You don’t have to suffer as much as Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (better known as Princess Kate) does to agree that morning sickness can make an expectant mom miserable. While only 3 percent of women have hyperemesis gravidarum — the severe form of pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting the royal mom has experienced — morning sickness during pregnancy can be a royal pain for many.
“Morning sickness is very common and, for some, it is considered a normal part of pregnancy,” says Dr. Jose De La Mota, a board-certified OBGYN with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. “Nausea by itself can affect up to 90 percent of pregnancies.”
According to Dr. De La Mota, symptoms can start between four and six weeks of pregnancy, peak at about nine weeks, and will usually resolve during the first trimester. However, some patients may experience symptoms until the third trimester, and close to 5 percent of women will have them until delivery.
Despite its name, morning sickness can be experienced during any time of day. Some related risk factors include:
- Prior nausea or vomiting when taking birth control pills
- Strong sense of taste or smell
- Multiple pregnancy (pregnant with more than one fetus)
- History of heartburn, reflux, motion sickness or migraines
- Family history of morning sickness
- Nausea or vomiting in past pregnancies
- Pregnant with female fetus
“Even in its more severe form, there is no evidence that morning sickness can affect the fetus,” says Dr. De La Mota. “However, it can be extremely disturbing for some patients. Patients unable to keep any fluids down and experiencing weight loss of 5 percent or more of their pre-pregnancy body weight may require inpatient treatment.”
In an effort to avoid or prevent nausea and vomiting with pregnancy, Dr. De La Mota recommends that women begin to take prenatal vitamins prior to pregnancy. He also offers the following additional tips to prevent morning sickness or to treat mild symptoms so that they do not worsen:
- Avoid triggers, such as certain smells, spicy foods, or foods that tend to lead to nausea or vomiting
- Avoid both an empty stomach and a full one — try snacking or eating multiple small meals throughout the day
- Drink plenty of fluids and avoid dehydration
- Add real ginger ale or any natural food containing ginger to your diet
- Take multivitamins at night with a snack
If these lifestyle changes do not help, holistic interventions, such as acupressure, acupuncture and hypnosis, may provide relief. Your doctor may also prescribe medication, or suggest that you take over-the-counter vitamin B-6 or doxylamine (an ingredient in some sleep aids) or a combination of the two.
“Severe cases of morning sickness may require a woman to be hospitalized and given intravenous (IV) fluids with other medications until she is stable enough to continue treatment at home,” says Dr. De La Mota. “In general, be mindful of your symptoms and what makes them worse or better, take your vitamins, and talk to your doctor if nausea and vomiting is severely affecting your life or causing you concern.”
For the news media: To talk with Dr. Jose De La Mota about morning sickness for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.