If you have ever been pregnant or known someone carrying a baby, then you may have heard the word morning sickness. This common feeling of nausea in the morning is completely normal, although it can be uncomfortable and disruptive. In some cases, morning sickness can also be a sign of another condition, so it is to be taken seriously. Learning about the causes, symptoms, preventative measures and potential remedies can prepare you when that morning finally comes.
What is Morning Sickness?
Morning sickness is a natural part of pregnancy, and comes in the form of nausea or vomiting, typically starting around the 6th week of pregnancy and lasting until the first half of your second term. While nausea and vomiting can be unpleasant and difficult to manage in some situations, it is actually seen as a good sign. In many pregnancies, morning sickness is often the first sign that a woman is carrying a child.
Causes of Morning Sickness
The root cause of morning sickness is the rapid increase in hormone levels, which is the body’s natural response to the formation of a fetus. Your hormone levels are rising rapidly due to your developing placenta and fetus. Some women also take progesterone supplements during pregnancy, which has been linked to nausea in some research.
There are other causes and triggers of morning sickness that can be avoided if you want to ease nausea, such as getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, avoiding driving when possible, and paying attention to any changes in your diet that may be causing gastrointestinal distress.
Symptoms of Morning Sickness
More than 70% of women will experience morning sickness of some kind, from mild nausea or stomach upset to acute or chronic vomiting. Due to the universality of hormone fluctuations during pregnancy, morning sickness is now considered a normal part of a healthy pregnancy. This is only in the cases when nausea and vomiting still allow you to get the nutrients you and your growing baby need.
The sensation of being sick may begin the moment you wake up and can resemble a hangover, complete with a headache and nausea. Some women also develop a stronger sense of smell during this period of their pregnancy. Their sense of taste may be altered, making certain delicious foods unpleasant, while strange combinations of food may seem appealing suddenly.
Severe cases of morning sickness, where vomiting is nearly constant and it becomes difficult to keep any food down, are referred to as hyperemesis gravidarum. If you experience these severe symptoms and are unable to eat a normal day’s worth of food, you could be putting both yourself and the baby in danger. This will be due to a lack of nutrients, dehydration and electrolyte imbalances in the body. Medical attention should be sought in this case, but normal cases of morning sickness do not require a doctor’s visit.
How Common is Morning Sickness?
Morning sickness is quite common in pregnant women and is seen in roughly 80% of pregnancies, although actual vomiting affects a smaller percentage (60-70%). What many people don’t realize is that morning sickness isn’t confined to the morning; the fluctuation of hormones may seem most dramatic after you wake up, but the symptoms of nausea and vomiting can occur at any time of day.
Some women who have already experienced pregnancy believe that their morning sickness symptoms will be the same for every successive child, but that isn’t the case. Every pregnancy is different, so your body’s response to those hormones will also be variable.
When does Morning Sickness Start & End?
In terms of duration, most pregnant women report that the symptoms of morning sickness begin around their 6th week of pregnancy. In most cases, the symptoms decrease or disappear after the 12th week of pregnancy, once the body has become acclimated to the new, elevated levels of hormones, and the baby begins growing at a more manageable rate. Also, the level of progesterone drops around this time in a pregnancy, and studies have linked this particular hormone to the symptoms of nausea.
If your morning sickness symptoms persist into your fifth and sixth months of pregnancy, speak with your doctor about possible treatment or preventative options.
Treatments for Morning Sickness
There are many treatments for morning sickness, including both formal and traditional approaches. They include the use of ginger, mint, acupuncture, acid reflux medication, allergy medication, vitamin B6 and sour foods, just to name a few.
The anti-inflammatory elements in mint can help to soothe the stomach, while the aroma alone can soothe feelings of nausea or headaches.
This ancient Chinese practice has been used on pregnant women for thousands of years, and there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence that acupuncture can soothe symptoms of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
Acid Reflux Medication
Due to the excessive bile and acid that coats your throat while vomiting, severe symptoms of morning sickness can also increase your risk of acid reflux disease. If you already suffer from this, throwing up repeatedly will only make it worse. Over-the-counter acid reflux medication can help prevent any worsening of these symptoms.
Oddly enough, allergy medication has been found to prevent nausea and vomiting in pregnant women, so taking a generic allergy pill first thing in the morning may save you from an unpleasant commute to work.
All B vitamins are hugely important during pregnancy, but vitamin B6 is particularly critical for preventing nausea and vomiting. Taking 2-3 supplements of this per day is recommended and completely safe for pregnant women.
How do You Prevent Morning Sickness?
Cod Liver Oil
This fish oil is rich in beneficial fats that both the mother and fetus need for proper development during the pregnancy. Furthermore, this oil helps the body absorb other nutrients more effectively, including magnesium and vitamin D.
One of the benefits of carrots is that it can help to eliminate excess hormones from the body. If your progesterone or estrogen levels are too high and causing your nausea, you can add some carrots to your daily diet for a settled stomach.
Before you go to bed, try eating a protein-rich snack. Many women have claimed that it lets their stomach settle better while they sleep, resulting in fewer symptoms of morning sickness.