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 happen at any time of the day or night, and more than three-quarters of all pregnant people will have to deal with it at some point. But how long does it last, and can it effectively be treated?
Taking a combination of Unisom and vitamin B6 is one home remedy that some doctors recommend to help people deal with morning sickness during pregnancy. Here’s the scoop on whether it’s worth trying.
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 people.
Morning sickness can be one of the earliest signs of pregnancy, beginning around the sixth week. You can blame it on those rising pregnancy hormones.
For many, morning sickness seems to stop around weeks 12 to 14, but for others, it continues for much longer. That can mean weeks upon weeks of daily vomiting and nausea.
So, what are your options?
To try and keep your morning sickness to a minimum or to do what you can to feel better when morning sickness strikes, the Office on Women’s Health recommends:
- eating small meals regularly instead of three large ones
- not lying down right after a meal
- sipping fluids throughout the day to stay hydrated
- eating ice chips to stay hydrated
- nibbling dry toast, saltines, or dry cereal before getting out of bed first thing in the morning
- eating bland, easily digested foods like rice, bananas, or cereal
- avoiding smells that upset your stomach
Some treatments and supplements 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 non-medication remedies just aren’t cutting it.
Taking vitamin B6 can be an effective measure for improving symptoms of nausea, but it may not do much to reduce vomiting.
AAFP notes that the recommendation is 10 to 25 milligrams (mg) of vitamin B6 every 8 hours, but side effects can include:
- paresthesia, or the sensation of “pins and needles”
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has recommended a combination therapy of vitamin B6 and doxylamine, which is sold over the counter as Unisom SleepTabs, for treating morning sickness in the first trimester.
According to ACOG, you should try vitamin B6 on its own first, before trying combination therapy. You can add doxylamine if vitamin B6 alone doesn’t relieve symptoms.
If vitamin B6 hasn’t helped and you’re ready to try combination therapy, take 10 to 25 mg of vitamin B6 three times a day, every 6 to 8 hours. Take 25 mg of Unisom SleepTabs once before bed.
There are other dosing recommendations that vary depending on your personal circumstances and morning sickness symptoms, so speak with your doctor or a birthing professional (like a midwife) before taking any medications.
It’s also important to note that in Unisom SleepGels and some other Unisom formulations, the active ingredient is diphenhydramine (not doxylamine). So double-check the active ingredients to be sure you’re getting the right kind.
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 with your doctor or a birthing professional 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 B6 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
The FDA has approved one medication for morning sickness, called Diclegis. It’s an option if you’ve tried non-medication treatments and they haven’t worked.
Diclegis may be covered by your insurance, and you may find it easier to take just one type of medication instead of combining vitamin B6 and Unisom for morning sickness relief.
The drug has been studied extensively in pregnant people, 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 5 to 7 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 medication, especially Diclegis, during pregnancy.
Drowsiness is the most common side effect of this medication.
If your morning sickness is truly incapacitating and you’re finding no relief no matter what you try, you may be experiencing a condition that’s called hyperemesis gravidarum.
Symptoms of this condition include:
- severe nausea
- weight loss
- disruption to your electrolyte balance
You can treat mild cases of hyperemesis gravidarum with changes to your diet, additional rest, and medications like antacids.
More severe cases, though, 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 a birthing professional immediately. You should also speak with them if you’re experiencing any of the following:
- nausea and vomiting so severe you can’t keep down food or water
- pain and fever along with vomiting
- nausea and vomiting that continue past the first trimester