Praying to the porcelain god, hugging the bowl, or tossing one’s cookies—whatever you want to call it, vomiting is not fun. In fact, it may be one of the most un-fun bodily processes. Add to that unremitting nausea, and you have got yourself quite a pair. And while this dynamic duo is usually only welcomed after select occasions—a stomach virus, food poisoning, or after a serious night out on the town—in pregnancy, it can be a daily event. The hormones secreted by pregnancy (a.k.a. hCG and estrogen) can make you pretty sick—so sick, even getting out of bed to brush your teeth may seem impossible.
Nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy is VERY common. Nearly 75% of women will feel nauseous or vomit at some time during their pregnancy. However, the extreme cases (medically termed hyperemesis gravidarum) are VERY rare. And although nausea and vomiting in pregnancy can happen to any lucky lady, it is more likely to happen in women who are pregnant with multiples (more placenta = more hormones = more nausea), have a history of hyperemesis in a past pregnancy, have a family history of hyperemesis, are prone to motion sickness, or have a personal history of migraines.
Although persistent nausea and vomiting won’t kill you, it will likely make you feel like you’re dying. You can’t work, you can’t work out, and you can barely move. So, what can you do to give the baby barfing the boot?
First, if possible, start taking a prenatal vitamin at least three months before you conceive. Some prep time can help prevent the nausea that women can experience with prenatal vitamins.
Second, try to limit the time you spend around smells that make you sick (goodbye, garlic!).
Third, trade in three large meals for six small ones. The less you need to digest, the less likely you are to lose it!
Fourth, stay away from spicy and fatty foods, and fifth, shelve any pills with iron.
Last, think about investing in ginger pills. Not only has ginger been shown to be beneficial for your immune system, but studies also show that it may be the secret to curtailing your nausea. And although the medical jury is still out on acupressure, acupuncture, and electrical nerve stimulation to the inside of the wrist, it can’t hurt to try.
When simple measures fail and you are still BFF with your toilet bowl, it’s time to bring out the big guns (a.k.a. medications). Your OB will likely start with something like vitamin B6 or vitamin B6 plus doxylamine. If this doesn’t do the trick, they may amp it up with prescription anti-nausea medications. However, before you go this route, it’s important to have a chat with your OB about what’s coming up and when before you take anything else down.
If this still doesn’t cut it and you’re cutting weight like a wrestler before a big fight, your OB may consider admitting you to the hospital for intravenous nutrition. Severe causes call for serious measures. Nutrition can be delivered through an IV if need be.
Although it is very rare for this fight to go the distance, if you find yourself still battling nausea in the second trimester, consider adding an antacid or reflux medication. Often, women start to experience reflux in the second trimester. As your little one grows, so does your uterus. As your uterus grows, the space between your uterus and your upper abdominal organs (think stomach) shrinks. Pressure on the stomach can cause things to come back up (a.k.a. reflux), which can lead to nausea and even vomiting.
In cases where nausea and vomiting start after nine weeks or there are other atypical symptoms (abdominal pain, fever, headache), it’s important to reach out to your doctor—ASAP. Not all nausea and vomiting in pregnancy is normal. Sometimes it can indicate that something serious (appendicitis, kidney infection, kidney stones) is going on.
The good news about nausea and vomiting is that, while it can make you miserable, it usually doesn’t do anything miserable to your body or to your baby. Even when the only thing your stomach can stomach is saltines and ginger ale, your baby will be just fine.
Whether you call it “puking,” “barfing,” “hurling,” or “vomiting,” we call it no fun. But it will pass, and we will do our best to get you through it, one day at a time!