80% of women suffer from this during pregnancy. What can be done?

Eighty percent of women suffer from this problem in pregnancy. What treatments are available?

A pregnant woman sits on a bed holding her belly. (photo credit: CALLAGHAN O'HARE/REUTERS)
A pregnant woman sits on a bed holding her belly.

Almost all pregnant women will suffer from nausea at one point or another during the first trimester. These are the dietary changes and  medications which will provide relief.

Nausea is one of the first signs of pregnancy. In fact, almost all pregnant women suffer from nausea with varying degrees of severity. For most, nausea will be mild and won’t affect their daily routine. Many women are able to get through this period of nausea without needing medical intervention. However, there are cases where the nausea is severe and the women suffering from it can’t continue to lead their lives as usual. Some women can’t function and in extreme cases need medical treatment and hospitalization.

Why do pregnant women suffer from nausea?

Nausea will most often appear with the onset of pregnancy and subside towards the end of the first trimester (around weeks 13-14). The world of science and medicine can’t find the exact reasons for the onset of nausea but studies link the sharp rise of hormones secreted from the development of the placenta to the bloodstream as a cause. These hormones, in a way, wake up the brain’s signals for nausea. As proof, look at twin pregnancies where many women feel even more nauseous than those carrying one fetus.

What can be done to relieve nausea?

Regular check-ups allow for early detection of health problems during pregnancy. Follow-ups in pregnancy are important for both the pregnant woman and the fetus so it starts early, at seven weeks gestation. Part of the follow-up includes nutritional assessment, examination of the degree of vomiting, review of background diseases and other factors. Assuming the pregnancy is normal, every woman should be attentive to her body.

There are many tips on how to alleviate nausea, like eating small meals during the day, eating carbs in the morning, and avoiding or reducing eating fried and high-fat foods and spices. In addition, there are women who claim that a piece of lemon or a slice of ginger can relieve nausea. It’s highly recommended for any pregnant woman to experiment and find the things that help her handle nausea.

When should you see a doctor?

The severity of nausea in pregnancy varies from woman to woman, and endurance and the ability to maintain a routine under nausea are also individual. Pay attention to your body and see if you can keep up your routine. However, if you vomit more than four times a day and can’t drink enough, which may cause dehydration, go to your doctor. You might be treated with an IV infusion of fluids with salts to treat dehydration and balance deficiencies created by vomiting. In unusually severe cases, you’ll receive IV nourishment if you can’t eat and keep food down.

What treatments are available?

If you’re really uncomfortable, try changing some eating habits and see if this alleviates the nausea. Also, there are medications for nausea which are used for a range of illnesses such as Pramin and Zofran, and specific medications for pregnancy like Diclectin which has been known for years to be safe for use in pregnancy with almost no side effects.

Recently, Diclectin has been reformulated and is now known as Bonjesta. It uses the same pharmacological ingredients as Diclectin so despite being new, it’s safe for use during pregnancy. The only change is how the active ingredient is released. It’s now structured so that the substance released while taking the pill will provide immediate relief for dealing with the nausea, and will slowly continue to disperse so that its effect will be for a longer period of time. In fact, Bonjesta allows for relief of nausea throughout most of the day and night.

The author is the chairwoman and director of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Division at Meir Medical Center, Kfar Saba and is on the board of the Israeli Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.