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Discomfort of Morning Sickness Can Lead To Severe Condition, Doctor Says

Pregnant woman with strong pain of stomach and nausea.
Pregnant woman with strong pain of stomach and nausea.
WASHINGTON DC - Doctors don’t know what causes morning sickness in pregnant women, but it can affect up to eight in 10 of them. Despite its name, morning sickness can happen at any time of the day, usually stopping around the 12th week of pregnancy. For many, the symptoms are mild and manageable, but the sickness can become severe, leading to a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum, a US-based doctor told “Hello VOA” on Thursday.

“Some pregnant women have a higher risk of having hyperemesis gravidarum,” Taing Tek Hong, a Florida-based physician, said. “They include women carrying multiple fetuses, daughters and sisters of women who had the condition, women carrying a female fetus, and women with a history of hyperemesis gravidarum in previous pregnancy. Other risk factors include a history of motion sickness or migraine headaches.”

The condition is the most common reason for hospitalization during early pregnancy, he said, occurring in up to 2 percent of pregnancies. It can lead to dehydration, weight loss, nutritional deficiencies, and other problems, he said. If not treated in time, it can harm the health of the mother and the unborn child, he said.

“No one is certain what cause morning sickness, but increasing levels of hormones during pregnancy may play a role,” he said. “Some people believe that it is a way to protect the fetus by preventing the mother from ingesting food that may contain toxins.”

To ease the symptoms of morning sickness, the doctor said, “get plenty of rest, avoid smells that bother you, eat five or six small meals each day instead of the three large meals, eat a few crackers before you get out of bed in the morning to help settle the stomach, eat small snacks high in protein, like a glass of milk or a cup of yogurt, throughout the day, and avoid spicy foods and fatty foods.”

Drink liquids 30 to 45 minutes after eating solid food, he added. “If liquids are vomited, suck ice cubes made from water or fruit juice, or try lollipops.” Sucking on hard candy, fresh-cut lemons or ginger in tea, ginger ale and gingersnap cookies also help, he said.

Discomfort of Morning Sickness Can Lead To Severe Condition, Doctor Says
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In traditional Chinese treatment, acupuncture at point P6 can relieve nausea, he said. Acupressure can come from using a “Sea Band” wristband, which is sold over the counter, the doctor said.

Failing these treatments, prescribed medicine might be necessary, he said. “But there are concerns about birth defects when the fetus is exposed to any medication.”

“Diclectin (pyridoxine or vitamin B6, 10 mg plus, doxylamine, 10mg) is effective and safe and should be considered a first-line treatment,” he said. “In the USA, a similar drug, named Bendectin, has been discontinued since 1983, because of litigation costs resulting from unsubstantiated claims of birth defects allegedly associated with the drug.”

Other effective drugs include Ondansetron or Zofran, promethazine, prochlorperazine or metoclopramide. Corticosteroid is used only as a last resort when all other treatment fails, he said.

Taing Tek Hong strongly cautioned physicians and expecting mothers against using the wrong medication during early pregnancy, which can cause damage to the unborn fetus.