Nausea is best described as a sensation when there is a need to vomit. It is not a medical condition but rather a symptom that commonly affects both men and women. Nausea is usually caused by different underlying conditions, and some of them are specific only for women. This symptom got its name from the Greek word nausie, meaning “motion sickness”. This condition of uneasiness of the stomach often precedes vomiting – a forcible voluntary or involuntary emptying of the stomach contents through the mouth.
Causes of nausea in women
In most cases, nausea is caused by motion sickness. This is a condition of disagreement between the visually perceived movement and the vestibular system's sense of movement. Dizziness, fatigue, and nausea are the most common symptoms of motion sickness. Vomiting in motion sickness tends not to relieve the nausea.
Upset stomach is another common cause of nausea in women. The upset stomach is commonly caused by food poisoning. The nausea occurs one to six hours after the ingestion of contaminated food. If the upset stomach causes nausea, it usually resolves in one or two days.
Pregnancy is another common cause of nausea in women. Most women suffer from nausea in the first trimester of pregnancy. Nausea is among the first symptoms of pregnancy and approximately 80% of pregnant women will experience it in the first couple of weeks. Nausea due to pregnancy is related to increased estrogen levels, and it is also seen in some women who use hormonal contraception or hormone replacement therapy.
Certain prescribed drugs and medications can cause nausea in women. As already mentioned, hormonal contraception is among the most frequent causes. Most medications can cause nausea, because they often act aggressively on the delicate lining of the stomach. Medications used for chemotherapy and various general anesthetic agents are also known to cause nausea in women.
When to call a doctor?
Nausea is usually completely harmless, and it affects most women on a regular basis. However, in some cases nausea can be a sign of a more serious disease. If nausea is accompanied with vomiting, women are at an especially high risk of dehydration. Increased thirst and dry lips or mouth are among the first signs of dehydration. Pregnant women suffering from recurrent vomiting in pregnancy could end up in a condition known as hyperemesis gravidarum where the mother develops fluid and mineral imbalances that can endanger her life or that of her unborn child. If the nausea lasts for more than a few days, and if home medications are not working, women should seek medical help.