It’s a strange sensation—that overwhelming wave of pregnancy nausea that hits you out of nowhere. You throw up, and then you’re looking for a snack almost simultaneously. How is that possible? There’s no doubt that morning sickness (or night sickness, or around-the-clock sickness) can be an inconvenience for some women, but for others it’s a much bigger problem.

Most women won’t have any trouble with the occasional visit to the bathroom, or socialization with the trash can during the early weeks of their pregnancy. Usually ending somewhere around the 20th week, most vomiting doesn’t cause any problems for your baby and won’t complicate your pregnancy at all.  But beyond that, there can be risks if you experience excessive vomiting during pregnancy  known as hyperemesis gravidarum. Characterized by intractable vomiting, dehydration, rapid weight loss and malnutrition, you may need help from your doctor to manage symptoms and stay healthy.  If you have excessive vomiting and can’t hold down fluids, contact your doctor for an appointment.

What can be done to treat my nausea and vomiting?

Stay away from triggers.  Certain smells, motions and sounds can trigger episodes of vomiting. Doctors think this is in response to hormones that increase a woman’s sense of smell and taste during pregnancy. If something makes you sick, try to avoid it if possible.

Eat lightly and frequently. Small, frequent meals eaten about every two hours helps keep a little something in your stomach. Let yourself get hungry, and you’re more likely to have nausea and there’s not much worse than throwing up on an empty stomach.  Some women find that eating a few crackers before getting out of bed in the morning helps as well.

Get medications. Improved medications offer women a method to cope with their sickness and get through the day.  Zofran is a popular medication that can treat vomiting without causing the sleepiness of older medications, and it’s safe for the baby.  In addition, your doctor may prescribe vitamin B6 (folic acid). B6 has been shown to ease pregnancy nausea and vomiting and may be given in a pill form or through IV fluids. If your dehydration is severe enough you may need to stay in the hospital for a few days or get IV fluids at home to hydrate you.

Ask for an alternative to your vitamin. Prenatal vitamins are laden with iron. While iron is necessary for supporting red blood cell production and reducing anemia from the blood loss that can come with delivery, it can also really upset your stomach.  If possible, try taking your vitamin on a full stomach (if you haven’t thrown it up!) and maybe at bedtime so you can sleep through any irritation. If it still bothers you, talk to your doctor about an alternative or holding off on it for a while. Don’t stop your vitamin without talking to your doctor first though.

There’s no way to predict what women will develop hyperemesis and who will smile and run marathons through their pregnancy. So no matter what card you’re dealt, do your best to take care of yourself and trust the guidance of your physician. Make sure to talk openly with him or her about any difficulties related to nausea and vomiting and let’s hope it passes soon! And somebody throw something at that girl running the marathon…

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