Morning Sickness Medications: Are they Safe?

Morning Sickness Medications: Are they Safe? 1You took the pregnancy test, celebrated, started dreaming...and now you're sick. Really, Really Sick. Nauseous. Vomiting. Lack of Appetite. The whole Bit.

You go to your OB, desperately hoping she'll provide you with something - anything - to help you get back on your feet (and away from the toilet). She pats you on the back, writes you a prescription, and sends you on your way.

Before you pop those pills, however, ask yourself: is that drug, scribbled in your doctor's barely decipherable script, safe for you and your baby?

That's the million dollar question of moms who are in misery during the first trimester. I certainly weighed the risks and benefits during both of my pregnancies, as I laid on the bathroom floor, weak and wan from throwing up.

I recently decided to do a bit of good old fashioned detective investigating to see what information I could unearth on the topic.

Morning Sickness Medications: Are they Safe? 2I began by contacting the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the Government agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services that is responsible for regulating and supervising the safety of food, drugs, vaccines, cosmetics, and more.

They responded to my query with this statement, "There are no currently marketed, FDA-approved drugs that have a labeled indication for the treatment of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. Bendectin (DOXYLAMINE SUCCINATE; PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE) was approved for this indication, but the company discontinued marketing of the drug in the early 1980s."

Despite that fact, many doctors still regularly prescribe and recommend medications to pregnant women. The most common ones that I came across in my research are:

Here's a little table that I put together after consulting and other online resources:

Morning Sickness Medications: Are they Safe? 3

Morning Sickness Medications: Are they Safe? 4To gain more information about morning sickness medications and remedies, I turned to Eileen Beard, a Certified Nurse-Midwife and Family Nurse Practitioner that is currently serving on-staff with the American College of Nurse-Midwifes. Eileen has over 30 years of experience in the field and she also has the very best experience...she has 10 children of her own!

When asked about medications, Eileen reminded me that it is important to reassure women that 70-80% of women experience nausea as a normal accompaniment of pregnancy. "It's certainly not a bad sign," she wisely stated, "In fact, it can actually be a sign that your hormone levels are where they should be. And, remember - it will pass."

It is well-documented that the majority of women will be free of nausea by about the 12th week of pregnancy (as they enter the second trimester).

She also stated that, "it's good to try other things first [before turning to medication]."

She went on to offer these natural remedies, noting that "different things work well for different people."

  • Avoid potential "triggers" (certain smells that bother you, etc.).
  • Eat small meals more often.
  • Don't let your stomach get empty.
  • Drink Ginger Tea or non-alcoholic Ginger Beer.
  • Drink Chamomile Tea.
  • Drink freshly squeezed lemonade.
  • Take 10mg of Vitamin B6.
  • Suck on hard candies.
  • Suck on freshly cut lemons.
  • Brush teeth + gargle often.
  • Eat crackers.
  • If cooking bothers you, go out to eat instead.
  • Eat whatever appeals to you.

Morning Sickness Medications: Are they Safe? 5I asked her when a woman would know that she needs to go to the hospital or get other medications. She said, "Every woman has a different tolerance level and every woman needs to be an active participant in her own care. If you are dehydrated and unable to keep liquids down, that's when something needs to be done. It's okay if you can't eat for short periods of time as long as you are drinking."

She stated that in extreme cases, some women may choose to take Phenergan ("It's been around a long time - I used to recommend 1/2 a suppository.") or Zofran ("very expensive and generally not covered by insurance").

Morning Sickness Medications: Are they Safe? 6MY TAKE

As is the case any time I am taking medication of any kind (which is almost never, by the way), I try to weigh the risks of taking the drug versus the risks of just staying "as is." With both of my pregnancies, I chose to just wait it out and be sick (read my past post - I was really, REALLY sick - My Not-So-Glamorous 1st Trimester). I figured that I'd rather throw up all day, every day than take an unknown medication that may or may not be "harmful to an unborn baby." I have no regrets about that choice and I will likely do the same thing with any future pregnancies (although I'm really, really hoping I don't get as sick next time...P.S. It was all totally worth it...100% worth it.).


  1. Did you experience morning sickness?
  2. If so, were you prescribed medication (and did you take it)?
  3. If not, what "natural remedies" did you try and did they work?

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19 comments on “Morning Sickness Medications: Are they Safe?”

  1. I had severe morning sickness when I was pregnant with both of my kids. With the second child, I was sick the entire 9 months. I was lucky that I never threw up. So although I had trouble eating, and I was losing weight, I was staying hydrated. I tried Seabands, ginger, preggi pops. Nothing really helped too much. The thing that worked the best was papdums. They are the crispy Indian crackers served before an Indian meal. I would eat them and the spices settled me a little so I could eat. I wouldn't take prescription medication. I read an incredible article about the use of medical marijuana in Mothering magazine. I forget which issue it was. I personally don't think smoking anything while pregnant is wise though, so I think if I was desperate, I would look into eating medical marijuana as opposed to smoking it.

