Extreme morning sickness
Dr. Michael R. Foley, MD, FACOG is the chair and program director of the Obstetrics and Gynecology department at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center. For more information on this topic, talk with your doctor or call 602-230-CARE.
Question: Why do some pregnant women experience more severe morning sickness than others?
Answer: Morning sickness is very common in pregnancies, with 75 percent of all pregnant women experiencing some nausea or vomiting. However, only about 1 percent will have severe morning sickness, a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum, in which the expectant mother will vomit at least three times daily and lose weight.
A genetic connection has been observed in those who have severe morning sickness; if a daughter experiences significant nausea and vomiting, it’s likely her mother had the same issue. The nausea and vomiting itself is a result of a rise in hCG, the pregnancy hormone, and the body’s reaction to it. Some patients are more sensitive to the effects of hCG than others, which can influence how much nausea or vomiting an expectant mother endures. Also, because morning sickness is typically at its worst in the first trimester of pregnancy, the critical period when the baby is first forming, it has been suggested that the nausea and vomiting act as a protective mechanism to discourage a pregnant woman from accidentally exposing herself to food toxins, gases or odors that might harm the baby.
The best way to manage morning sickness is to try to prevent it from worsening. A daily prenatal vitamin containing Vitamin B6 taken prior to and during pregnancy can help reduce nausea and vomiting. Acupuncture, acupressure, ginger and certain prescription medications called antiemetics are also proven ways to lessen the effects of morning sickness. In the most severe cases, intravenous fluids and nutrition may be provided to the expectant mother, but generally, these other remedies are very effective. Prenatal visits are the ideal time for a pregnant woman to discuss any symptoms with her doctor to determine the best course of treatment.