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FAQ: Morning Sickness? Print E-mail
Written by Jessica Smith   
Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Morning sickness is nausea or vomiting during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. More than half of pregnant women have morning sickness during the first trimester. It usually goes away by the second trimester. When morning sickness is severe, it is called hyperemesis gravidarum.

What is going on in the body?

The cause of morning sickness is not well understood, but hormones seem to be involved. The hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin, or HCG, is produced by the fertilized egg and by the chorionic villi. These are the fingerlike projections of the developing placenta. HCG is needed to keep the pregnancy going until the placenta has developed enough. HCG levels are usually highest in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?
A woman with high levels of HCG is more likely to have morning sickness. High levels of HCG are seen in multiple pregnancies, such as twins and triplets. A woman who has had morning sickness in a previous pregnancy is more likely to have it again.

Increased HCG levels can be caused by a molar pregnancy, or tumor of the placenta. This condition should be ruled out in women with morning sickness. There is some evidence that psychological factors, such as ambivalence toward pregnancy, can increase the risk of morning sickness.

What are the treatments for the condition?
If the morning sickness is quite severe, intravenous fluids may be needed to correct fluid and electrolyte imbalances and dehydration. Severe morning sickness may even require hospitalization.

Education and emotional support are very helpful for the woman with morning sickness. A nutritionist who routinely works with pregnant woman may help. A social worker may be asked to get involved with the family. A woman with morning sickness needs reassurance that it is OK to change her schedule to allow for more rest. Antinausea medicines may be needed to keep the woman from vomiting.

What are the side effects of the treatments?

The FDA does not approve medicines used for nausea during pregnancy. There is the possibility of harmful side effects for the fetus.

What happens after treatment for the condition?
Morning sickness usually gets better by the beginning of the second trimester.

How is the condition monitored?
Morning sickness is monitored at prenatal visits. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.


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