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Morning Sickness Symptoms & Remedies

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Summary

No two mums experience pregnancy sickness in the same way, so what relieves the symptoms for one person may not work for another. If you’re experiencing mild pregnancy sickness, commonly called ‘morning sickness’, self-help remedies may be enough to help you manage symptoms. But if you’re suffering from more severe symptoms, you may need medication.

Remedies

UK charity Pregnancy Sickness Support list a number of remedies and coping strategies that have helped other mums suffering from morning sickness, and advise that:

  • Rest is the most important strategy for managing morning sickness
  • Eating little and often is also very important
  • Sniffing lemon in a cloth or sucking hard sweets may help if smells trigger your symptoms
  • Experiment with having drinks hot, ice-cold or lukewarm to find what works for you

Watch our video for more tips on how to manage your morning sickness throughout the day.

What about other remedies?

Acupuncture, homeopathy, hypnotherapy and so on have not been found to have any beneficial results beyond a placebo effect. However, they are also unlikely to cause harm and can provide an opportunity for relaxation and pampering, so if you want to try them, do. Bear in mind that they can be expensive and if you are trying an invasive or physical therapy such as acupuncture or massage, then you should use a fully qualified practitioner who has specific pregnancy experience.

Does ginger help?

If you’re suffering pregnancy sickness, particularly hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), the chances are that everyone you meet will suggest you try ginger. There is a little bit of evidence that mild-to-moderate nausea and vomiting may be helped by taking 1,000 mg of pure ginger root extract per day1.

However, in practice many women find that ginger can actually make symptoms worse as it is very strong-tasting and can increase acid reflux. Recently, researchers have found that over half of women with HG who tried ginger said it caused unpleasant side effects, and that even people suggesting it to them made them feel mentally worse2.

Ginger-flavoured food products, such as ginger biscuits, don’t have enough ginger to have any actual effect. However, if the flavour is one that you enjoy then there is no harm in trying them – they can work by helping you eat little and often. Just don’t suggest them to women with HG!

Eating little and often is also very important

Treatment for hyperemesis gravidarum

Unlike morning sickness HG is a serious condition and needs medical treatment. The above strategies should only be used in addition to medical treatment, and trying them should not delay you seeking help from a doctor. Ginger, in particular, is likely to make your symptoms worse2.

What medications are used for HG?

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) have released guidelines detailing which medications should be used to treat HG, which your doctor should follow3. They usually start with medications such as cyclizine, promethazine or prochlorperazine. If these are not controlling your symptoms, you can try a medication called ondansetron, which is effective for a lot of women. If you have severe HG and none of the medications are working, even when combined, then they may try you on steroids. Additionally, if you are becoming dehydrated, you may have to go to hospital for a drip.

All of the medications used have been around for many years and have never been found to cause harm to the baby. Recent evidence shows that not treating HG effectively with medication may increase risks to the baby and certainly causes significant suffering for mum4,5.

Some of the medications can cause side effects for mum, though, such as drowsiness and – with ondansetron in particular – constipation. You may find that it’s a balance between managing symptoms and side effects.

Pregnancy Sickness Support have a helpline which can offer much more information about medications and treatments for HG.

Loneliness and isolation

Any level of pregnancy sickness can be isolating and depressing, but the more severe it is the more miserable it is likely to make you feel. HG, in particular, can leave you housebound or even bedbound for weeks on end, and it can seem that the world has forgotten about you.

In addition to medication, a large part of managing the condition is coping mentally with the misery such symptoms cause. Many women worry about the toll the illness is taking on their family and finances, and they may feel guilty about having negative thoughts towards their baby too. These feelings are natural and understandable. Try to remember that it is not your fault you are sick; you have a serious illness and it’s important for you and your baby that you rest as much as possible.

Resources

The Pregnancy Sickness Support website has a wealth of information and support to help you get through pregnancy sickness. They run a national peer support network so that women who have been through HG can support women going through it now. You can access support by calling their helpline on 024 7638 2020.

The Spewing Mummy blog offers support and information specifically for HG.
My book, Hyperemesis Gravidarum – The Definitive Guide, is available online or through all major book retailers and covers everything you need to know about HG.

Written by: Caitlin Dean

A three time hyperemesis gravidarum survivor, Caitlin Dean now dedicates her time and energy to raising awareness about the condition in the media, providing support to sufferers and writing prolifically on the subject through her Spewing Mummy blog, healthcare journals and magazines. As a Registered General Nurse and Chairperson for UK charity Pregnancy Sickness Support she is involved in research, pioneering services and health care professional education about HG. She has also written two helpful books on the condition.

View references

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1. Pregnancy Sickness Support. Survey of women's experience of hyperemesis gravidarum. 2013.

2. Dean CR, O’Hara ME. Ginger is ineffective for hyperemesis gravidarum, and causes harm: an internet based survey of sufferers. MIDIRS Midwifery Digest 2015;25(4):449-55.

3. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. The management of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy and hyperemesis gravidarum. London: Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 2016.

4. Grooten IJ et al. Weight loss in pregnancy and cardiometabolic profile in childhood: findings from a longitudinal birth cohort. BJOG 2015;122(12):1664-73.

5. Mullin PM et al. Prenatal exposure to hyperemesis gravidarum linked to increased risk of psychological and behavioral disorders in adulthood. J Dev Orig Health Dis 2011;2(4):200-4.

Last reviewed: 4th October 2016
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