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Ease morning sickness by taking 10 to 25 mg three times a day
Reduce nausea and vomiting by taking 1 gram of encapsulated ginger powder each day
Prevent dehydration due to morning sickness by refueling with fluids
Morning sickness is the common but poorly understood nausea that frequently accompanies early pregnancy.
It is generally not serious, although it can be quite unpleasant. Hyperemesis gravidarum is uncontrollable
nausea and vomiting during pregnancy that results in severe dehydration and pH imbalances in the blood. It is
distinct from morning sickness with nausea and vomiting. The former condition requires treatment by a
healthcare professional and, sometimes, hospitalization. Hyperemesis gravidarum can sometimes result from
hyperthyroidism,1 liver disease, kidney infection, pancreatitis, intestinal obstruction, or other
causes—conditions that will not respond to any of the natural substances discussed in this article.
Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, lightheadedness, and dizziness during the early stages of pregnancy. Women with morning sickness may be particularly sensitive to certain odors and foods. However, eating small amounts of a particular food may relieve their symptoms.
A controlled trial found that acupuncture significantly reduced symptoms in women with hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe form of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy that usually requires hospitalization.2 Treatment consisted of acupuncture at a single point on the forearm three times daily for two consecutive days. Acupressure (in which pressure, rather than needles, is used to stimulate acupuncture points) has also been found in several preliminary trials to be mildly effective in the treatment of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy.3, 4, 5
In a Harvard University study, women with a high intake of saturated fat (found mainly in meat and dairy) during the year prior to pregnancy had a much higher risk of severe morning sickness than did women eating less saturated fat. An increase in saturated fat intake of 15 grams per day (the equivalent of a four-ounce cheeseburger or three cups of whole milk) was associated with a greater than threefold increase in the risk of developing morning sickness.
Some doctors recommend that women with morning sickness eat dry crackers upon waking. Drinking liquids and eating solid foods at separate times may be helpful as well.
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Ginger is well-known for alleviating nausea and improving digestion. One gram of encapsulated ginger powder was used in one study to reduce the severe nausea and vomiting associated with hyperemesis gravidarum. This condition is potentially life-threatening and should only be treated by a qualified healthcare professional. A review of six double-blind trials concluded that ginger is probably an effective treatment for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy.
Because ginger contains some compounds that cause chromosomal mutation in the test tube, some doctors are concerned about the safety of using ginger during pregnancy. However, the available clinical research, combined with the fact that ginger is widely used in the diets of many cultures, suggests that prudent use of ginger for morning sickness is probably safe in amounts up to 1 gram per day.
In two double-blind trials, supplementation with vitamin B6 (10 or 25 mg three times per day) significantly reduced the severity of morning sickness.
In a preliminary study done in the 1930s, eight women suffering from nausea and vomiting during the first trimester (13 weeks) of pregnancy received large amounts of oral adrenal cortex extract. In most cases, vomiting stopped after three to four days. In a follow-up study, women with nausea and vomiting of pregnancy received adrenal cortex extract, usually by injection at first, followed by oral administration. More than 85% of the women were completely relieved of the problem or showed definite improvement. Since no safety data exist for use during pregnancy, adrenal extract should not be used in these situations unless supervised by a doctor.
Vitamin K and vitamin C, taken together, may provide relief of symptoms for some women. In one study, 91% of women who took 5 mg of vitamin K and 25 mg of vitamin C per day reported the complete disappearance of morning sickness within three days. Menadione was removed from the market a number of years ago because of concerns about potential toxicity. Although some doctors still use a combination of vitamin K1 (the most prevalent form of vitamin K in food) and vitamin C for morning sickness, no studies on this treatment have been done.
1. Chan NN. Thyroid function in hyperemesis gravidarum. Lancet 1999;353:2243 [letter].
2. Carlsson CPO, Axemo P, Bodin A, et al. Manual acupuncture reduces hyperemesis gravidarum: a placebo-controlled, randomized, single-blind, crossover study. J Pain Symptom Manage 2000;20:273-9.
3. Stainton MC, Neff EJ. The efficacy of SeaBands for the control of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. Health Care Women Int 1994;15:563-75.
4. Belluomini J, Litt RC, Lee KA, Katz M. Acupressure for nausea and vomiting of pregnancy: a randomized, blinded study. Obstet Gynecol 1994;84:245-8.
5. Hyde E. Acupressure therapy for morning sickness. A controlled clinical trial. J Nurse Midwifery 1989;34:171-8.
Last Review: 06-08-2015
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