  2. I was so extremely sick with both girls, but like you, I did my research and decided it wasn't worth the risks to my baby. I tried everything, but nothing worked. I got through it though at the time it seemed forever (with both girls, I was sick for 5 months).

    Great post and information to read though! :)

  3. I have with this one, #2...none at all with #1! I have found the motion sickness accupressure bands (SeaBands) do wonders for me...and I certainly avoid ALL coffee shops. That is my trigger smeel for sure!

  4. I never actually experienced "morning sickness" per se with any of my 4 pregnancies. I did however sometimes have an overwhelming feeling of nausea, but it led to vomiting, thank goodness.

  5. I can say very thankfully that this was not a pregnancy issue I had much trouble with. I threw up twice between 3 pregnancies...and really only had mild nausea with #2 and #3-none at all with #1! My payback time came with my deliveries....

  6. I was SO sick with Capri, threw up every day, all day long until I was 7 months pregnant. For some reason, I was very anti medication (I didn't really know much about it, but I think I was afraid). With this baby, I was just as sick, but it probably stopped around 5-6 months (a little shorter!), but it was harder because I had a toddler running around, and no help from hubby because of work. My midwife suggested Zofran this time around, and I was very close to ordering it, even though it was very expensive and not covered by my insurance ( I mean SHOCKINGLY expensive!). But, then again, I decided to tough it out. I tried everything, all the little tricks out there. This time around, I found some relief from taking massive amounts of B6 (from suggestion of my master herbalist) I took 200 mil 5 times a day of B6, and it helped a bunch. Although, I started it too late, and by the time I could take it, I couldn't keep the pills down, or even go near the bottle without throwing up, so it didn't really help me. Great advice!

  7. I didn't actually throw up much but it was touch and go most of the time. If I lay down that helped; I spent most of the first three months in bed (sleeping 14-18 hours per day!)

    Eating small snacks regularly helped a lot too. I had food by the bed to make it through the night and my husband worked from home so that he could bring me stuff. I was pretty lucky!

    I avoided getting things out of the fridge (terrible, terrible smells) and got my husband to empty the garbages every couple of days instead of once a week.

  8. I also had morning sickness and it lasted the first 20 weeks. I did the b vitamins and eating anything sour. The best thing that helped was to stay hydrated and to eat something almost every hour, even if it was a few crackers, fruit, etc.

    *Beware of sucking on lemons. Occasionally is probably fine, but I have heard of women having to get reconstructive mouth surgery for sucking on lemons during their pregnancy. The acidity ate away at their enamel.

    Also, brush often, but you don't always need toothpaste. I have also heard of women whose tooth enamel was eaten away from brushing with toothpaste after every time they got sick. It seems hygienic but could be bad for your teeth in the long run. Rinsing and brushing without toothpaste if you're doing it quite often may be better.

  9. I did, but mine was never so bad that I was tossing my cookies all day. And it was over within 3 months. So I just lived with it.


  10. I didn't have morning sickness with either pregnancy so far, but I thought I would offer something that helped a friend. She had terrible morning sickness throughout her first 3 pregnancies and did use a prescription. This most recent pregnancy she got a bioband (i think it is kind of like those air sickness bracelets) on the recommendation of another friend and so far no morning sickness (or at least no throwing up). I think the bracelet has something to do with the pressure points on your wrist which are somehow connected to nausea or something.

  11. I am not going to answer the questions but mention that I think today's "safe" drugs are potentially tomorrow's "unsafe" drugs. When my mom was pregnant with me she took and anti-nausea medication that is now proven to cause heart problems in the babies when they get to be adults it manifests...guess what? I have a heart condition. So really, I don't buy into that any medication is "safe"...not one, for anything. Like you however, I have to weigh is it better to put this stuff into my body versus dealing with the consequences of not? It is everyone's personal choice right...and a hard one to boot.


