Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy
What causes it?
No one knows exactly why nausea and vomiting occur during pregnancy, but the symptoms are experienced by more than 85% of pregnant women. Most experience symptoms throughout the day (making the term “morning sickness” hardly accurate) and frequently these symptoms are worst in early pregnancy. Most women feel better by their fourth or fifth month—but for some, the symptoms can persist throughout their entire pregnancy.
The nausea and vomiting can be mild or severe, and in the worst cases it may even require hospitalisation due to dehydration and weight loss. The most severe form is called hyperemesis gravidarum, and this may affect up to 3% of pregnant women.
Regardless of its severity, such symptoms impact an expecting mother’s quality of life. Many women find they have to take time off work. Luckily, a range of treatment options are available that are safe for both mother and baby.
Approaches to treatment
As nausea and vomiting during pregnancy has no clear cause, treatments try to reduce the severity of the symptoms. The first approach is usually to change the diet (see below). If this does not help, a variety of over-the-counter and prescription treatments are available. Talk to your doctor before taking any over-the-counter or prescription medications while pregnant.
- Eat bland, dry foods that are high in carbohydrates or protein
- Avoid strong flavours or odours.
- As an an empty stomach can worsen symptoms, eat smaller, more frequent meals, before feeling hungry.
- Some find relief from sipping cold fluids or sucking on ice chips.
These are safe treatments that may be useful for mild nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
- Acupressure (e.g., “travel sickness bands” or “sea bands”)
Many large studies have demonstrated a range of medications to be safe and effective for the treatment of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
- Doxylamine/pyridoxine combination (only available as a compounded preparation in Australia)
- Some antihistamines
- Dopamine antagonists (e.g., metoclopramide or promethazine)
To learn more about the management of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, please contact one of our friendly pharmacists.
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