It’s called morning sickness, but that truly unpleasant side effect of pregnancy involving nausea and vomiting isn’t limited to just the morning.
It can last all day and all night, and more than three-quarters of all pregnant women will have to deal with it at some point in those 10 months of pregnancy. But how long does it last, and can it effectively be treated?
Taking a combination of Unisom and vitamin B-6 is one home remedy that some doctors recommend to help women deal with morning sickness. Here’s the scoop on whether it’s worth taking.
What is morning sickness and whom does it affect?
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) notes that morning sickness, defined as nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, will affect almost 75 percent of all pregnant women.
Morning sickness can be one of the earliest signs of pregnancy, beginning around the 6th week. You can blame it on those raging pregnancy hormones. For many women, morning sickness seems to stop around week 12 to 14, but for others, it will continue for much longer.
That can mean weeks upon weeks of daily vomiting and feeling nauseated. So what are your options?
Morning sickness do’s and don’ts
To try and keep your morning sickness to a minimum, or to do what you can to feel better when morning sickness strikes, the American Pregnancy Association recommends:
- eating small meals regularly
- drinking fluids (especially water) about 30 minutes before or after a meal instead of with a meal
- sipping fluids throughout the day to stay hydrated
- nibbling a few soda crackers before getting out of bed first thing in the morning
- eating whatever you can stomach, whenever you’re feeling up to it
- finding someone else to prepare your meals if cooking odors are making you feel worse
- opening windows or turning on fans to minimize cooking orders
- resting as much as possible
- avoiding heat, which can exacerbate nausea
- eating watermelon, sipping lemonade or ginger ale, and sniffing lemons to reduce nausea
- eating a few salty chips to settle your stomach so you can eat a meal
- getting regular exercise
The American Pregnancy Association recommends avoiding:
- lying down after eating
- skipping meals
- cooking or eating spicy foods
Vitamin B-6 and Unisom for morning sickness
There are also treatments and supplements that may help when you’re feeling nauseated and you just don’t have time to rest. Morning sickness can take a toll on family and work time, and sometimes soda crackers and other nonmedicine remedies just aren’t cutting it.
Taking vitamin B-6 can be an effective measure for improving symptoms of nausea, but it may not do much for reducing vomiting. AAFP notes that the recommendation is 10 to 25 milligrams every eight hours, but side effects can include headaches, fatigue, and paresthesia, or the sensation of “pins and needles.”
A combination therapy of both vitamin B-6 and doxylamine, which is sold over the counter as Unisom SleepTabs, has been recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for treating morning sickness in the first trimester.
Take 10 to 25 mg of vitamin B-6 three times a day, every six to eight hours. Take 25 mg of Unisom SleepTabs once before bed.
There are other dosing recommendations that vary depending on the personal circumstances and symptoms of a woman’s morning sickness, so speak with your doctor or midwife before taking any medications.
Note: In Unisom SleepGels and some other Unisom formulations, the active ingredient is diphenhydramine (not doxylamine). Double check the active ingredients to be sure.
Randomized trials offer evidence that this combination treatment can reduce nausea and vomiting by up to 70 percent, though drowsiness is a known side effect of Unisom.
Other side effects can include:
- dry mouth
- stomach pain
You should speak to your doctor or midwife if these side effects don’t go away, or become severe.
Some side effects can indicate a serious problem. If you experience any of the following symptoms, stop taking vitamin B-6 and Unisom and call your doctor immediately:
- blurred vision, dilated pupils, or other vision problems
- painful urination or difficulty urinating
- erratic or fast heartbeat
- shortness of breath
Prescription medication for morning sickness
The FDA has approved one medication for morning sickness. It’s called Diclegis, and it’s an option if you’ve tried nonmedicine treatments to feel better. It may be covered by your insurance, and you may find it easier to take just one type of medicine instead of combining vitamin B-6 and Unisom for morning sickness relief.
The drug has been studied extensively in pregnant women, and it has the highest safety rating available. This means it poses no additional risk to your baby when you take it during your pregnancy.
The delayed-release formulation means you’ll feel better about five to seven hours after taking it. Taking it before bed at night can help control your symptoms of morning sickness when you get up the next day. It can also mean that signs of accidental overdose would be delayed. It’s important to speak with your doctor about the right way to take any medicine during pregnancy, especially Diclegis.
Drowsiness is the most common side effect of this medication.
When does morning sickness become dangerous?
If your morning sickness is truly incapacitating, and you’re finding no relief no matter what you try, you may be experiencing hyperemesis gravidarum.
Symptoms of this condition include severe nausea, weight loss, vomiting, dehydration, and disruption to your electrolyte balance. While mild cases of hyperemesis gravidarum can be treated with changes to your diet, additional rest, and medications like antacids, more severe cases may require a stay in the hospital. This is to ensure that you’re getting adequate fluid and nutrition through an IV.
If you’re concerned about the severity of your morning sickness, be sure to speak with your doctor or midwife immediately. You should also speak to your doctor or midwife if you’re experiencing any of the following:
- nausea and vomiting so severe you can’t keep food or water down
- pain and fever along with vomiting
- nausea and vomiting that continue past the first trimester