Morning Sickness: No Reliable Relief for Mommys-To-Be

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"Morning sickness" was more like "all the time sickness" for Dr. Donnica Moore, founder and President of Sapphire Women's Health Group in Branchburg, N.J.

It plagued her every single day of her pregnancy.

"In most women, morning sickness if mild - annoying, but it goes away by the thirteenth week. For my second pregnancy, I threw up every single day for nine months," she says.

By the end of it, Moore swore by having plain crackers by her bedside that she would nibble on before even getting out of bed in the morning.

"That way you make sure your stomach is not completely empty before you get up and moving," she says.

Other women swear by ginger tea, vitamin B-6 supplements, or anti-nausea pressure point bracelets. For the more adventuresome, internet discussion forums are chock-full of personal remedies such as salt and vinegar potato chips, apple cider vinegar tea, and wheat germ concoctions.

But do any of these remedies actually work? Do all of them work, but only for some women?

A recent review evaluated the effectiveness of some of the most popular morning sickness remedies: ginger, acupressure and acupuncture, anti-nausea medication, and vitamin B6 supplements.

Information from 27 trials involving more than 4,000 women provided no consistently effective treatment for morning sickness. Ginger and acupressure on the P6 pressure point (on the inner wrist) had modest effect, but nothing seemed to work consistently well.

Does this mean that women suffering from morning sickness are out of luck? Not necessarily, obstetricians say, but they may have to do a little trial and error of their own in order to find a remedy that works for them.

Why Pregnancy Turns the Stomach

Though the cause of morning sickness is not fully understood, doctors suspect that the nausea experienced by roughly 75 percent of pregnant women is caused by the sudden increase in the body of hCG, often called "pregnancy hormone".

Ironically, this is thought to mean that morning sickness is actually a good sign for the pregnancy.

"There is a silver lining to this cloud. If you're feeling these symptoms it usually means that you have a nice amount of that hormone and that you have a healthy pregnancy," says Dr. Mary Rosser, assistant professor in the department of obstetrics, gynecology and women's health at Montefiore Medical Center.

In fact, women who have morning sickness may be less likely to miscarry, authors note in the review.

But while generally not harmful to the baby, the nausea can be difficult to handle, and even trickier to treat for the mother, obstetricians note. Often what works for one patient is utterly ineffective on another.

This inconsistency in response was reflected by Tuesday's review, performed by researchers at the U.K. Cochrane Collaboration Centre.

"It's not that nothing worked, it's that there is not enough evidence to say that one thing works," says lead author on the review, Anne Matthews, of the School of Nursing at Dublin City University in Dublin Ireland.

"They could have asked any woman who has more than one child and she would have told you that there is no tried and true cure for morning sickness," says Moore, who is editor-in-chief of "Women's Health for Life".

Researchers hope that their findings spur further research on morning sickness as many of the past studies have lacked the rigor to identify a consistently effective treatment.

In the meantime, however, there are still many ways for women to address their nausea if it becomes bothersome.

"This is an area where the advice of other mothers is almost as valuable as that of a doctor's," says Moore. "The take home message here is that there are ways to battle this, but it varies from woman to woman and even from pregnancy to pregnancy in the same woman. The trick is to find what works for you," she adds.

Whether that's saltines or herbal tea, there are certain guidelines for eating that doctors tend to recommend.

Remedies and When to See a Doctor

The nausea tends to hit when a woman has an empty stomach so it's best to eat smaller meals more often and to have a snack upon waking (or still in bed) in order to stave off an upset stomach.

Staying away from spicy or fatty foods or foods with pungent smells is also advised as these tend to trigger stomach problems in pregnant women, Rosser says.

But while mild to moderate morning sickness can be the hallmark of a healthy pregnancy, it's important for women to know when it's serious enough to seek medical attention, she adds.

"Dehydration is one concern if you're vomiting a lot so if you notice that your urine is golden in color or darker, this means you are dehydrated and should call your doctor. If you can't keep food down for more than 24 hours and are feeling dizzy, this is also a red flag," Rosser says.

If the morning sickness persists for weeks, or in Moore's case, months, than it's important to make sure that the woman is not losing weight or is unable to gain it, Moore says.

While she had quite an extreme case of morning sickness, it was not an issue for the pregnancy because she was still able to keep food down. Despite vomiting multiple times a day, she was still able to on 40 pounds during the pregnancy.