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April 15, 2014

Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (NVP)

You’ve been basking in bliss ever since you found out you were pregnant, but now your joy is overshadowed by nausea and vomiting. You’re not alone!

Fifty to eighty percent of pregnant women suffer from some degree of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. While the queasiness may be unpleasant and bothersome, in most cases, it poses no risk to your unborn child.

The when, why and how of NVP

The exact causes of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy remain unknown. Most experts believe that the physical changes in early pregnancy, such as the higher hormone levels, are more than likely related.

The symptoms of NVP include:

  • Heartburn
  • Dyspepsia (digestive disorder)
  • Indigestion
  • Mood swings
  • Dehydration

Contrary to popular belief, nausea and vomiting can occur any time of day, not just in the morning. NVP usually starts in the 6th week of pregnancy and for 80 percent of women, it will end in the 12th week. For other women, it may start sooner and end later.

Should I see a doctor?

NVP can have significant impact on a pregnant woman’s well-being. That is why it is best to discuss the issue with a healthcare provider.

In Canada, one percent of pregnant women suffer from an extreme form of nausea and vomiting known as hyperemesis gravidarium. Left untreated, this severe form of NVP can lead to weight loss and dehydration. This can harm the health and well-being of the baby. If you show signs of dehydration (infrequent urination or dark yellow urine), see your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Helpful tips and treatments to control NVP

Here are a few tips you may want to try before taking medication:

  • Eat a few crackers before getting out of bed in the morning.
  • Eat frequent mini-meals or snacks (e.g. every two hours).
  • Never skip meals.
  • Eat whatever you feel like eating, but try to avoid fried, greasy or spicy foods.
  • Do not lie down right after eating.
  • Drink small amounts of fluid frequently during the day.
  • Avoid drinking during a meal and immediately before or after.
  • Get plenty of rest. Take naps.
  • Get fresh air. Opt for cool places.
  • Enlist the help of others for cooking and household tasks.

Over-the-counter drugs should generally be avoided during pregnancy, but there are safe, effective prescription medications that can help women with NVP.

The combination of doxylamine succinate (an antihistamine) and pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6) is the only medication approved in Canada for the treatment of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. Its safety and effectiveness is recognized by Health Canada and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. Studies have shown no harmful effects for the baby. Talk to your healthcare provider about this option!

Good to know!
Many women turn to so-called natural products believing them to be perfectly safe for their baby. The safety and effectiveness of such products has yet to be proven. In addition, few have been studied for their impact during pregnancy.

Before taking any over-the-counter drug or natural product during pregnancy, be sure to talk to a health professional, like your pharmacist.

Pharmacy services

Do you have questions on nausea and vomiting during pregnancy and its treatment?  Speak with your family pharmacists for expert advice! They can give you tips on how to find relief or recommend a treatment. Your pharmacists can also prescribe* medications for certain minor health problems when no diagnosis is needed. This includes medication for NVP and prenatal vitamins. A consultation will be required so the pharmacist can make sure you meet the prescribing criteria.

To avail yourself of this service, you may need to book an appointment with your family pharmacist. Ask a member of the pharmacy team for more details. Some Uniprix-affiliated pharmacies also offer an online appointment booking service. To locate the store nearest you providing this service, click here


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The Website deals with health-related topics. The information presented has been validated by experts and is accurate at the time of posting. In no way does it replace the opinion of a health care professional. Uniprix Inc. and its affiliated pharmacists accept no liability whatsoever in connection with the information provided on this Website.