This is one of the most common questions we see as nurse-midwives from our pregnant patients. Everyday there seems to be a new study about the safety of everyday medications, and for the 50-90 percent of women who suffer from early pregnancy nausea (with or without vomiting) it can be hard to know what is safe to take and what to avoid. Here are just a few common tips if you are suffering from this common misery.
Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy or “morning sickness” as it is more commonly called, typically begins around week 6 and lasts through week 16, although it can continue for the duration of pregnancy. The exact cause of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy isn’t known, although there are several theories that include hormonal and gastro-intestinal changes. Early pregnancy nausea and vomiting should not be confused with its more severe form known as hyperemesis gravidarum. Katherine, the Duchess of Cambridge made headlines during her pregnancy when she was hospitalized in London for her severe morning sickness. Women with hyperemesis often vomit daily and are susceptible to weight loss and dehydration.
Though there is no cure for nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, there are some things you can do to help ease symptoms. Eating smaller meals more frequently keeps the stomach from being empty, which can aggravate nausea. Also recommended, avoiding triggers, or anything that can cause you to be sick. Sometimes it’s a strong odor, or it could be the heat, noise, motion, exercise or fatigue.
Acupressure is another non-medicinal option that is helpful for women with morning sickness. Relief is achieved by applying continuous pressure to the P6 point, which is located 3 fingerbreadths above the wrist. Though various studies have suggested that acupressure isn’t helpful, many women feel that they find relief through sea-bands, a popular product that provides over the counter pressure for nausea relief.
Other over the counter measures for nausea are Vitamin B6 and ginger. Both are more natural remedies for relief of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. Vitamin B6 paired with Unisom is a popular OTC remedy that many providers recommend before prescribing other medications like Zofran and Phenergan. More research is needed to show the efficacy of ginger for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, however consuming foods with ginger like ginger ale or ginger flavored candies are a safe alternative to taking high doses of ginger supplements.
There are many ways to combat pregnancy nausea and vomiting. If you’re suffering, I encourage you to talk with your health care provider to discuss which options are best for you.
Tamara Rolan is a certified nurse-midwife at St. Luke's Clinic – Nurse-Midwives and Women's Health.