Up to 90% of pregnant women experience nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Symptoms usually start around the 6th week of pregnancy and stop around the 12th week. Some women however, will continue to experience nausea and vomiting throughout their entire pregnancy. Contrary to popular belief, nausea and vomiting can occur at any point during the day, not only in the morning.
The exact cause of this ailment is unknown. Many believe that it is triggered, at least in part, by hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. Although symptoms interfere with daily activities (family, professional and social activities), nausea and vomiting do not, generally speaking, harm the fetus or the mother. Nausea and vomiting are more common in first-time mothers, teenagers and women who are overweight.
Taking multivitamins before becoming pregnant appears to reduce the risk of suffering from this ailment. However, the iron contained in multivitamins may worsen symptoms in some women.
Although there are no guarantees, certain lifestyle strategies may help reduce symptoms:
- Before getting out of bed in the morning, eat a few crackers or some bread
- Wait 15 minutes before getting out of bed and get up slowly
- Eat small meals or snack often so your stomach is never empty
- Avoid strong odours - the smell of lemon and ginger is said to alleviate symptoms
- Avoid spicy and fatty foods
- Rest, since fatigue worsens symptoms
- Get some fresh air and avoid heat
- Eat what you feel like eating and eat when you are hungry
- Avoid drinking while eating
Although meditation, hypnosis, acupuncture and acupressure (wristbands that apply pressure to the wrist) are harmless, their effectiveness has not been scientifically proven.
In Canada, safe and effective medication is available to treat nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. It is recommended that you seek treatment for nausea and vomiting as soon as possible to avoid complications. That said, do not hesitate to consult your healthcare provider for a prescription.
What to be aware of
When nausea and vomiting affect you to the point where you are skipping meals day after day, if you cannot tolerate any food or drink, if you are losing weight or feel dehydrated, it is important that you consult with your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
If nausea and vomiting only appear after the 9th week of pregnancy, or if it is accompanied by headaches, abdominal pain or fever, consult your doctor. It is likely that your nausea and vomiting are not related to your pregnancy.
There is no reason for you to feel alone, ask for help and support from family members and loved ones. Also, do not hesitate to consult your healthcare provider to talk about treatment that will help relieve your symptoms and allow you to enjoy your pregnancy.
For more information:
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada