of dried
ginger, the equivalent of about a teaspoon of grated
fresh ginger; they reported that the ginger worked best
if taken at the onset of nausea. A word of caution
though, another traditional use for ginger has been to
promote delayed menstruation, and some scientists have
expressed that this could cause miscarriage. However,
Chinese doctors recommend that at least 5 grams be used
to induce menstruation, which is several times more than
the amount needed to treat morning sickness.
Additionally, there has never been a reported incident of
a ginger induced miscarriage. In many of the Eastern
medical traditions ginger is valued as a woman's root.
Its antispasmodic properties relax menstrual cramps, PMS,
and menopause-related indigestion.
Ways to take ginger: Take it in capsule form (available from health food
shops) or make ginger tea by infusing root ginger in
boiling water. You can also try eating foods like ginger
biscuits, crystallized ginger or ginger ale.
- Herbal teas
- Some people have found herbal teas to be helpful.
However, like drugs, most herbal teas are made from
plants and some caution is necessary. The following list
of herbal teas are not known to cause birth defects:
peppermint, red and black raspberry, spearmint, slippery
elm, dandelion, ginger. Chamomile has also been suggested
but must be taken with caution because of possible
- A non-drug treatment that involves pressing on
acupuncture points rather than using needles is an
increasingly popular way of relieving nausea. Contact a
qualified therapist or alternatively try the special
elasticized wrist bands sold for travel sickness which
work on the same principle. You can buy the bands at
chemists, boating stores or travel agencies. The ancient
Chinese practice of acupuncture rests on the premise that
needles inserted into the skin can affect the body's
"energy flow," thereby restoring our natural
balance and promoting health. Variations of the technique
often use pressure or electrical stimulation in place of
Several studies document the success of
acupuncture, acupressure, and electrical stimulation in
treating nausea. In a 1991 study the late J.W. Dundee, M.D., Ph.D. of
Queens University in Belfast found that
75 out of 100 chemotherapy patients who received
electrical stimulation along an acupuncture point felt
relief from nausea. And in an earlier study Dr. Dundee
found that acupressure was successful in reducing the
severity and frequency of morning sickness.
- Drugs used to be widely prescribed for morning sickness
but doctors are now reluctant to prescribe them except in
very severe cases. If you find the sickness hard to cope
with, or become so sick that you are unable to keep down
even fluids, ask your doctor for advice. Never be tempted
to dose yourself with travel sickness tablets or other
over-the-counter remedies. Speak with your practitioner
first before taking any medications during your
- Vitamin B-6
- Vitamin B-6 has successfully been given to relieve nausea
and in moderate dosages (50 - 100 mg per day) has been
found to be non-toxic. One woman who received a vitamin B-6
shot found that it "took the edge off for 2 days."
Again, like with all medications, first speak with your
practitioner before taking vitamin B-6.
- Wild Yam
- Traditionally, Wild Yam has been used for cramps and the
relief of morning sickness from pregnancy. It is relaxing
and soothing in neuralgia, is said to help expel gas from
the system, and is also used for pain in the urinary
tract. It has been used to prevent miscarriage.
- The best way to break the ravages of morning sickness is
to correct the dehydration that results from it. When you
get dehydrated, your body accumulates chemicals called
ketones, which make you feel even worse and further
accentuate the vomiting. To break the vicious cycle, we
suggest you call your doctor and ask to go into your
local emergency room for two hours of intravenous
therapy, even if you have to do that once a week. Simply
rehydrating yourself and flushing out the chemicals that
have accumulated from dehydration will make you feel a
- Miscellaneous Treatments
- Eat lightly seasoned foods.
- Sit upright after meals to reduce the frequency
of stomach upset (gastric reflux).
- A snack such as yogurt, milk, juice, bread or a
small sandwich before going to bed or during the
night may help to reduce nausea in the morning.
However, you may need to sit upright for 10-20
minutes following eating to prevent gastric
- Get out of bed slowly. Avoid sudden movements.
- Avoid brushing your teeth immediately after
- Slowly sip a carbonated beverage or carbonated
water when feeling nauseated.
- Fresh air may help. Take a short walk, or try
sleeping with the window open.
- Eat or drink something sour like lemon or a sour
- Try sucking on peppermints. It really helps
temporarily. Drink something called "Essence
of Peppermint Oil" mixed with a half cup of
- Try gelatin desserts, flavored frozen desserts,
broth, non-diet ginger ale, sugared decaffeinated
teas, and pretzels.
- Changing the type of vitamins you're taking may
help. The iron in prenatal vitamins can bother
some women. If you think your morning sickness is
related to your vitamins, talk with your doctor.
Support and sympathy from family and friends can help you cope
with the ups and downs of pregnancy, including sickness. It's
more difficult in the early months if you haven't told other
people that you're pregnant and are trying to work or carry on as
normal, but you can talk to your midwife or doctor who will be
able to offer advice and support.
Related books in the Pregnancy Place Bookstore
- Morning Sickness Books
- Pregnancy Books (General)