Many pregnant women feel sick, or vomit during early pregnancy. In most cases, it is mild and does not need any specific treatment. In more severe cases, an anti-sickness medicine is sometimes used. Low body fluid (dehydration) is a complication in severe cases. See a doctor if you suspect that you are becoming dehydrated.
Around half of all pregnant women feel sick, and vomit during early pregnancy. So, it can be considered a normal part of pregnancy. It is often called morning sickness, but symptoms can occur at any time - not just in the morning. Symptoms are mild in most cases. Feelings of sickness (nausea) typically come and go. They usually last for between one and four hours at a time. Some women have more severe symptoms and have frequent and/or longer bouts of vomiting. You may just have nausea and no vomiting.
Sickness and vomiting usually start before the ninth week of pregnancy. In 9 out of 10 women, the symptoms have gone by 16 weeks of pregnancy. However, some pregnant women have some sickness throughout their entire pregnancy.
Remember, not all vomiting may be due to the pregnancy. You can still get other illnesses such as a urinary tract infection. You should see a doctor urgently if you develop any symptoms that you are worried about, particularly any of the following symptoms:
1. Very dark urine, or not passing any urine for more than eight hours
2. Stomach pains
3. High temperature (fever)
4. Pain on passing urine
7. Jaundice (yellow skin)
8. Severe weakness or feeling faint
9. Blood in your vomit
10. Repeated, unstoppable vomiting
Sickness and vomiting in pregnancy can be a difficult problem to cope with. It can interfere with a pregnant woman's life. It can affect your mood, your work, your home situation and your ability to care for your family. Support and help from family and friends can make coping easier.
For a minority of pregnant women (up to two in 100 pregnant women), the sickness and vomiting are prolonged and very severe. This causes them to become low in body fluid (dehydrated) and to lose weight. They may also develop vitamin deficiencies. Because they are not able to eat, the pregnant woman can develop signs of starvation. This is shown by looking for the presence of substances called ketones in the urine (using a simple test on a sample of urine). Ketones are produced if your body is forced to break down fat for energy if you are vomiting and are unable to keep food down. This severe sickness and vomiting are known as hyperemesis gravidarum. These women often need to be admitted to hospital for intravenous fluids and other treatment.
In most cases, as the symptoms are often mild, no specific treatment is needed. However, there are certain things that you may like to try to help relieve your symptoms. They include the following:
Eating small but frequent meals
Foods high in carbohydrate are best, such as bread, crackers, etc. Some people say that sickness is made worse by not eating anything at all. If you eat some food regularly, it may help to ease symptoms. Eating a plain (or ginger) biscuit about 20 minutes before getting up is said by some women to help. Cold meals may be better if nausea is associated with food smells.
Some studies have shown that taking ginger tablets or syrup may be effective for relieving nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. However, care should be taken, as the quality of ginger products varies and they are not closely regulated in the UK. Before you take a ginger product, you should discuss this with a pharmacist or your GP.
Some women find that a trigger can set off the sickness. For example, a smell or emotional stress. If possible, avoid anything that may trigger your symptoms.
Having lots to drink to avoid low body fluid (dehydration)
Drinking little and often rather than large amounts may help to prevent vomiting. Try to aim to drink at least two litres a day. Water is probably the best drink if you are feeling sick. Cold and sweet drinks can sometimes make symptoms worse in some people.
Make sure that you have plenty of rest and sleep in early pregnancy. Being tired is thought to make nausea and vomiting during pregnancy worse.
Some studies have shown that P6 (wrist) acupressure may be effective for relieving nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. Acupressure is the application of pressure only, and does not need needles.
Most pregnant women manage to eat and drink enough and they don't need anti-sickness medicines. However, an anti-sickness medicine may be advised if your symptoms are persistent and severe, or do not settle with the above measures.
It is generally best to avoid medicines when you are pregnant (including over-the-counter remedies and herbal remedies). However, some medicines have been used for a number of years to treat sickness and vomiting in pregnancy and are thought to be safe. See your doctor before taking an anti-sickness medicine when you are pregnant. It is best to use medication for the shortest time possible. However, for some women, medication may be needed for several weeks before symptoms settle.
Hospital care is needed to give fluids by a drip in a small number of women. Hospital care may be needed if you do not respond to medication, become ill, lose weight or become low in body fluid (dehydrated).