Pregnancy is a wonderful time in a woman’s life. But, let’s face it—the miracle of creating life can be downright miserable for many of us thanks to things like nausea, vomiting, tiredness and sensitivity to food—also known as morning sickness.
In fact, 75-80% of all pregnant women will experience the symptoms of morning sickness in one way or another over the course of their pregnancy. “Morning sickness, which we now refer to as Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy or NVP, consists of four main symptoms: nausea, vomiting, retching and dry heaves. [These symptoms] can occur in any combination, any time of the day and it’s different for every woman,” explains Dr. Shannon Clark, an associate professor in Maternal-Fetal Medicine at University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston.
“Traditionally most women do say symptoms are worse when they wake up. But we do know through all the studies and observations we’ve done on our pregnant patients that not every woman has her worst symptoms in the morning. Actually some women have nighttime symptoms that keep them from sleep,” explained Dr. Clark.
Tips for Managing Morning Sickness
Caused by a mix of hormones and genetics, symptoms of morning sickness can range from very mild and manageable to downright overwhelming. The most common symptoms include sensitivity to food, upset stomach and tiredness. Sometimes smelling a certain food or just seeing it can send a soon-to-be-momma running for the nearest bathroom. Whether its spicy food, sugary treats, or one food in particular, Dr. Clark says that identifying your food triggers and then avoiding them will help alleviate some symptoms. She also recommends:
- “Grazing” throughout the day. “Eat multiple small meals rather than three large meals so that there’s not a load on the stomach. With six meals a day, [you’re] keeping a little baseline meal in the stomach throughout the day.”
- Following the BRAT diet—bananas, applesauce, rice and toast.
- Eating foods that are high in protein.
Health Risks associated with Morning Sickness
While morning sickness is a very common part of pregnancy, Dr. Clark says that it is a very real medical condition that can pose very serious health risks.
“If the symptoms [of morning sickness] go undiagnosed and undertreated it can proceed to more significant symptoms. Dehydration is a possibility, electrolyte abnormalities, having vitamin and mineral deficiencies, weight loss; those can all ensue if the symptoms go untreated,” advised Clark. “It’s very important to just have these conversations with your healthcare provider from the get-go in case that does happen. And in the event that it does [happen], that usually requires hospitalization.”
Treating Morning Sickness
Luckily, morning sickness doesn’t have to land you in the hospital. A new FDA approved medicine for the treatment of morning sickness, Diclegis (pronounced die-clee-gis), is now available.
“Diclegis is specifically indicated for the treatment of NVP and, even more specifically, in the first trimester of pregnancy,” explains Dr. Clark. “It’s got two ingredients. The first being an antihistamine; the second being vitamin B6. It’s a delayed release formulation which means that it helps to suppress the symptoms over an extended period of time,” explains Dr. Clark.
Diclegis is available by prescription only, which is why Dr. Clark stresses that it is so important for women to tell their doctor about their symptoms and not to just bear with it.
“The key point that I would like to make is that nausea and vomiting in pregnancy is a real medical condition. It’s not something that women just have to experience. It’s OK to talk about it with their healthcare provider. It’s not bothering their healthcare provider if they say something about it. So it’s important [for women] to have that conversation and for them to know that it’s acceptable for them to have that conversation so that if symptoms do get to the point where they need treatment, that their provider will be aware and then treatment can be initiated in a timely fashion.
Listen to my full interview with Dr. Shannon Clark