'Morning sickness' - myths and self-care tips

Morning sickness (nausea and vomiting) affects 50 to 90% of pregnant women. Contrary to popular belief, it can happen at any time of day, but is often worse first thing, hence the name. It usually starts from six to eight weeks of pregnancy and resolves by about 12 to 14 weeks.

A lot of women find this early time in pregnancy one of the hardest. Often it is when the pregnancy has not been made public yet, and it is also usually accompanied by feeling very tired. Be rest assured that for most women, these symptoms pass quickly, and most women feel better after a few days or weeks.

Self-care tips

A few general measures can really help:

1. Get plenty of rest - feeling tired can make the nausea feel much worse

2. Drink plenty of fluids - most women find water easiest

3. Try nibbling something dry - eg crackers or dry toast, before you get up in the morning

4. Eat small frequent meals, that are high in starches - pasta or baked potatoes seem to be tolerated the best

5. Cold, unspiced foods are generally better tolerated - due to a blander flavour and less smells

6. If possible, ask someone you know for help with jobs you find hard - eg cooking or cleaning; strong smells can make the nausea worse

7. Some women find that distraction helps; others find that taking a day or two to rest is the best way to feel better. See what works best for you

8. Consuming ginger can help - an old-fashioned remedy, but studies have found it to be beneficial. Ginger biscuits are often most tolerated

9. A study by the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists (1) has suggested that acupressure (wearing a special bracelet that creates pressure in a certain place) may be beneficial too. It is thought that they help the brain release a specific chemical to decrease nausea.

What is not recommended?

  • Taking a Vitamin B6 supplement is no longer recommended because there is no evidence that it appears to work
  • Hypnosis is also best avoided. Don't try over-the-counter remedies for sickness, without consulting a doctor first. They may not be safe in pregnancy.

What if this does not help?

If these simple measures don't help, it is best to visit your doctor. In certain situations, they may decide to prescribe you anti-sickness medication (antiemetic) that can be used in pregnancy.

Something to keep an eye out for:

A more serious form of vomiting in pregnancy is called Hyperemesis Gravidarum. If your vomiting is unrelenting, you are not keeping fluids down, or you are otherwise unwell, you must see a doctor. This is harder to manage, and you will need some help, to keep you feeling as well as you can in your pregnancy.

Reference:

1.Based on Newly released Guidance from the RCOG - Green-top Guideline 69: The Management of Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy
 
Dr Jennifer Kelly is a GP and founder of the Grace Kelly Ladybird Trust (for awareness and research into childhood cancers).