  12. I was very fortunate I only had mild morning sickness. I had nausea but never actually threw up. It only lasted until around 11 weeks. The fatigue was harder on me. I did not take anything for my nausea. I find it interesting that Phenergan is a top choice. I have been prescribed it for my nausea during migraines prior to pregnancy but while pregnant the Drs told me not to take it and prescribed Reglan (and Vicodin since my regular migraine medicine is not safe during PG). Unfortuately, I ended up taking a lot of other drugs while I was pregnant but I'm confident the risks did not out way the benefits but I still wish they all could have been avoided. (Morphine and Dilaudid for the two migraines I had , steriod shots when I went into labor at 30.5 weeks to develop his lungs, Terbutaline and Procardia for over 5 weeks to stop my labor-thankfully along with bed rest it all worked and my son wasn't born until 36.5 weeks and was able to go home with me)

  13. I too had severe "morning sickness" that lasted my ENTIRE pregnancy, Blah! I couldn't keep anything down and lost weight my first trimester. A couple times I was hospitalized for dehydration and then I was prescribed phenegran. It didn't seem to help in anyway. I was vomiting about 10-15 times a day. My Dr then prescribed Zofran and thankfully my ins covered it (i think it was the generic form). I only took half a pill and for some reason i only needed it once a day. It helped A LOT. I finally was able to eat. I was also nervous about taking meds while pregnant so many times I would try a day without Zofran and it would back fire on me. I would throw up so much that I almost wouldn't be able to get back into a routine of eating and keeping things down. It was awful! In the end, I hadn't gained much weight, but Feb of 08 I had a healthy little girl. Things seem to be ok. But I'm scared to get pregnant again.

  14. I had severe morning sickness almost into my 3rd trimester. I tried natural remedies, but they were not very helpful. Once I started throwing up, it continued like a freight train picking up speed. At one point I was hospitalized for severe dehydration after not being able to keep even water down for 2 days. Three liters of IV fluid later I was prescribed Zofran. It helped me to eat and actually start slowly gaining weight. That was definitely a blessing since I lost 25 lbs at the in the first trimester. I found the prescription was not expensive because my insurance covered it and there was a generic option available at our pharmacy, but I got the impression that it was a new development (Dec 2007). My baby ended up a very healthy 9lbs 13oz without a problem.

    When it comes to pregnancy there is nothing more important that listening to your body and doing what you are comfortable with.

  15. I experienced severe morning sickness and took phenergran and Zofran under the doctor's orders. While I still threw up - they helped me to keep at least some food down. And both my little girls have turned out just fine - so I am okay with it. I tried all the natural remedies first and they didn't help at all!

  16. I tried everything and I mean everything (listed above in other comment and more). I was soooo sick for 5 months...yes, 5 months.

    I couldn't function it was so bad and I have a high tolerance for pain.

    Finally Dr gave me phenergan. I had an allergic reaction to it (I've had it before so this was weird but very common). We've had a fatal anaphalactic allergic reaction in our family, so I was very scared.

    Finally, I could only take Zofran. I knew this was extreme (and very expensive). My mom took this medication while on chemotherapy for breast cancer, so I knew what I was getting into...side effects and all. It was the only thing that helped....and not even 100%.

    I'm an extreme case. I hate to take ANY medication at all because of our family history...but just couldn't function.

  17. 1. YES - I'm still experiencing it, 14 weeks in....from 6-13 weeks it was throwing up 7-10 times a day and now I'm down to just feeling nauseous all day, with a few times of throwing up.
    2. My doctor first prescribed Phenegran, which I took one pill of and it made me so sleepy, I didn't take it again. He then tried Zofran - which actually does stop me from the actual barfing...I've only took it a handful of times (like days I have to be able to function to write a paper, teach a class etc) I'm sure that if I took it like prescribed (8mg, 3x a day) - I wouldn't feel so sick, but taking medicine during pregnancy makes me nervous.
    3. I tried
    Avoid potential “triggers” (certain smells that bother you, etc.).
    Eat small meals more often.
    Don’t let your stomach get empty. (which was hard, I throw up so much I often throw up bile)
    Suck on hard candies. (ate them by the boatload)
    Brush teeth + gargle often.
    Eat crackers.
    If cooking bothers you, go out to eat instead. (we didn't go out to eat, but my husband cooked, I didn't step in the kitchen for 5 weeks)
    Eat whatever appeals to you.

    -NONE of the above worked -- I also tried:

    -not drinking with meals, waiting 45 minutes after I was done eating to drink (suggested by my doctor) - it actually worked but was REALLY hard to do, I wanted to drink so much!! Although I have noticed if I drink 1/2 a glass of water or more with a meal - I'll be throwing up fast!

    -seabands (these things that work on a pressure point on your wrist) I'm not sure if they worked or not, I was wearing them when I was was throwing up 10 times a day, but perhaps it would have been 11+ if I wasn't wearing them.

    -PreggoPops - These seemed to work okay, although I threw one up one day and they taste SO bad coming up that I had a hard time eating them again.

    -Ice - on the days I couldn't keep even water down, I'd slowly eat ice and it wouldn't seem to come up as fast.

    -Peppermint - didn't work

    So yeah, I don't know if there is a way to avoid morning sickness if you are prone to getting it....I just can't wait for mine to go away!!!!!!!!! I threw up a hot fudge sundae today, that was gross!

    ps - Have you heard anything about Morning Bliss?

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