Pregnancy and nausea often go hand in hand.
Here’s your guide to the phenomenon of morning sickness.
Anyone who has had a baby will tell you that the glow of health that lights up a woman’s visage during early pregnancy is almost always accompanied by a ‘not- so-welcome companion’ – morning sickness. This is a feeling of nausea, which often leads to vomiting that occurs during the first few months of pregnancy.
Some women have the odd bout of mild queasiness when they first wake up, while others may have to endure weeks or even months of feeling or being sick all day long. Morning sickness reportedly affects 80% of pregnant women. Since each woman is different and each pregnancy is unique, the severity of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (NVP) will vary from woman to woman. Fortunately, this condition is generally mild and self-limited and can be controlled with conservative measures.
No one knows exactly what causes nausea during pregnancy. Most researchers believe it is caused by a combination of the physical changes that take place in the mother’s body such as the elevated levels of hormones. There is also some research that indicates that the mother’s diet may also be a contributing factor – since women who had a healthier, plant-based diet were found to have less or no morning sickness, whereas those with a high meat based diet were seen to suffer more.
Characteristically, nausea and vomiting begin around the sixth week of pregnancy. This is called ‘morning sickness’ because it occurs most often in the morning, but this does not in any way mean that the sickness is limited to the daytime. Many women experience NVP several times during the day and sometimes, at night. For 80% of expectant mothers, this condition wears off around the 12th week of pregnancy. The remaining 20% are usually afflicted by the condition for a longer period of time.
Triggers for the NVP are usually smells and foods, with the most commonly reported aversions or repulsions being towards meat, fish, poultry and eggs. Interestingly, some doctors who research the condition, point out that these are the very foods that are most likely to carry harmful micro-organisms or parasites. This indicates that NVP could be the body’s own highly developed radar that encourages the mother to eat foods that are most beneficial to the baby during the most crucial days of fetal development.
How does it affect you?
Most cases of nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy aren’t harmful to the mother or the unborn child. Rather, there are indications that the body could actually be expelling foods that were hard to digest, or were potentially damaging to the fetus when its developing internal organs are most vulnerable to parasites and chemicals. While short-term dietary deficiencies do not appear to have any harmful effects on the pregnancy’s outcome, severe and persistent nausea and vomiting pregnancy symptoms can affect the mother’s health. Most women experience nausea or have episodes of vomiting at certain points of the day, and can eat and manage to keep food down during the rest of the day. However, mothers who are acutely affected may be missing or skipping meals for days together, which could mean that the baby may not be getting all the necessary nutrients for optimal growth. Excessive vomiting in early pregnancy could lead to the loss of almost 5% or more of the mother’s body weight.
About 1% of pregnant women worldwide suffer from excessive vomiting in pregnancy-medically called “hyperemesis gravidarum”. Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) is a severe form of morning sickness, with “unrelenting, excessive pregnancy-related nausea and/or vomiting that prevents adequate intake of food and fluids.” Hyperemesis is considered a rare complication of pregnancy but, because nausea and vomiting during pregnancy exist on a continuum, there is often not a good diagnosis between common morning sickness and hyperemesis.One of the main things to watch out for during morning sickness is dehydration. This happens when the body does not have adequate amounts of ﬂuids which may be caused by losing the fluids that were taken in, or by not consuming enough. Severe cases of dehydration may require intravenous ﬂuids and vitamin supplementation from the hospital. Systematically rehydrate or seek medical attention if the mother shows signs of dehydration – such as infrequent urination or dark yellow urine.
Tips to control nausea and vomiting
DIET – Food
• When you wake up, eat a few crackers, or similar carbohydrate –high substitute and then rest for 15 minutes before getting out of bed.
• Eat small meals or snacks often so that your stomach does not become empty (optimally every 2 hours). Try not to skip meals.
• Do not hesitate to eat whatever you feel like eating, whenever you want to.
• If cooking odors trigger the condition, try to get soemone else to cook. If you have no other option, ventilate the room as well as you can.
• Try eating cold food instead of hot (since cold food may not smell as strong as hot food).
DIET – Drinks
• Drink small amounts of ﬂuids frequently during the day.
• Avoid drinking ﬂuids during meals and immediately before or after a meal.
• Get plenty of rest since nausea tends to worsen when you are tired. Taking naps during the day is ideal since a pregnant woman needs more sleep in the ﬁrst three months of pregnancy.
• You may need to take some time off work or make other arrangements for household chores and childcare.
• Do not hesitate to enlist the support of friends and family.
• Get plenty of fresh air and avoid warm places. Feeling hot can add to nausea.
• Try ginger, an alternative remedy that is often effective in settling the stomach. Dosages of up to 250 mg four times a day appear to be safe.
• Try taking your prenatal vitamins (one with a lower amount of iron if that mineral makes your nausea worse) with food or just before bed. If multivitamins make your nausea worse, take folic acid alone on a daily basis.