Sickness in pregnancy

We understand that feeling sick for some or all of the day can be horrible. The aim of this information sheet is to try and make things easier to understand and offer some advice to try and help you cope.,/p>

It can be hard to understand how you can feel so sick and yet many of your friends will have had no sickness at all! Around 7 out 10 women do suffer though.

Sickness in Pregnancy

  • The pregnancy hormone called Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin (HCG) is responsible for you feeling and maybe even being sick. It is unclear why some women suffer more than others.
  • You may be very early into the pregnancy, nausea can start as early as 4 weeks but usually presents between 6 & 7 weeks.
  • It usually increases as the pregnancy develops but most commonly settles by 14 weeks.
  • It is often referred to as ‘morning sickness’ but in reality continues throughout the day, often feeling worse later in the day, especially if you are tired.
  • If the sickness becomes debilitating and you are unable to tolerate fluids and diet, then you may have hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). The lack of fluids may cause you to become dehydrated and this makes you feel more poorly.

What are the symptoms of HG? Symptoms can be mild or severe. They may include:

  • prolonged and severe nausea
  • inability to keep down fluids and food
  • tiredness
  • light-headedness
  • weight loss
  • producing too much saliva (ptyalism)
  • low blood pressure
  • rapid heart beat (tachycardia)

What makes you more likely to have sickness in pregnancy?

  • you’re having twins or triplets
  • you suffered nausea and vomiting in a previous pregnancy
  • you tend to get motion sickness/car sick
  • you suffer with migraine headaches
  • morning sickness runs in the family
  • you felt sick when taking contraceptives containing oestrogen
  • it’s your first pregnancy
  • you’re obese (your BMI is 30 or more)

Is there anything I can do to help?

  • If cooking smells are unbearable try to avoid them. If you do cook or are around someone cooking, make sure windows are open and you’re away from the kitchen while it is going on. Alternatively, you can try cold foods.
  • Try eating first thing in the morning and just before bed. Having an empty stomach does not help when suffering from morning sickness. Plan meals in advance. Good snacks to keep close by are bananas, cereal bars, nuts, dried fruit, bread, crackers, peanut butter sandwiches and crisps.
  • Eat plain foods that are high in carbohydrate and low in fat (such as bread, rice, crackers and pasta). Try eating something like dry toast or a plain biscuit before you get out of bed.
  • Ginger comes in many forms. Ginger biscuits, ginger sweets, ginger ale and even ginger scents, such as candles can help with morning sickness. Make sure you check with your pharmacist before taking ginger supplements during pregnancy.
  • Citrus fruit – Eating lemons, limes or oranges can relieve morning sickness symptoms. You can also throw them in your water or even just smell them.
  • Peppermint- Peppermint is a known nausea suppressor. Peppermint can be taken in tea, water or in a sweet form.
  • Sour foods– Sucking sour sweets has the same effect as peppermint. Granny Smith apples are also good to eat. The sour taste of these apples relives nausea and is also a healthy snack to have handy.
  • Liquids- It is extremely important you avoid becoming dehydrated during your pregnancy. Try drinking little and often.. If you can’t tolerate drinks, try sucking ice cubes, eating ice lollies or sipping very slowly through a straw. Some find bottled mineral/Soda water (NOT tonic water) is more palatable than tap water. If you are unable to take any liquids, then contact your GP/Midwife.
  • Acupressure bands – Acupressure bands (known as sea bands), provides relief by applying pressure on the P6 (or Nei-Kuan) point on both wrists.
  • Vitamin B6 naturally fights nausea as well as keeping your energy levels up. Ask a pharmacist for advice.
  • Fresh air can do wonders.
  • Get plenty of rest - tiredness can make nausea worse.
  • Anti-sickness medication– If your nausea and vomiting is severe and doesn’t improve, your GP may recommend a short-term course of an anti-sickness medicine, called an anti emetic. Anti emetics will be given in tablet form but can also be given in an injection form or as a suppository.
  • Invite friends and family over. This will help with the loneliness and isolation that many sufferers feel. If they are not able to visit give them a call and have a natter.
  • During periods when you can get out and about, have an emergency kit with you at all times. This should include a bag for the vomit (airline type paper bags, jiffy bags and nappy bags), wipes, tissues, plastic bags for disposal and a bottle of water for mouth rinsing afterwards.

We know that this feels so horrible and that we can’t make it better but we really hope knowing that we understand and reading this information has helped and don’t forget when you attend the hospital, they will continue to give you their support and keep you informed.

Pregnancy Sickness Support is a registered UK charity working to improve care, treatment and support for women suffering from nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, phone: 024 7638 2020