What is Morning Sickness?
Morning sickness refers to the nausea and vomiting that many women experience during the early stages of their pregnancy. It is estimated that between 50 and 80% of women experience morning sickness and nausea during the early stages of pregnancy.
Although morning sickness is more common in the morning, it can occur at any time of the day. Morning sickness affects women differently – some experience minor symptoms like a queasy stomach while others become violently ill, struggling to keep any food in their stomach.
Morning sickness can begin before you’ve even missed your first period, and most women find that nausea and vomiting are at their worst at about 9-10 weeks. Symptoms of morning sickness tend to improve over time, and are usually over by the 14th week. However, a small number of women do experience morning sickness throughout their pregnancy, especially if they are expecting twins or other multiples.
The majority of all pregnant women experience morning sickness to some degree. It is a normal part of early pregnancy and doesn’t pose a risk to the baby. Symptoms usually subside toward the end of the first trimester (12-14 weeks). Most cases are usually mild and rarely require treatment.
In extreme cases, morning sickness with severe vomiting (hyperemesis gravidarum) can lead to dehydration and severe weight loss. In this case, the expectant mom would require treatment and may have to be hospitalized.
Diagnosing Morning Sickness
Morning sickness is easily diagnosed in pregnant women as it is sometimes the first symptom of pregnancy along with a missed period. Regular check ups with your doctor are important to monitor the health of both mom and baby.
What are the symptoms of morning sickness?
Most symptoms surface six weeks after conception. Symptoms of morning sickness vary in severity and include the following:
- Weight loss
If you experience any symptoms other than normal morning sickness, for instance abdominal pain, you should consult with a doctor or gynecologist immediately.
What Causes Morning Sickness?
The exact cause of morning sickness is unknown but contributing factors are:
- Hormones – Morning sickness can be linked to two hormones, Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) and estrogen, which trigger the nausea and vomiting.
- Increased sense of smell – Pregnant women are more sensitive to smells that cause nausea
- Muscle relaxation of the gastrointestinal tract – The muscles of the gastrointestinal tract relax and slow digestion, making feelings of nausea more likely.
- Postnasal drip – During pregnancy many women experience a postnasal drip or a congested nose. This can cause a queasy stomach.
- Excessive salivation – Excess production of saliva can also contribute to feelings of nausea.
It is very common to experience morning sickness during the early stages of pregnancy, and the symptoms usually disappear by the second trimester (14th week). However, this differs from woman to woman and with each pregnancy. Every pregnancy is unique, and it is not unusual for a mother to find that she had no morning sickness with one child and terrible morning sickness with another.
When should I worry about morning sickness?
Although it can be very unpleasant, for most expectant moms morning sickness is a ‘normal’ phenomenon, associated with a healthy pregnancy and a healthy, well-nourished baby. However, morning sickness can be a serious problem if you are struggling to keep food and fluids down, causing you to lose weight and risk dehydration. This happens in very extreme cases of morning sickness which are very rare. While few women with morning sickness require medical treatment for the condition, you should consult your doctor or health care professional as a precaution if you are at all concerned.
Help for Morning Sickness
Remember that this is a new beginning for you and baby. During your pregnancy it is important to eat healthy, nutritious food, get enough sleep and do mild exercise. If you find you are nauseous at night, take it easy at that time. You may lie down or find that a cool compress on your forehead helps. If you suffer from nausea in the mornings, utilize the evening hours for tasks and activities, and vice versa.
Most cases of morning sickness are usually mild and have subsided by the 14th week. Very seldom is treatment needed, but if symptoms are severe, causing weight loss and dehydration, you should consult your doctor or gynecologist immediately.
The most common prescription medicine for vomiting is an anti-emetic, but studies have yet to prove how safe these medicines are for use during pregnancy. It is always best to avoid taking medicines while pregnant, as you could be placing your baby’s health at risk. Always remember to consult your doctor before taking any medication.
In conventional treatment, antihistamine medication, specifically promethazine, is commonly prescribed by medical practitioners to ease the nausea and vomiting.
If you are diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum (severe vomiting, weight loss and dehydration), you will need to be hospitalized, as this is a potentially serious condition with dire consequences and needs close monitoring.
A variety of natural, alternative health care treatment options are also available. During this period of the pregnant woman’s life, drug therapy is an issue of great concern especially since the fetus is so vulnerable. Natural remedies that are specifically formulated for use during pregnancy can be very helpful to the mother-to-be suffering from morning sickness. Remember that just because the remedy is natural does not mean that it is safe during pregnancy!
Some herbs are not recommended during pregnancy, and pregnant women are advised to only use products specifically formulated for safe use during pregnancy and to consult their health care professionals if they are in any doubt as to the safety of any medication – natural, OTC or prescription.
Rather than just treating morning sickness symptoms, specially formulated herbal and homeopathic remedies have the potential to ensure a healthy pregnancy for you and your baby – as nature intended! Correctly chosen natural therapies, safe for pregnancy, are also free from undesired side effects that can occur with prescription medications. A naturopath or homeopath will examine your diet, exercise regime, stress levels and personal habits and will be able to make recommendations to improve your lifestyle safely.
More Information on Morning Sickness
What else should I know?
- Nausea is more common in first pregnancies, in young women, and in women carrying multiple fetuses (twins or triplets).
- Having morning sickness during one pregnancy, doesn’t guarantee that you will experience it during the next. Each pregnancy is different, and reports have shown that some cases of morning sickness are less intense than others.
- Some researchers think that pregnant women become more sensitive to smells as a natural protective measure; it may make them more aware of things in the environment that are harmful to their unborn baby.
Tips for coping with morning sickness
There are many ways to cope with morning sickness. Most pregnant women find a method that works best for them. Here are some helpful hints:
- Eat frequent small amounts throughout the day rather than bigger, less frequent meals (food can actually relieve nausea)
- Try not to drink and eat at the same time, this can contribute to nausea
- Identify foods and smells that trigger nausea and avoid them, for example, fatty foods, certain air fresheners or strong perfumes. The smell of cigarettes may also trigger nausea. It goes without saying that one shouldn’t smoke while pregnant, or be near second hand cigarette smoke.
- Bland, carbohydrate foods tend to lessen nausea, for example, crackers or dry toast
- Ginger is well known to alleviate nausea. Try a soothing ginger tea that is safe to take during pregnancy
- Acupressure bands are also drug-free alternatives to relieve feelings of nausea
- Avoid pants with belts and other tight-fitting clothing
- Get lots of rest