Morning sickness is one of the first symptoms a woman experiences that indicates she is pregnant, and it is no fun for the 75 percent of women who endure it. Despite its name, however, morning sickness can happen in the afternoon, evening, or late night hours. In fact, for an unlucky few, it can last all day long. Most pregnant women experience some degree of nausea, and about 33 percent experience daily vomiting.
Usually starting a couple of weeks into the pregnancy, morning sickness tends to last throughout the entire first trimester, or 14 weeks. Unfortunately, it tends to worsen as the weeks progress, and occasionally it comes and goes throughout the course of the pregnancy. Nausea during pregnancy can sometimes be worse if the expectant mother is carrying twins or multiples.
What Causes Morning Sickness?
The cause of morning sickness varies from woman to woman, but in all cases pregnancy hormones play the major role. Here’s a list of some of the reasons why women experience morning sickness:
- Estrogen levels are quickly rising, especially during the early stages of pregnancy
- Estrogen enhances your sense of smell, and therefore many women have the sudden urge to vomit when certain aromas reach their nostrils
- hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) rises during the early stages of pregnancy
- Lower blood sugar occurs during the early part of pregnancy
- The gastrointestinal tract becomes more sensitive, causing nausea
Relieving Morning Sickness
Vitamin B6 is supposed to help ease nausea during pregnancy. The dosage should be discussed with your doctor. Taking multivitamins during the first few weeks of pregnancy can reduce the severity of morning sickness. Other tips for relieving morning sickness include:
- Stay away from spicy foods
- Lie down after eating
- Don’t wait until you are hungry to eat; eat small meals and snacks throughout the day, rather than less frequent, larger meals. Nausea can often be made worse by an empty stomach.
- Drink lots of fluids in order to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day and evening
- Avoid overly warm places—feeling hot can make your morning sickness worse
- Avoid odors that you know might trigger nausea. Avoid the kitchen and avoid food preparation, if possible.
- Avoid fatty or greasy foods, which contribute to morning sickness according to recent research
- Eat soda crackers 15 minutes before getting out of bed in the morning (this helps to absorb stomach acid from overnight fasting)
- Salty foods can sometimes be helpful. Saltines, for example, can sometimes ease pregnancy nausea.
- Exercise daily (but don’t overdo it; for tips on exercising while pregnant, see our article on the subject)
- Sniff ginger or lemons
- Eat watermelon
- Ginger products in general are helpful: drink ginger ale or ginger tea, or take ginger capsules. Ginger chews and lollipops are also available.
- Make sure there is plenty of air circulation in your home
- Eat foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates and protein. Good examples of such foods include peanut butter on celery or apple slices; crackers; milk; cheese; cottage cheese; nuts; or yogurt.
- Some pregnant women find that all they can eat during the first trimester is macaroni and cheese, or grilled cheese sandwiches. Warm quesadillas with flour tortillas often will stay down easily as well. Not the healthiest foods, but until this condition subsides, it’s better to get some nourishment than none at all!
- A new prescription drug called Diclegis can help. This is an FDA-approved Category A medication, proven safe to use during pregnancy.
Is Morning Sickness Harmful to My Baby?
Ordinary morning sickness is not a danger to your baby unless you are sick so much that you begin to lose weight. If you are vomiting three or four times a day, however, or if you are unable to keep food down for 24 consecutive hours, you may be suffering from a more serious condition known as hyperemesis gravidarum. This condition can indeed threaten your health and your baby’s, and you need to see your doctor about it as soon as possible.
It is especially important that you seek medical attention immediately if you are unable even to keep liquids down, or if you are vomiting blood. Losing more than two pounds in a week is also reason to call your doctor. Also, while it is normal for morning sickness or pregnancy nausea to last throughout a pregnancy, you should still have you doctor check you out if severe nausea persists beyond 16 weeks.
In most cases, however, morning sickness is perfectly harmless to you and your baby, and can even be taken as a sign that all is well, since it is caused in part by hormones your body needs to be producing in order for you to have a healthy pregnancy.
Many women claim they get relief from acupressure, acupuncture, aromatherapy, hypnosis, or other New Age methods. There is no scientific evidence that any of these practices can help in any way, although they are not known to be harmful. Nonetheless, it is prudent to avoid spending too much money on unproven remedies.
Talking to Your Doctor
Here are some questions you can ask your doctor about morning sickness:
- What foods should I avoid in order to prevent morning sickness?
- Is the degree of nausea I’m experiencing normal, or is there a chance that I may have hyperemesis gravidarum?
- Is my baby getting enough nutrition?
- Are there any medications I can take that will relieve my nausea and are safe for my baby?
Is there any way to tell whether this condition will pass soon or whether it will last throughout my pregnancy?
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