The term "morning sickness" is used to describe the symptoms of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. If you are spending most mornings in the bathroom feeling queasy, you are not alone. As many as 90% of all pregnant women experience some symptoms of morning sickness, while one-third actually vomit due to this condition. It usually begins four to six weeks after conception and continues until the 14th to 16th week of gestation.
The exact cause of morning sickness is unknown, but several theories exist. Most experts believe it's triggered by hormonal changes, especially the increase of hCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin). High levels of this pregnancy hormone are thought to overstimulate the part of the brain that controls nausea and vomiting. Gall bladder disease, hyperactive thyroid, molar pregnancy, or carrying more than one baby may also cause morning sickness.
Other possible culprits include the physical symptoms of pregnancy: an enhanced sense of smell, stretching of the uterine muscles, displacement of the digestive organs, and excess acid in the stomach. Emotional stress and a high-fat diet may also play a part.
How Do I Know I Have It?
As the name suggests, most women experience morning sickness in the early hours of the day. It can occur at any time, and for some women, it even lasts all day. It generally consists of nausea and vomiting, but may also include dizziness and headaches.
How Can I Treat It?
There are no drugs currently approved by the FDA for the treatment of morning sickness. However, there are several dietary, lifestyle, and alternative-medicine approaches that may help.
- Eat a diet high in protein and complex carbohydrates. Try peanut butter on apple slices or celery; nuts; cheese and crackers; and milk, cottage cheese, and yogurt. Bland foods like gelatin, frozen desserts, broth, ginger ale, and saltine crackers also soothe the stomach.
- Avoid eating fatty foods. Recent research suggests that a high-fat diet contributes to morning sickness.
- Keep your blood sugar even by eating and drinking small portions frequently. Try to eat before getting hungry and before nausea strikes.
- Keep crackers by the bed and eat one or two before getting up for the day.
- Drink plenty of liquids. Try to drink between meals rather than with meals to prevent your stomach from getting too full.
- Take vitamin supplements at night, as the iron they contain may irritate your stomach. You may have to try several prenatal vitamins before finding one you can tolerate.
- Keep morning activities slow and calm.
- Avoid staying in poorly ventilated spaces that trap food or other odors.
- Avoid smoking cigarettes.
- Get extra sleep and try to minimize stress as much as possible.
- Use acupressure wristbands. These apply pressure to specific points on the wrist, and are often used to ease motion sickness. You can find them at drug stores, health-food stores, and travel stores.
- Try acupuncture. Some acupuncturists are specially trained to work with pregnant women. Talk to your health-care provider before consulting a licensed acupuncturist.
- Take 100 to 200 milligrams of vitamin B supplements daily, especially B6.
Contact your health-care provider if:
- Morning sickness does not improve, despite trying home remedies.
- You are vomiting blood or material that looks like coffee grounds.
- You lose more than 2 pounds in a week.
- There is prolonged, severe vomiting for three or more days, which can cause dehydration and malnutrition.
(For information on severe, persistent vomiting during pregnancy see hyperemesis gravidarum.)
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: I am now in my second trimester. Why hasn't my morning sickness stopped?
A: Unfortunately, for reasons not completely understood, some women experience morning sickness during their entire pregnancy. This happens most often for women carrying more than one baby. If you're still having morning sickness, make sure you inform your health-care provider to rule out other possible complications.
Q: Is the morning sickness hurting my baby in any way?
A: Luckily, no. In fact, some medical professionals believe that morning sickness is actually a sign that all is well with you and your baby. It may signal that necessary hormonal changes are taking place.
Q: I had horrible morning sickness with my first child. Am I destined to have it again with my second?
A: No. Most women have an easier time in their second and subsequent pregnancies. This may have to do with the body being more accustomed to the hormonal changes of pregnancy. Lower maternal stress levels may also play a role.
Review Date: June 29, 2001
Reviewed By: Peter Chen, M.D., Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of
Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare
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