Morning sickness is the nausea and vomiting experienced by many women during pregnancy. It affects between 70-85% of pregnant women. However, many would prefer to call it “anytime sickness”, as the nausea (with or without vomiting) can come and go at any time of the day or even be worse in the evening.
When does morning sickness start and end?
Morning sickness most commonly begins around weeks 6 of pregnancy. In some women, it may even start early as two weeks after conception. The symptoms get worse and peak around 9 to 10 weeks, and typically fades by the end of the first trimester. However, some women can experience nausea and vomiting throughout their entire pregnancies.
Is morning sickness dangerous?
In most cases, mild morning sickness is not harmful and does not need any treatment. However, morning sickness can become severe that it progresses to a condition called Hyperemesis Gravidarum. It causes severe dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, unintentional weight loss (lose more than 5% of pre-pregnancy body weight). Hyperemesis Gravidarum may require hospitalization and intravenous (IV) fluids, medications and rarely a feeding tube.
Many women wait to take action when it comes to severe morning sickness because they’ve been told it’s normal. That’s why it is important to know what’s normal and what’s not. Talk to your doctor right away if you are vomiting more than two to three times a day and aren’t able to keep anything down.
Although some women with severe morning sickness feel better about halfway through their pregnancy (around week 20), some continue to experience it throughout the entire pregnancy. Often, the symptoms become less severe as the pregnancy progresses.
The exact cause of morning sickness isn’t well understood. Research suggests that it might be related to hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy.
► Increased human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) levels - a hormone begins to produce after conception.
► Increased estrogen levels - changes in levels during the early stages of pregnancy may cause short-term nausea and vomiting.
► Increase progesterone levels - a hormone that helps prepare the womb for pregnancy and protected the womb lining. As progesterone production increases this may affect the tone in the lower esophagus affecting the valve into the stomach causing nausea and indigestion.
► Nutrition deficiency - Vitamin B6 deficiency
What can you do about morning sickness?
While morning sickness is a totally normal part of a healthy pregnancy, you don’t have to suffer without help for 3 months of nausea. There are some strategies and treatments you can try to combat nausea and vomiting:
• Start the day off right. An empty stomach can make the symptoms worse. Consider keeping crackers, dry cereal or trail mix next to your bed. Eat some before you get up.
• Eat mindfully. Don’t skip meals. Consider eating small but frequent meals. Aim for 5 to 6 small meals a day. Avoid spicy, greasy or fatty foods. Consider eating light snack that’s high in complex carbohydrates, protein and fibre - like a whole grain muffin and a glass of milk or piece of cheese and a half of apple. This will help reduce symptoms.
• Eat cold foods rather than hot meals. Foods that are cold or at room temperature are more tolerable because they smell and taste less than foods served warm or hot. You may find colder foods easier to stomach since the aroma will not be as strong.
• Hydration. Staying hydrated is important, so drink fluids in small sips throughout the day. If you can’t keep food down consider fluids like broth, ginger tea, peppermint tea, smoothies or water with lemon.
• Avoid strong smells. Pregnancy hormones tend to enhance your sense of smell and cause you to be sickened by certain potent odors. So, let fresh air into your home and keep soothing candles and essential oils (ginger, peppermint, lemon) on hand.
• Stress reduction techniques. Consider things like acupressure, meditation, pregnancy massage, prenatal yoga and walks.
• Get plenty of rest. Get as much rest as you can, consider taking naps if needed. Avoid lying down after eating.
• Soothe your stomach with ginger. Research suggests that ginger may help settle an upset stomach. Try ginger tea (put 3-4 slices of fresh ginger in hot water for 5 minutes) or chew on ginger candies
• Take prenatal vitamin with food. The iron in your prenatal vitamin might be aggravating your stomach. Make sure to take you pills with food or before bedtime to alleviate any discomfort. If you suspect your prenatal is the culprit, talk to your doctor about an alternative with less iron and focus on increasing your food sources of iron.
• Take an anti-nausea medicine if your morning sickness is severe. You may want to consult your doctor about taking a prescription drug that’s been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
The Bottom Line
Morning sickness does not usually cause any problems for the unborn baby, but it can have a significant, adverse effect on an expectant mother’s day-to-day activities and quality of life. It can often be treated by making dietary changes and taking plenty of rest. The support of family and friends can also make morning sickness more manageable. In more severe cases there are medicines that can be used. Just do what works for you and find that “happy place” where you’re feeling your best.
- Koren, Gideon & Maltepe, Caroline, How to Survive Morning Sickness Successfully, (2013), Motherrisk.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2014). Morning Sickness – ACOG. Retrieved 10 October 2014, from Your Pregnancy and Childbirth. (2010) (5th ed., p. 21). Washington, DC.
Tan Ye Ting
Simple Balance Nutrition