How to manage morning sickness: A midwife's guide

·3-min read

Up to 80 per cent of women experience some nausea or vomiting during their pregnancy, with symptoms ranging from mild nausea that comes and goes to a constant and debilitating feeling of sickness.

Morning sickness is very common and can occur at any time. While some women may feel nauseous for their entire pregnancy, most people will find that their sickness begins to disappear around weeks 12 to 16.

So, what can you do if you are suffering from morning sickness? There are a range of options which you can try to help ease your discomfort.

“Firstly, listen to your body and ensure you get plenty of rest. I recommend eating and drinking little and often, to help keep fluid and energy levels up. Although dry foods are usually advised and can help to alleviate waves of nausea, you must be careful as eating a lot of bread, pasta and biscuits can increase bloating and worsen constipation symptoms. Rye bread, rice/corn/lentil cakes, sugar-free cereal bars and nuts are good substitutes,” Lesley Gilchrist, registered midwife and co-founder of My Expert Midwife (myexpertmidwife.com), explained. “There are also some self-help remedies you can try to help reduce feelings of sickness. For example, if you are suffering with morning sickness and can identify the time at which you typically feel nauseous, I’d recommend trying to eat something small, such as a piece of bread, just before. While this is not an instant cure, it can help to stave off or reduce feelings of sickness.”

Lack of sleep and not enough rest can make feelings of nausea seem worse, so it is also important to include some planned relaxation time during the day.

“Known for its anti-nausea properties, ginger can be a good solution to help combat morning sickness. It can be used in many ways, such as drinking hot water with fresh ginger, eating ginger biscuits, or even inhaling the aroma through essential oils,” Lesley advised.

“Other essential oils with anti-sickness properties, such as peppermint, lemon, or lime, can also be very helpful for pregnant women experiencing morning sickness. Simply add a few drops onto a tissue, mix with a carrier oil, and apply to the skin.”

While most women find their morning sickness eases after the first trimester, unfortunately, one to two per cent of women will develop hyperemesis gravidarum (excessive sickness and nausea), which can cause severe dehydration and hospitalisation. Hyperemesis gravidarum is diagnosed when a patient’s wellbeing and ability to have a normal lifestyle are compromised due to the sickness they are experiencing.

You should seek medical help as soon as possible if you experience any of the following symptoms:

- You are unable to keep down any food or fluids for 24-48 hours.

- You are not passing any or very little urine and it is dark in colour.

- You feel weak or faint and not able to stand up for any length of time.

If you are admitted to hospital for treatment, a doctor will assess you, and a plan of care will be made for your needs. Although treatments can temporarily relieve symptoms, it is common for them to return.

If you are diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum you can expect to be offered anti-sickness medication via an injection until you can tolerate this in tablet form. You may also be offered intravenous (IV) fluids to rehydrate you whilst the right medication is found to help ease your sickness.

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