Nausea felt during pregnancy is known as morning sickness, which may range from mild bloating and indigestion to frank vomiting.
Different women may experience pregnancy nausea differently. Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, also called morning sickness, may range from mild bloating, retching, or indigestion to frank vomiting.
- About 70 to 80 percent of pregnant women experience morning sickness.
- Some may have just nausea, whereas others experience vomiting as well, which may occur unprovoked or after having certain foods or smelling certain aromas.
Morning sickness symptoms are often reported as:
- Heaviness, fullness, or tightness in the abdomen
- Aversion to certain foods
- Uncomfortable increase in salivation
- Feeling as if having motion sickness
- Retching or vomiting
Does every woman experience nausea during pregnancy?
No. All women do not experience nausea or vomiting during pregnancy. Although nausea and vomiting during pregnancy are some of the most common signs of pregnancy, many women never experience it.
For most women, the symptoms begin in the first trimester of pregnancy, generally before the ninth week, and then go away by the 14th week of pregnancy. Rarely, nausea and vomiting may continue for months and even throughout the pregnancy.
The symptoms are more severe in those who carry twins.
When to contact your doctor
Although nausea and vomiting are common and often harmless symptoms of pregnancy, medical attention may be needed in severe cases.
Excessive vomiting during pregnancy is called hyperemesis gravidarum, which may cause severe loss of fluids and electrolytes from the body leading to a loss of more than 5 percent of the woman’s pre-pregnancy weight.
- Hyperemesis gravidarum affects about 3 percent of all pregnancies.
- It needs urgent hospitalization for proper management.
- You must contact your doctor if nausea and vomiting interfere with your work or daily routine.
You must contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Excessive vomiting
- Severe nausea perturbing intake of foods
- Decreased urine frequency and amount
- Passing dark-colored urine
- Dizziness or fainting episodes
- Difficulty having fluids
- Palpitations (a racing heartbeat)
- Weight loss
- Severe headache
- Muscle cramps or spasms
- Excessive fatigue
- An unpleasant fruity odor in the mouth or sweat
- Abdominal pain or tenderness
- Enlarged thyroid gland (felt or seen as a swelling in front of the neck)
- Yellowing of the skin or eyes
- Excessive itching
- If nausea or vomiting begins after the ninth week of pregnancy
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Is it good to have nausea during pregnancy?
Yes. Research suggests that nausea during pregnancy may be a good sign.
Pregnancy nausea and vomiting are caused by a surge of hormones needed for a healthy pregnancy.
- Research suggests that nausea and vomiting during pregnancy may limit the energy intake that leads to a lower level of certain hormones such as insulin.
- This results in the diversion of nutrients toward the baby rather than them being stored in the mother’s body (anabolic effect of hormones).
Studies have reported that women with nausea and vomiting during their first 12 weeks (first trimester) of pregnancy were less likely to have a miscarriage. Furthermore, women who did not experience nausea or vomiting during pregnancy were more likely to deliver earlier (preterm delivery).
This, however, does not mean that there is something wrong with your pregnancy if you did not experience nausea or vomiting. If your routine antenatal checkups are fine and your doctor thinks that you and your baby are healthy, you need not worry.
Excessive nausea and vomiting during pregnancy can, however, cause unfavorable outcomes for both the mother and the baby.
- Excessive or prolonged nausea and vomiting can lead to fetal growth restriction and a consequent higher risk of low birth weight baby.
- This is because excessive nausea and vomiting may perturb the mother’s nutrition.
- Sometimes, excessive nausea and vomiting during pregnancy may be a sign of molar pregnancy (a type of benign tumor of the trophoblasts or early placental tissue), multiple pregnancies, or having a fetus with Down’s syndrome.
What causes nausea during pregnancy?
Although the exact cause is not known, the hormonal changes during pregnancy are generally responsible for nausea and vomiting.
- The hormone called hCG or human chorionic gonadotropin is most commonly attributed to pregnancy nausea and vomiting. This hormone is produced by the placenta and is essential for a healthy pregnancy.
- The two hormones produced by the mother’s ovary, estrogen, and progesterone, are also involved in causing nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. These two hormones slow gastric emptying leading to the symptoms.
- Other hormones, typically thyroid hormone and leptin, may also play a role in pregnancy-associated nausea and vomiting.
Besides hormones, the changes in the immune system and psychological factors during pregnancy may also contribute to nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy may occur due to some underlying causes such as peptic ulcer disease, liver or gallbladder disease, or thyroid hormone imbalance. Hence, medical attention is suggested especially in severe cases of nausea or vomiting. Vitamin B6 deficiency may also cause symptoms during pregnancy.
Certain conditions may increase your risk of having excessive nausea or vomiting during pregnancy, such as:
- A family history of excessive nausea or vomiting during pregnancy (hyperemesis gravidarum)
- Multiple pregnancies (being pregnant with two or more fetuses)
- Having a female fetus
- Pre-pregnancy conditions such as motion sickness, intolerance to certain smells, and migraine
- History of nausea and vomiting in a previous pregnancy
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How is pregnancy nausea treated?
For mild cases, home management is generally sufficient.
Severe cases may require hospitalization along with the administration of intravenous fluids, medications, and feeding support.
14 ways to manage nausea and vomiting during pregnancy
- Take the prescribed vitamins regularly. If the supplements are worsening your symptoms, consult your doctor.
- Avoid foods that worsen your symptoms such as spicy or greasy foods.
- Have small and frequent meals. Avoid long periods between two meals.
- Eat carbohydrate-rich and easily digestible foods such as cereals, rice, fruits, and bread.
- Eat a light snack such as a cracker or a fruit first thing in the morning.
- Take a protein-rich snack such as a boiled egg before bedtime to manage blood sugar fluctuations at night.
- Limit intake of tea and coffee especially if they worsen your symptoms.
- Avoid having too much water and other fluids with or right after meals. You may take one or two sips if needed while eating.
- Have some peppermint or ginger tea or chew some ginger pieces or mints.
- Avoid brushing your teeth right after eating. Brushing teeth after vomiting should also be avoided as it can erode the tooth enamel. You may clean your mouth with water instead.
- Use over-the-counter B6 tablets as per the pharmacist’s instructions.
- Try wearing a sea-sickness wristband available at pharmacies.
- Avoid the smells that worsen your symptoms.
- Your doctor may recommend B6 and doxylamine combination tablets to relieve your symptoms. Take them as per your doctor’s instructions.
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Medically Reviewed on 1/11/2022