Combating Pregnancy Constipation, Morning Sickness & Heartburn

Find relief from these pregnancy-induced ailments.

Morning Sickness

I didn't have morning sickness during pregnancy -- I had every-waking-moment sickness. For two months, I camped out on the couch nibbling one of the only things I could keep down: plain toaster waffles, which my husband called "Preggos." Mercifully, the nausea lifted during my second trimester, but many women suffer much longer.

Jenn Grassi, of New Hampshire, had terrible heartburn for all nine months and remembers the day after delivery well. "It dawned on me that the heartburn was gone, and I nearly cried tears of joy," she says.

While you wait for tummy troubles to naturally lift -- or for baby's birth to save you from them -- here's how to cope.

Morning Sickness Madness

It's called morning sickness because the queasy feeling often hits in the morning, when your stomach's empty. But the nausea (and sometimes vomiting) can occur any time. More than half of all pregnant women have morning sickness to some degree. Women who are more prone to nausea in general -- from motion, for instance -- seem to be most likely to suffer, says Sheila Crowe, MD, an associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Virginia's Digestive Health Center of Excellence.

Your chances are also higher if you're carrying multiples because the level of nausea-provoking hormones is higher. Plus, morning sickness is believed to be genetic: If your mother was sick during her pregnancies, you likely will be, too.

Morning sickness strikes hardest during the first trimester, due to surging hormone levels. "Most women experience onset between six and ten weeks," says Ashi Daftary, MD, an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh.

The same hormones that make you sick also help maintain the pregnancy, so take heart: It's a sign that your pregnancy is on track. During this time, don't panic if your appetite doesn't allow for the perfect diet. Taking a prenatal vitamin will help ensure that you're getting the nutrients you need.

Usually, morning sickness greatly improves or even vanishes between week 10 and week 14, when hormone levels decline. Roughly 10 percent of women will continue to be sick beyond week 20. About 1 percent will be diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum, which means "excessive vomiting during pregnancy." This condition is marked by severe vomiting, dehydration, and weight loss, and requires medical treatment. If you have lost 5 percent of your prepregnancy weight, call your doctor for help.

Get Relief

Snacks: Crackers and other high-carb snacks help fight morning sickness because they're easy to digest. You may need to nibble on something small every hour, so keep snacks in your bag, car, and workplace, and never let your stomach get too empty -- or too full, both of which can make you ill. Bland foods are best, because greasy and spicy fare tend to aggravate nausea. Sometimes sucking on something helps: Try sour candy, ginger candy, or lollipops called Preggie Pops (preggiepop.com).

Drugstore Cures: In addition, some women find relief in wristbands designed to prevent seasickness, such as Sea-Bands (in drugstores), which work through acupressure. Many obstetricians also suggest vitamin B6 supplements because morning sickness may be caused by a deficiency (consult your doctor before taking any).

Need more? Ask your doctor about over-the-counter medicine: Antihistamines such as Benadryl and sleep aids like Unisom may quell queasiness. (The Food and Drug Administration considers both safe during pregnancy, says Dr. Daftary.)

Stomach acid tends to make nausea worse, so heartburn medicines like Zantac may also do the trick. If those fail and morning sickness has you miserable, discuss with your doctor whether stronger drugs are worth it.

"There are ones with excellent safety records," says Dr. Daftary, such as doxylamine (paired with vitamin B6), promethazine (Phenergan), metoclopramide (Reglan), and trimethobenzamide (Tigan).

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