Motion Sickness In Pregnancy: Causes, Symptoms, And Remedies

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Motion sickness or travel sickness refers to the queasy feeling of nausea, vomiting, or dizziness associated with traveling by car, train, boat, or plane. Motion sickness in pregnancy may be caused due to the hormonal changes that occur during this period. And for those who generally encounter motion sickness, pregnancy may aggravate the condition.

Keep reading this post as we tell you the causes, risk factors, symptoms, and diagnosis of motion sickness in pregnant women. We also share some tips to prevent or ease the discomfort.

What Causes Motion Sickness During Pregnancy?

Smoky air could make breathing difficult, leading to nausea.

Image: iStock

You are likely to have motion sickness when you travel long distances. Also, it may be aggravated by various other factors during pregnancy. like some food, any particular smell etc.

  • Conflicting signals sent by your senses: Your brain senses movements with the help of signals sent by different parts of the body—your eyes, inner ears, muscles, and joints. While traveling, these sensory organs are likely to send conflicting messages to the brain, which may result in motion sickness (1). For instance, when you are on a plane, your inner ear can sense motion, but your eyes cannot. Or, when you are in a car, your eyes can sense motion, whereas your inner ear and muscle joints cannot.
  • Heavy stomach: When you travel right after a heavy meal, the up and down motion of the body may disrupt digestion, leading to motion sickness (2).
  • Polluted air: If you are traveling in an area that has smoky or stuffy air, it could make breathing difficult. Therefore, you may experience nausea and lightheadedness.
  • Sometimes a particular type of food or smell also triggers motion sickness.

Factors That Increase The Possibility Of Motion Sickness

Reading while traveling may aggravate motion sickness in pregnancy.

Image: Shutterstock

Some factors that are likely to aggravate motion sickness during pregnancy include (3):

  • Not getting enough air while traveling
  • Traveling in smoky regions
  • Reading while traveling
  • Amusement rides
  • Virtual reality experiences

Symptoms Of Motion Sickness During Pregnancy

Pregnant women may experience apathy and discomfort.

Image: Shutterstock

Pregnant women suffering from motion sickness are likely to have some or all of the following symptoms (4):

  • Dehydration due to continuous vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Excessive salivation
  • Increased sensitivity to odors
  • Apathy
  • Rapid breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • General discomfort
  • Warm sensation

Diagnosis Of Motion Sickness

Motion sickness is usually mild and resolves itself. You will most likely experience it while you are traveling, and the illness may subside as the motion ceases.

You may need medical attention if the condition persists. Your doctor will find out the cause of the problem (if you have traveled by car, boat, or plane) and ask about the symptoms you are experiencing. Based on the severity, medications are prescribed to help manage the condition.

Treatment For Motion Sickness During Pregnancy

Your doctor usually prescribes medicines that work for nausea and vomiting (morning sickness). They might ask you to take them before traveling to prevent motion sickness.

  • Doxylamine is given in combination with pyridoxine (vitamin B6) to treat nausea and vomiting (5). These medications are absolutely safe in pregnancy and are categorized as FDA category B.
  • Meclizine and dimenhydrinate are antihistamines that are useful in preventing and treating motion sickness (6). These are FDA category C drugs.

Tips For Dealing With Motion Sickness

Look out of the window and breathe fresh air.

Image: iStock

Here are some simple measures that may help if the motion sickness does not resolve on its own or if the symptoms persist.

  • Close your eyes and take a nap if possible. Take deep breaths or focus on an object.
  • Gaze at a stable object, or simply look out of the window.
  • Breathe in fresh air and try to avoid smoke-filled areas.
  • Ginger is found to be effective for motion sickness (7). It is available in the form of supplements too.
  • Acupressure and the stimulation of the P6 point on the anterior wrist may also help ease nausea (8).

Preventing Motion Sickness During Pregnancy

Drink plenty of fluids to prevent motion sickness during pregnancy.

Image: Shutterstock

If you are prone to motion sickness during pregnancy, the following measures could help in preventing it (8).

  • Sit in a position such that your eyes can see the same motion as felt by your body and inner ears.
  • In a car, sit in the front seat; on a boat, watch the horizon; in a plane, choose a window seat and look outside; and while traveling on a bus, train, or tram, face forward.
  • Avoid heavy meals or fatty snacks before traveling.
  • Do not read while traveling.
  • Do not talk or watch another traveler who is experiencing motion sickness.
  • Avoid smells that upset your stomach.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long does motion sickness last during pregnancy?

Symptoms of motion sickness typically go away when the motion ceases. But this may not always be the case. In some cases, they may last for a few hours or even days after you have traveled.

2. Is motion sickness a sign of pregnancy?

Motion sickness is not likely to be a sign of pregnancy.

3. Does pregnancy make motion sickness worse?

Pregnancy may not make you prone to motion sickness. But if you have morning sickness, traveling can make it worse
(3).

4. Can you get motion sickness from the baby’s movements?

Baby movements are not related to motion sickness. You may feel sensations of a kick, roll, swish, or flutter, which do not cause nausea and vomiting.

While motion sickness is linked with travel, certain factors, including hormonal changes, certain foods or smells, a heavy stomach, and pollution, can also cause motion sickness during pregnancy. If you’ve had motion sickness before pregnancy, it may worsen during pregnancy. While the condition is usually mild and heals by itself, seek medical help if the motion sickness persists or the symptoms become severe. Take naps, breathe fresh air, and consume ginger, among other things, to help alleviate the discomfort. Avoiding reading and drinking enough fluids could also help.

Infographic: Tips On Dealing With Motion Sickness In Pregnancy

While pregnant, you may often feel nauseous when traveling in a moving vehicle; nonetheless, you may try simple methods to relieve these symptoms. So, scroll through this infographic to discover the helpful ways to handle motion sickness during pregnancy.

how to manage motion sickness when pregnant [infographic]
Illustration: MomJunction Design Team

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Motion Sickness; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health
    https://medlineplus.gov/motionsickness.html
  2. Motion Sickness – A Doctor’s Advice; The Open University
    https://www.open.edu/openlearn/body-mind/health/health-sciences/motion-sickness-doctors-advice
  3. Motion Sickness; Cleveland Clinic
    https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/12782-motion-sickness
  4. Motion Sickness; CDC
    https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2020/travel-by-air-land-sea/motion-sickness
  5. Doxylamine and Pyridoxine; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health
    https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a613045.html
  6. Veronica Takov and Prasanna Tadi; Motion Sickness; StatPearls Publishing (2020).
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539706/
  7. Iñaki Lete and José Allué; The Effectiveness of Ginger in the Prevention of Nausea and Vomiting during Pregnancy and Chemotherapy; Integrative Medicine Insights (2016).
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4818021/#__ffn_sectitle
  8. Andrew Brainard and Chip Gresham; Prevention and Treatment of Motion Sickness; American Family Physicians (2014).
    https://www.aafp.org/afp/2014/0701/p41.html#afp20140701p41-b32

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