My Battle with “Morning Sickness” and the Myths and Facts I’ve Learned

Because the term “morning sickness” is misleading, from here on out, I’ll be using the more accurate, yet lesser known term: Nausea and Vomiting During Pregnancy (NVP).

I am almost 11 weeks pregnant and have had NVP since my 4th week. That’s seven weeks of 24/7 nausea and vomiting. In my battle with NVP, I have been told many of the following myths which are not true:

Myths:

  • NVP happens mostly in the morning.
  • NVP involves only nausea and no vomiting.
  • NVP involves throwing up once per day, and then feeling better.
  • NVP can always be treated at home through natural remedies.
  • Certain remedies are guaranteed to bring relief to any pregnant woman.
  • If natural remedies have not brought relief, you didn’t try hard enough or long enough.
  • NVP never lasts longer than the first trimester (12 weeks).

The most emotional part of pregnancy so far has been dealing with NVP and the misconceptions surrounding it. The exhaustion, despair, regret, jealousy, and guilt are consuming.

I spent the first two weeks of NVP force feeding myself. Saltine crackers before getting out of bed and ginger was the advice I received the most. If these were miracle solutions for so many of my friends, why weren’t they working for me? I have always hated ginger. Add the pre-existing dislike to the now-existing nausea, and I gag before I can swallow it. I’ve never been able to eat sooner than an hour after I wake up; the result is always my stomach rejecting the food. Yet, I forced myself to eat three saltine crackers before I even moved in the morning. It took me 30 minutes to eat three crackers between the gagging. I still pushed through this routine for two weeks. Then I started gagging every time I ate. By the time I choked down even half a serving of food, it had taken a half hour. My meals consisted of: Bite. Swallow. Gag. Swallow. Bite. Gag. Swallow. Gag. Swallow. Sob.

I decided I hated being pregnant. I have wanted a child for so long. God finally gave me a child. And now? I felt ungrateful. I felt weak. I felt alone. I wanted to give up. And then I hated myself for feeling this way.

I felt jealous that other moms were able to control their NVP with home remedies. I was envious of the moms who knew what foods triggered their NVP or the moms who would throw up and feel better, while I spent hours at a time dry-heaving non-stop. I even envied the moms who had enough energy to sit up to vomit in a toilet.

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And then the guilt. Oh, the guilt. I constantly thought, I’m not doing these remedies correctly. I’m not trying hard enough. The baby needs me to try. I’m not taking care of my baby. I’m a bad mother. I’m going to miscarry. It’s my fault.

I almost cried with relief at my first prenatal appointment. My nurse told me that I wasn’t doing anything wrong, and some women need more than home remedies. She assured me that this wasn’t my fault or for lack of trying.

She put me on Diclegis, which enables me to avoid the hospital, eat small snacks every hour, and stay hydrated.  I can even see pictures of food on Facebook without gagging now – unless it’s pizza. Keep any and all pizza FAR away from me. Mornings are so much better. I take my time getting out of bed while I suck on a Jolly Rancher. Then I sip on Gatorade. After that, I’m normally well enough to eat solid food for breakfast. If it’s a rough day, I have a meal shake instead. Evenings are terrible times for me. The heartburn is so bad, I have to sit upright and take medicine for it. I often still wake up between 1am and 3am to spend an hour dry-heaving.

My battle with NVP has motivated me to compile some information to help others like me and to help people understand the myths of morning sickness and the realities of NVP. The following information was taken from the MotherRisk Organization and from my nurse at my OB/GYN clinic.

Some fast facts:

  • Up to 85% of pregnant women experience NVP.
  • NVP normally starts during weeks 4 through 9.
  • NVP is normally most severe between weeks 7 to 12.
  • NVP eases up between weeks 12 to 16 for most women.
  • Some women experience NVP past their 12th week or even for their entire pregnancy.
  • NVP includes nausea, vomiting, and dry-heaving.
  • Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) is a more severe form of NVP, which requires hospitalization, IV drugs, and IV fluids or professional, in-home care.
  • Each woman and each pregnancy is unique. Different remedies and medications work for different women.

Seek help when you:

  • Have not kept anything down for 24 hours
  • Feel weak/lightheaded
  • Have dry lips and/or mouth
  • Have less frequent need to urinate
  • Have more concentrated urine (darker, odor)
  • Have stopped gaining weight or are losing weight

What foods, eating habits, and lifestyle usually help most women?

  • Avoid foods that are fatty, greasy, or spicy.
  • Eat foods that are bland, dry, salty, high-carbohydrate, high protein foods (Keeping these by your bed for a morning or midnight snack can sometimes help some women.)
  • Eat every hour or two; don’t wait too long.
  • Keep solids and liquids separate if mixing them makes you feel too full.
  • Don’t overeat.
  • Avoid smells that trigger nausea. When that’s not possible, turn on a fan or open a window. Cold foods and room temperature foods have less odor than heated foods.
  • Suck on Jolly Ranchers, sour candies, or Preggie Pops.
  • Citrus anything. Even a slice of lemon in your water.
  • Stay hydrated with water, flavored water, Pedialyte, Gatorade, popsicles, or whatever works for you.
  • Eat whatever agrees with you and avoid what doesn’t, even if that contradicts advice you’ve been given. 
  • Talk to your doctor about a different option than prenatals, as prenatals can increase nausea. You may want to take a regular vitamin and add folic acid and Vitamin D supplements.
  • Lie on your left side. This helps both your circulatory system and digestive system do less work. You may also want to lie with your head and upper body slightly elevated. Change positions slowly.

Alternative methods that may help some women:

  • Ginger (tablets, lozenges, roots, teas, soft drinks) up to 100mg per day
  • Vitamin B6 up to 200mg per day
  • Herbal teas (mint, orange, ginger)
  • Acupuncture and/or acupressure, including the use of Sea Bands
  • Essential oils
  • Don’t forget to talk to your doctor first about alternative methods too. Some herbs and essentials oils can be toxic to a developing baby.

Medications:

  • Dramamine (talk to your doctor fist)
  • Benadryl (talk to your doctor first)
  • Prescription Diclegis is the only FDA approved drug for NVP in the USA and has a Category A rating. Side effects include drowsiness. (Diclectin in Canada)
  • Prescription Zofran (generic: Ondansetron) (Category B) but this is now receiving a lot of media for birth defects and also has side effects of mild-severe headaches and mild-severe constipation. This can be taken in pill form or IV injection.
  • Prescription Phenergan (generic: Promethazine) (Category C). This can be taken in pill form, IV injection, or in suppository form. Side effects include drowsiness.
  • Several other prescription medications. Talk to your doctor.
  • Most of the time, medications work best when the same amount is taken at the same time every day. Follow your doctor’s instructions.

How can spouses, family, and friends help?

  • Help her avoid foods and smells that trigger NVP.
  • Help her meal plan, grocery shop, and cook.
  • Help with household chores.
  • Bring frozen pre-made meals.
  • Don’t pressure her to try a food or remedy if it doesn’t sound good to her.
  • If you can’t relate to NVP, think about how you have felt during the stomach flu or food poisoning.
  • Read and share this hilarious blog article.
  • Remind her she’s not alone.
  • Remind her that she’ll possibly feel better after 16 weeks and will feel better after pregnancy, when she’s holding her precious child.
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