When morning sickness is severe
More than half of all pregnant women experience the nausea and vomiting that occur first thing in the morning and go away after the first trimester. But for some expectant moms, like me, morning sickness can be debilitating.
"About one in 10 women suffers from the really severe kind of morning sickness known as hyperemesis gravidarum that put Kate Middleton in the hospital," explains Dr. Elizabeth Chabner Thompson. "She couldn't keep food down and was in danger of dehydration, weight loss, nutritional deficits and other problems."
I know what Dr. Elizabeth is talking about. With both of my pregnancies, I was so sick for the first four months that I couldn't keep anything down — not water, prenatal vitamins or the prescribed saltine crackers. And while I was physically wasting away on the couch with my head in a garbage can (I lost 12 pounds during my first month), I was also breaking down mentally because I wasn't nourishing my unborn baby.
Drugs in the first trimester
Like any pregnant woman, I was fearful of taking any sort of medicine — not that I was aware of any — to improve my symptoms. I mean, everyone knows that the first trimester is No Drugs Allowed.
"Ever since thalidomide caused severe birth defects and diethylstilboestrol led to cancer and infertility, physicians have been ultra-careful before giving any drug to pregnant women that was not rigorously tested," explains Dr. Elizabeth, "and rightfully so, since morning sickness usually occurs when the fetus is most susceptible to the dangerous side effects of medications."
Zofran to the rescue
But now there's Zofran… Zofran (aka Odansetron ) is a drug that was created to relieve the nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. And now it can be used to safely treat morning sickness. Hallelujah!
"Researchers in Denmark reviewed 600,000 cases in which Zofran was given to pregnant women," says Dr. Elizabeth. "When taken during pregnancy, Zofran caused no increase in risk to the fetus. In fact, there were fewer cases of miscarriage, stillbirth, pre-term delivery and low birth weight in the patients taking the medication than in the general population."
This is huge. Relief for sick, emotional, exhausted, hormonal pregnant women. Being able to enjoy pregnancy while going about daily life — whether that's heading to work or taking care of the kids or both! — without constantly throwing up and worrying that your baby-to-be is undernourished. If you've ever been there, you know what I mean.
Says Dr. Elizabeth: Although you should never take any medication before speaking to your doctor, particularly when pregnant, this is great news. A safe and effective treatment for morning sickness is a win-win for mom and baby.