UGH ... Severe Morning Sickness

Hi Sue,

My wife is 3-4 weeks pregnant and is already extremely ill. This is our second pregnancy and already seems to be headed for the same awful 40 weeks. Her nausea, vomiting and dry heaves goes well beyond what one normally expects with morning sickness. To give you a better idea, she only had four or five days total in her first pregnancy without vomiting. Most people say that it gets better after the first trimester but hers never let up right up to delivery. She didn't sleep at all last night due to severe nausea, vomiting and dry heaves.

It breaks my heart to see her in so much agony. Her ob/gyn was unable to help with any of these symptoms in the first pregnancy and we would expect the same for this one. She is very happy with her ob/gyn so we don't feel that we're not getting good care or advice from her. I just don't think that this is an area where she has any expertise. I've wondered if she has some type of chemical or hormonal imbalance that may cause such extreme sickness and that maybe there is a specialist somewhere that could help us?

We have planned to have three or four children, but she is already so sick that she says she won't do this again. I'm afraid that she means it. Any ideas, suggestions, etc. would be greatly appreciated.



Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

Dear Walter,
How awful to feel so lousy through such a great time ... expecting a baby. If it is of any consolation, your wife is not alone. In fact over 50,000 women are admitted to hospitals each year in the U.S. with severe morning sickness. You can be sure for every one admitted there is another one at home, suffering through it. For some women the hospitalization is necessary because the vomiting has led to electrolyte imbalance, dehydration and excessive weight reduction. This severe of a condition can put the baby at risk. Generally though, morning sickness is associated with successful pregnancy outcomes.

It is of no help to tell you that despite its prevalence, its cause is still a mystery. Several theories abound. However, treating the cause is not an option, but treating the symptoms is. To start, it is important to not add anxiety to the factor. At this point, do not worry about the nutritional intake of your wife (with the exception of a supplement prescribed by her doctor). What will stay down, is what should go down. Your wife should find those foods (however few they may be) that she can tolerate, and then focus on those. Find out those strategies that work for eating successfully and minimizing the vomiting and nausea. There are several books available on pregnancy, what to expect, and how to deal with it. Perhaps a look through some of those will help give you some ideas of things to try that might work. Some of the tips I will share with you based on my reading follows. See which of these may help and then keep them in your tool kit.

  1. Always keep a little something in your stomach. Hunger seems to heighten the nausea, and then eating to appease the hunger exaggerates it. This means eating a small amount about every two hours.
  2. Limit intake of sweet foods which may enhance nausea.
  3. Include foods that have a concentrated caloric and nutrient density in order to maximize intake in a small volume.
  4. Avoid fatty or greasy foods. They take longer to digest
  5. Drink beverages separate from eating foods.
  6. Keep plenty of fresh air around to diminish offensive smells.
  7. Keep dry, complex carbohydrates around to nibble on, especially before getting up in the morning.
  8. Some women find that low sugar carbonated beverages help. Try soda water mixed with a little juice.
  9. Drink slowly, a few sips at a time.
  10. Try Gatorade or bouillon, both are easy on the stomach.
  11. Drink ginger ale or ginger tea., or nibble on ginger snaps. Researchers who have studied ginger have found it to work as well or better than some pharmaceuticals in fighting motion sickness and morning sickness.
  12. Be sure to drink in order to avoid dehydration
  13. Keep in touch with your doctor in order to avoid any complications that may arise as a result of the vomiting or lack of eating.
  14. Try wearing an acupressure wrist band, the type worn by boat passengers trying to avoid seasickness.
  15. Ask your doctor about a vitamin B6 supplement. A 50 mg. daily dose has been found effective in women with severe morning sickness.
  16. Consider using liquid meals (such as Sustacal)if she cannot tolerate to eat other foods. They may be a way to ensure adequate calories and nutrient intake.
  17. Find which foods you can tolerate, the times at which you can best eat, and then go with that. Do not worry that you are living on plain rice or pop tarts.

Walter, what you can do to help is to offer support and sympathy. Take over the jobs that are apt to heighten her nausea, e.g. cooking the meals, feeding baby #1, diaper changing, feeding the cat, grocery shopping or cleaning the bathroom. Help her to avoid fatigue, as that can worsen it. Let her get as much rest as possible, when she can get it. That might mean naps for her when she gets home from work, or sleeping in in the morning if she's had a bad night. I sure hope that this pregnancy is different from the first and that she finds some relief after the first trimester is over.

Good luck to you both. I hope you can find some calm moments to enjoy the pregnancy.

Best regards,

Sue Gilbert




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