MANAGING MORNING SICKNESS | by
Nausea. Vomiting. Loss of appetite. For many women, the toughest part of pregnancy is morning sickness. That early morning dash to the bathroom is a common symptom of pregnancy. Up to 80 percent of women will feel sick during pregnancy, with half experiencing vomiting at some point. Fortunately, there are safe ways to feel better. Here’s the very latest on the reasons and remedies for this common pregnancy complaint from Dr. Donna Okuda, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Women’s Clinic at Cherry Creek in Denver.
Morning sickness is thought to be due to increasing pregnancy hormones, particularly estrogen, during early pregnancy. “Feeling a bit sick is actually a good thing because it means hormones are high enough to sustain a pregnancy, Okuda says. Although morning sickness can start as early as your first missed period, it typically starts at about six weeks of pregnancy and improves at 14 to 16 weeks. You may feel more sick in the morning, but nausea can strike at any time of day or night. Women carrying twins or triplets tend to feel sicker due to more pronounced hormone changes, Okuda says.
Because symptoms seem to be worse when the stomach is empty, eating small meals throughout the days may ease morning sickness. Okuda recommends eating high-carbohydrate, high-protein foods, which will keep blood sugar levels steady. Good choices are whole-wheat crackers, bread, pretzels, almonds and granola cereals. If you’re prone to pregnancy sickness, avoid greasy foods – butter, margarine, mayonnaise, bacon, gravy, pastries, fried meats and French fries – and go easy on spicy foods. Okuda recommends eating foods rich in vitamin B-6, a vitamin believed to ease nausea. Good sources of this vitamin are dairy products, fish, nuts, whole grains and meats. Or ask your doctor about taking B-6 supplements. Okuda recommends 25 mg. taken once or twice daily.
THE GINGER RX
Ginger is a common remedy for morning sickness. It’s considered safe during pregnancy. “High-quality, randomized studies have shown that ginger can help with the nausea of morning sickness,” Okuda says. In a 2011 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, women who took ginger showed an 84 percent improvement in feelings of nausea, compared to 56 percent for women who didn’t use ginger. The dose used in the study was half a teaspoon of ginger taken four times a day. Steep it in hot water for five minutes to make ginger tea. Okuda also suggests eating candied ginger (sold at many health food stores) and sipping ginger ale to calm the queasies.
A handful of studies suggest acupuncture could be helpful for morning sickness. In one British study of 600 women who were less than 14 weeks pregnant, weekly 20-minute acupuncture sessions given for four weeks helped relieved morning sickness symptoms. If you aren’t fond of needles, acupressure could be the perfect alternative. Akuda suggests trying an acupressure wristband. Some of the more common brands, like Sea-Band, were originally intended to prevent seasickness, but may be helpful for morning sickness. They stimulate an acupuncture point thought to relieve nausea in traditional Chinese medicine and cost less than $10 in many health food stores. Or you may want to consider hypnosis. Okuda says it can help with morning sickness.
While no prescription drugs for pregnancy nausea and vomiting have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, some safe medications can be prescribed off-label for morning sickness. Talk to your ob-gyn about this possibility. “There are several anti-nausea medications that work for morning sickness,” Okuda says. She also recommends the over-the-counter sleep aid Unisom taken at bedtime, along with vitamin B-6. Not only will you sleep like a baby, you may not wake with an upset tummy. If your prenatal vitamins do a number on your stomach, talk to your ob-gyn about switching the time you take your pills. Taking them with food may also help prevent nausea.
WHEN SICKNESS GETS SEVERE
While morning sickness is normally harmless and won’t put your born baby at risk, about one percent of expecting women have a severe form known as hyperemesis gravidarum, or HG. Unlike normal morning sickness, this extreme form can lead to malnutrition, potentially endangering the health of your developing baby. “Signs of HG are vomiting several times a day, the inability to eat or drink anything without being sick, and weight loss,” Okuda says. If you have these symptoms, talk to your doctor or midwife right away. You may need to be hospitalized for IV hydration and nutritional support. Fortunately, this type of morning sickness is rare and most women sail through pregnancy with just a little queasiness during early pregnancy – a small price to pay for the joy of a healthy, bouncing baby.
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