If you ask a soon-to-be mom what's the worst part about being pregnant, she's probably going to say the relentless nausea and vomiting. Throwing up is one of life's least enjoyable experiences, and having to endure it when you're growing a human in your body only adds insult to injury. If morning sickness is a regular thing for you when you're pregnant, you've probably tried all of those so-called home remedies, hoping for some reprieve. In fact, asking how to stop throwing up when you're pregnant is, in my humble opinion, a normal question every gestating woman has asked herself at least once. So what's the real deal? Is there any way to win the war against a nauseous tummy?
According to the Mayo Clinic, nausea is usually one of the first signs of pregnancy (see also: almost every movie where the main character unexpectedly finds out she's pregnant). For most women, nausea (or "morning sickness") is experienced in the first trimester, but many women continue to experience it well into their second (and sometimes third) trimesters, too.
According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), up to 70 percent of expectant mothers experience nausea at some point along their pregnancies. As the website What To Expect states, no one knows exactly what causes the misnamed "morning sickness" but one theory links it to the increase in the hormones hCG. Other theories, as What To Expect explains, include the effect that rising estrogen and progestin levels may have on the digestive tract, resulting in difficulty digesting. There's also the fact that when you're pregnant, you're just not as hungry, which can also lead to an upset stomach (as pregnancy and an empty stomach don't mix).
Unfortunately there is no "magic cure" for the the nausea and vomiting that comes with pregnancy, but there are things you can do to manage it. In terms of lifestyle changes you can make, you can first learn to identify what your nausea triggers are (garlic cloves, anyone?), and then make sure you never cross paths with them. It is also helpful to eat before you're hungry. The APA advises keeping crackers by your bed, eating a few, allowing some time to digest, and then getting up once your body feels ready. Other ways APA suggests to mitigate the nausea includes eating smaller meals on a frequent basis throughout the day, drinking between meals instead of with meals, eating plain (dry) foods instead of rich foods, resting, getting enough fresh air, and sucking on hard candies.
And of course, there's feeling yucky and then there's throwing up every damn day (or multiple times a day) on the regular. If you're experiencing the latter, that's what experts call hyperemesis gravidarum (i.e. severe nausea and vomiting, a la The Dutchess Kate of Windsor's pregnancies). According to the website for the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), some define Hyperemesis gravidarum (also known as HG) as: "The occurrence of greater than three episodes of vomiting per day accompanied by ketonuria and a weight loss of more than 3 kg or 5 percent of body weight." That's pretty serious stuff, and at it's worst, can lead to hospitalization.
So are a couple of hard candies going to do the trick when it comes to that level of vomiting? Would doctors go straight to the prescription-route if things were this bad? According to the NIH, the first level of treatment should always be dietary rather than pharmacologic (unless, of course, you needed to be hospitalized). Even for the woman suffering from HG, the initial treatment plan is similar to that of the woman suffering traditional morning sickness. As explained on the NCBI's website, that includes the small meals, the avoidance of rich foods, eating more protein, and avoiding nausea-inducing foods.
You may have rolled your eyes at the recommendation to try some ginger for your vomit spells, but there's actually a lot of truth to it. Scientific truth, in fact. As referenced on the NCBI/NIH's website, "Ginger is the single nonpharmacologic intervention recommended by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology." And yes, it is recommended even for women who are throwing up a lot during their pregnancies.
Acupuncture is another holistic way to treat vomiting, but this remedy is more applicable early in pregnancy. A study published in Birth finds that women who received acupuncture treatment early in pregnancy reported less nausea in the second week of the trial than the first.
Another approach is treating the problem before it starts, as the saying goes. A study published on the US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health's (NIH/NLM) website, looks into whether taking anti-nausea medication before the symptoms of nausea began could help prevent the morning sickness from recurring. The study finds that preemptive treatment of antinauseants (a combo of antihistamines or ondansetron) does, indeed, help.
One of the most common treatments, according to for nausea and vomiting remains the drug Ondansetron (Zofran). Other medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) include combination of doxylamine and pyridoxine (Diclegis), as cited by the Mayo Clinic's website. Or, as the New York Times explains, if your nausea and vomiting is extremely severe, your doctor might advise you to be admitted to the hospital for IV fluids.
Vomiting when you're pregnant is always an ordeal. Most people will try nearly anything to make it stop. If you find yourself going down the line trying to find which thing can at least make it better, go in with an open mind and try it all. You never know which thing (or combination of things) could be the path towards peace (in your gut).
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