Healthy Living

Nausea During Pregnancy: What Causes Nausea and How to Treat it

Nausea During Pregnancy: What Causes Nausea and How to Treat it?

Key Takeaways

  • Nausea is a symptom of an underlying medical condition and hence its treatment depends on identifying the right cause first.
  • Although nausea and vomiting are used as synonyms, they are different.
  • Certain natural foods like lemon and ginger are found to be extremely beneficial in dealing with nausea.

Nausea is that weird and unpleasant sensation in your stomach which makes you want to throw up or vomit. It is generally a feeling associated with the upper abdominal region. Nausea is also known as qual and is a feeling that can be triggered due to a number of reasons including the side effects of various medicines, medical conditions or certain foods that we consume.  If an individual consumes foods that contain high amounts of fat or sugars excessively, it can cause a feeling of nausea. Nausea is not a disease but a symptom of another factor which causes trouble to the body. In most cases, nausea is not caused due to anything serious like morning sickness during pregnancy. However, sometimes nausea may be associated with a more serious medical condition such as an infection in the liver that could be caused due to a virus like hepatitis.

People often consider the terms nausea and vomiting to be synonyms, however it is not true. While nausea is a term associated with an urge or a feeling to vomit, vomiting is actually the process of removing the contents of the stomach voluntarily or as a reflex to a stimuli. In simple terms, nausea is the sensation while vomiting is the reaction.

What Could Possibly Cause Nausea?

Nausea is a symptom which could occur with the slightest trigger. Some of these triggers may cause nausea only while some may actually cause a person to vomit. Some of the most common causes associated with nausea include:

  • Excessive consumption of food, particularly foods high in sugar or fat
  • Excessive drinking of alcohol or alcohol based drinks
  • Certain prescribed medications or OTC drugs
  • Food borne diseases or food poisoning
  • Infections including viral or bacterial infections
  • Some strong emotions including fear, depression or anxiety
  • Pregnancy particularly in the first trimester
  • Sickness caused due to motion such as sea sickness, car sickness or air sickness
  • Certain chemicals or toxins that are present in the atmosphere
  • Diseases associated with digestive organs like liver, gall bladder, gut etc.
  • Severe pain
  • Intense headaches normally caused due to a migraine
  • Unpleasant odors

Are there Medicines to Treat Nausea?

The good news about nausea is that this condition can be treated to a large extent using medications. A number of medications are found to be effective in treating nausea which can help curb the nauseous sensation and prevent you from throwing up. Some of these medicines are called antiemetics. These medications are known to impact the gut and help in speeding up the quick movement of food. Other medications are known to impact the brain by blocking the signals to the vomiting centre of the brain. Some common medicines that are prescribed to treat nausea are:

  • Cinnarizine, cyclizine, promethazine: These medications belong to the antihistamine class of work. Although the exact way of how they work in preventing nausea is not yet known, it is believed that these drugs stop the histamine receptors located in the brain from creating a nauseous response due to a trigger. These medicines work well in treating nausea triggered by a number of reasons including certain problems of the ear and motion sickness.
  • Hyoscine: This drug belongs to the antimuscarinic or anticholinergic classification which controls nausea by working on a brain chemical known as acetylcholine.

These are just few of the many medications that can be prescribed to treat symptoms of nausea. These medications are available in various forms like liquid, tablets, capsules and  suppositories. Some medicines to treat nausea may also be administered in the form of an injection which is directly injected into the vein.

Medications for nausea are normally prescribed only after the doctor has confirmed the root cause which triggers the nausea. This is because once the underlying condition is identified and treated accordingly, the feeling of sickness is likely to go away in most cases. For instance, if your nausea is occurring due to a side effect of a  medicine, the doctor is likely to alter the dosage to prevent the side effect of nausea from occurring. In case if the cause of the nausea remains unidentified, the doctor can still prescribe a medication to treat it and provide immediate relief.

Nausea And Pregnancy Facts

Nausea is one of the most common side effects experienced by almost 70 percent of expecting mothers. Nausea is treated as one of the early signs of pregnancy. It is a common issue which most pregnant women complain using the term 'morning sickness'. Though for some it stops with the first trimester, a lot of women continue to experience it right up to the end of their pregnancy. Although nausea is a very irritating and uncomfortable sensation to deal with and can leave you feeling sick, the good news is that it is not at all harmful for you or the baby. In fact, nausea is often seen as a sign of a healthy pregnancy. 

What Causes Nausea During Pregnancy?

There is a definitive theory which points out as to why women experience nausea during pregnancy. It is often linked to the production of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) hormone produced by the woman during her pregnancy. This hormone is also known as the pregnancy hormone. The body starts producing this hormone as soon as the egg attaches itself to the uterus lining. The connection between this hormone and how it contributes to the nausea still remains unknown. However, since both happen at the same time, the possible links have been derived.

Some other possible triggers of nausea during pregnancy include:

  • Estrogen: This is another pregnancy hormone which starts to shoot up as soon as the pregnancy is confirmed. This can be a factor giving rise to the feeling of nausea.
  • Stomach sensitivity: The body undergoes a number of changes during pregnancy. Often women complain of a sensitive stomach as the pregnancy progresses and these changes are often known to cause nausea.
  • Stress: During pregnancy the body undergoes a lot of stress and fatigue which also in some cases could trigger nausea or vomiting as a reaction.

When Does Nausea Occur in a Pregnancy?

Typically nausea is triggered within the first trimester of pregnancy at about four to eight weeks from the time the egg attaches itself to the woman’s body. This condition is known to subside in a time span of about 13 to 14 weeks while for some women it could last longer or shorter. Also, the frequency of nausea differs for every woman. While some women are highly sensitive and can experience nausea at the slightest of the smells or tastes for the entire day, for some it is just restricted to a reaction they face in the morning.

How to Prevent Nausea During Pregnancy?

Treatment and prevention of nausea is all about self-management and understanding about the triggers that could cause nausea. Some basic precautions one should keep in mind to prevent nausea in pregnancy are:

  • Avoid strong odors or foods with peculiar tastes that could be possible triggers.
  • Find your comfort food that help you alleviate symptoms of nausea like ginger, lemon or soda.
  • Eat smaller meals throughout the day.
  • Avoid heavy and creamy foods.
  • Keep your rooms well ventilated and step out in the fresh air as soon as you have a sense of nausea.

Nausea is not a serious condition as much as the amount of discomfort associated with it. Wise management can help you deal with this effectively.