What Causes Dry Heaving and How Is It Treated

What causes dry heaving?

Dry heaving is a common symptom in pregnancy. It is caused by the body’s natural reaction to the stress of delivery. The uterus contracts during labor and pushes the baby out, but it does not expel all of its contents. Some of these are expelled through tears or holes in the skin called contractions. When they become too frequent, the pressure builds up and the muscles relax. These contractions cause the mother’s body to release hormones which result in her feeling lightheaded or even faint. If she continues to feel faint, she may pass out completely.

The symptoms of dry heaving are similar to those of postpartum depression (PPD). PPD is a mood disorder that affects women who have given birth within the past year. They experience severe emotional distress and low self-esteem.

Symptoms include feelings of sadness, loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, fatigue, irritability, sleep disturbances and difficulty concentrating. PPD often begins between the first trimester and the second trimester. It usually resolves itself by the third month after childbirth. If left untreated, PPD may continue for more than a year.

Treatment options for dry heaving include the following.

Hospitalization. The mother should be admitted into a hospital to ensure that she receives the right amount of rest. She may also receive medication or treatment to manage her symptoms.

Mother’s milk. Mothers who are still breastfeeding may want to pump and discard their milk. This will prevent them from ingesting the hormones present in the milk.

It may also reduce the intensity of dry heaves.

Sucking ice chips. The mother may suck on ice chips (plain or flavored) to keep her mouth moist. This should help relieve some of the dryness in her mouth and throat.

Rest and relaxation. The mother should be encouraged to rest and relax as much as possible. She may listen to music she enjoys or read a comforting book to keep her mind off of the dry heaves.

Antacids. Over-the-counter drugs such as Tums, Rolaids, and Maalox can help relieve the symptoms of dry heaves.

Herbal remedies. The mother may try herbal remedies such as ginger, fennel, anise, or peppermint to settle her stomach.

How to prevent dry heaving?

The mother can try the following tips to prevent dry heaves.

Eat healthy. The mother should eat a wide variety of nutritious foods in moderate amounts. She should avoid eating large amounts of foods high in sugar and fats.

She should also drink six to eight glasses of water daily, but avoid drinking too much at once (such as in an entire bottle).

Get plenty of rest. The mother should get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. She should try to nap when the baby naps.

Exercise. The mother should try to get some light exercise, such as a daily walk. She should avoid strenuous exercise, such as running or lifting heavy objects.

Manage stress. The mother should identify sources of stress in her life and develop strategies to deal with them. She may find it helpful to talk to a friend or family member about her feelings.

Take care of yourself. The mother should make sure she is meeting her own needs, such as eating healthy meals and getting enough rest, even if the baby is not yet ready for that.

Mothers should contact a doctor or seek immediate medical attention if they experience any of the following signs.

Signs include light-headedness, chest pain, blurred vision, and a severe headache that is present for more than two hours.

In some cases, dry heaves can cause a tear in the esophagus. This is called Mallory-Weiss syndrome. The mother may experience pain in her chest and difficulty swallowing food.

She should contact a physician immediately if she experiences these symptoms.

Mothers should contact a doctor or seek immediate medical attention if they experience any of the following signs:

Severe chest pain

Blurry vision, which does not clear up with rest

The appearance of blood in vomit or stool

Difficulty breathing

Severe headache that is present for more than two hours

Vomiting of blood or vomiting blood-tinged material

Passing red or black stools (blood in the stool)

Shoulder pain or chest pain

Severe abdominal pain

Pain in the upper stomach that moves to the chest

Unusual cough

Unexplained weight loss

Discomfort when moving the neck, turning the head, or swallowing

Excessive tearing of eyes

Stertorous (grunting) breathing

Long, deep, rapid breaths


Symptoms that come and go

Unexplained fever over 100.4 F (38 C)

If you experience any of these symptoms seek immediate medical attention. You can also call the APDA helpline at 1-800-942-3674 for free translation assistance or questions about what to do next.

Hello, My name is *

Mother’s Name:

Phone Number: (___) _________

My baby was born healthy at ________ Weighting _________ on _______ and is _____ days old.

My languages are _______ and _________.

The baby’s pediatrician is _____________.

My Herbalist/Traditional Midwife is ________.

My hospital is __________________.

I don’t know if I have PPD, but I have been feeling ________________ for the past few weeks.

The names of my baby’s siblings are ________ and ________.

I will be using a ___________ and ______________ until _______.

I will be returning to work in _______.

I am expecting my child’s father to be an active part of his life.

I want to space my next (blank) months apart.

I have (number) children. They are _______________, ___________, and _________.

I’m looking for a support group in ________.

I’m thinking about joining (blank) to meet other mothers and do (something involving babies).

I think my husband is (blank).

My baby doesn’t sleep through the night yet.

The baby has started to (blank) in the last month.

I’m stocking up on (blank).

I’m afraid something is wrong with my baby and I don’t know what to do. I’ve _________ and ________ but nothing seems to help.

I’m thirsty all the time.

I’m nervous all the time.

I’m sad all the time.

Sources & references used in this article:

Treatment of severe nausea and vomiting of pregnancy with subcutaneous medications by CK Klauser, NS Fox, N Istwan, D Rhea… – American journal of …, 2011 – academia.edu

Scanning electron microscope observations of internal symptoms of white elm following Ceratocystis ulmi infection and cerato-ulmin treatment by S Takai, Y Hiratsuka – Canadian journal of botany, 1984 – NRC Research Press

Mechanisms of distress associated with sulfate-induced heaving in lime-treated soils by S Nair, D Little – Transportation research record, 2011 – journals.sagepub.com

Every Man His Own Cattle Doctor: Containing the Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment of All the Diseases Incident to Oxen, Sheep, and Swine: and a Sketch of … by F Clater – 1844 – books.google.com