Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy

Information about nausea and vomiting duringpregnancy.

Nausea and vomiting is very common especially in the beginning of the pregnancy. It varies how much a person is affected by it. Around 80% experience nausea and approximately 50% experience vomiting during their pregnancy.

Nausea and vomiting

Usually, nausea and vomiting begins around the 5th-6th week of the pregnancy, worsens in the 8th-12th week and disappears around the 16th week of the pregnancy. Some will experience that the nausea and vomiting continues until the third trimester (28th week), and for a few it will continue right up until giving birth.

Although pregnancy related nausea is often known as ”morning sickness”, many will also feel ill throughout the day. Besides the nausea and vomiting, you can experience tiredness, weight loss, dehydration, food aversion, loss of appetite, sadness, sensitivity to smell and paleness.

In some cases, being pregnant can affect your everyday routine in a negative way, the nausea and vomiting can become so frequent that it overshadows your life, which can lead to sick-leave and possible hospitalisation for a shorter or longer period of time.

This condition only affects the person who is pregnant, and the foetus is not harmed by the condition.

When nausea and vomiting during the pregnancy becomes more serious and requires hospitalisation, the Latin expression hyperemesis gravidarum is used for the condition. This condition is seen in 0,1-1% of pregnancies. People with hyperemesis gravidarum experience vomiting many times a day, will often lose weight and show signs of dehydration in blood and urine samples.

Why do you feel nauseous?

The cause of nausea is still unknown. However, there is a connection between nausea and high levels of the pregnancy hormone in the blood. It is also possible that physical, social and psychological factors affect the condition.

Some people are more likely to develop nausea and vomiting during the pregnancy than others, especially people who:

  • Have experienced nausea during a previous pregnancy.
  • Have experienced nausea and vomiting during treatment with oestrogen (for example with birth control pills).
  • Are likely to feel nauseous due to certain tastes and smells.
  • Suffer from motion sickness.

What can you do?

There are many tips related to food as well as physical, psychological and social factors, that you can try to better your condition. It is likely that you will have to try many things for several weeks before you figure out what works best for you. The tips can relieve symptoms, but they will rarely remove them completely.

Food

Try different things and eat and drink what you like and whenever you feel like it. Rest before meals and be sure to sit up when you are eating. Avoid lying down directly after a meal.

  • Have a bit of food and something to drink by your bed so you have a bit to eat before you get out of bed in the morning.
  • Eat before or as soon as you feel hungry to avoid an empty stomach. An empty stomach can worsen the nausea.
  • Eat small and frequent meals. Some people experience less nausea if they eat light and cold meals, for example you can have a chicken salad instead of a fried chicken.
  • Eat snacks throughout the day, for example biscuits, crackers, nuts and crisps.
  • Avoid fat, spicy and sour foods as well as very sweet products.
  • Drink plenty of liquids. Take one glass at a time and be sure to drink between meals. Some people find it useful to use a straw.
  • Drink cold and refreshing liquids, for example soda, cordial and juice.
  • Boiled sweets and slices of orange can help you keep your mouth fresh, which lessens nausea.
  • Try brushing your teeth after meals.
  • Have your meals in a ventilated room and in pleasant surroundings.
  • Constipation can worsen the nausea. Try to avoid constipation by staying hydrated. If necessary, you can take laxatives for a shorter period of time.

Physical, psychological and social factors

It is important to avoid smells and other activities that trigger nausea.

  • Get fresh air and exercise during the day.
  • Create diversions from the nausea for example with music, TV, reading and walks.
  • Avoid crowded spaces, heat and humidity, chemicals, perfume, coffee, smoke and cooking fumes.
  • Take time to rest frequently throughout the day.
  • Avoid excessive noise, flashing lights and transport by car or train.
  • Wear comfortable and casual clothing.
  • Take time to consider whether there is something in your everyday life that can affect your situation. It could be physical, psychological or social, for example stress, indoor environment and expectations from others or from yourself.
  • Try to focus on the positive things and cherish your pregnancy.
  • If taking vitamins and iron during the day worsens your symptoms, try taking them before going to bed. If this doesn’t help, you can stop taking them for a while but be sure to consult with your doctor.
  • Studies have shown that acupuncture and acupressure have a soothing effect. Another option is to use an acupressure bracelet all the time. Ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacy staff about the options available.
  • Some people find hypnosis to be helpful. Ask your doctor about the options.

What can the next of kin do to help?

  • Create a peaceful and quiet environment around the person who is experiencing nausea and vomiting.
  • Help with practical things and take over some of the responsibilities.
  • Reduce visits and social activities around the person who is pregnant.
  • Show understanding and patience.
  • Show support for wishes and needs.

When can you seek help?

You should contact your GP or the 1813 phoneline if:

  • There are signs of dehydration, for example rare urination, urine that is dark in colour and continuous dizziness when standing up.
  • You are vomiting more than five times a day, and/or if there is blood in the vomit.
  • Stomach aches and cramps become too severe.
  • You have lost more than 3 kg’s in one week.
  • You have thrown everything up in a period of 12 hours or more.

Hospitalisation

During hospitalisation it will be possible to figure out which factors are affecting you specifically and find a way to lessen the symptoms.

The ward can offer relief, guidance about food, control of your liquid and nutritional balance and weight, conversations with the care staff, medical treatment with laxatives, antiemetics (drugs to help stop the nausea) and vitamin supplements, IV liquids and training in acupressure.

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