It is quite common for women to experience mild nausea and occasional vomiting during pregnancy. Symptoms usually occur between the 5th and 18th week of pregnancy, but in some cases, it may last for the duration of the pregnancy.
While pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting can be unpleasant, it is usually not harmful to the unborn child. Severe symptoms (vomiting every day, significant weight loss) can lead to dehydration as well as vitamin and nutrient deficiencies. Prompt treatment is therefore essential.
Causes and triggers
The cause of pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting is not well known, but may be associated with changes in hormone levels, genetic predisposition, and psychological factors. Some women are more likely to develop these symptoms, including:
- Those who are pregnant with more than one child (twins, triplets, etc.).
- Those who developed nausea and vomiting in a previous pregnancy.
- Those whose mother or sister experienced these symptoms during pregnancy.
Here are some measures that can be taken to reduce the frequency and intensity of symptoms:
- Eat foods that are healthy, safe to eat during pregnancy, and that appeal to you when you are hungry.
- Opt for foods that are high in protein or carbohydrates.
- Avoid fatty, fried or spicy foods.
- If necessary, avoid having an empty stomach by eating and drinking more often, but have smaller amounts.
- Have a light snack (e.g., crackers) 15 minutes before slowly getting out of bed in the morning.
- Avoid eating before going to bed or lying down right after a meal.
- Avoid unpleasant odours.
- If taking a multivitamin seems to worsen nausea, take with food or right before bed.
Alternatively, ginger supplements, counseling, acupuncture and acupressure may be useful to alleviate symptoms. If nausea and vomiting persist, your pharmacist may recommend medication to reduce symptoms (e.g., Diclectin, Gravol).
When should I see a medical professional?
- If nausea and vomiting are severe, persistent, impede your daily activities, or if you see blood in the vomit.
- If you are losing weight.
- If you show signs of dehydration such as dry mucous membranes (mouth, nose) or dark coloured urine.
- If you have pain, abdominal cramping, or vaginal bleeding.
- If nausea starts after the 9th week of pregnancy.