Almost three-quarters of women will experience some form of morning sickness or nausea during pregnancy. Some women will experience just a bit of queasiness when they first wake up. Others might experience it at a different time of the day. Some women will feel sick enough to vomit at times. Still others will notice that they have very marked food likes and dislikes during this time.
Despite its prevalence, the causes of morning sickness are not known for certain. Some possible reasons for it include:
- Increased level of hormones. In early pregnancy estrogen and hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) increase. By the second trimester most women’s bodies adjust to the higher levels of these hormones.
- Low blood sugar. This may be why some women experience a feeling of nausea first thing in the morning or after other prolonged times without food.
- Changes in the production of stomach acids and digestive enzymes. When a woman becomes pregnant, her digestive functions slow down to allow for greater absorption of nutrients.
- B-complex deficiencies. Some women may need more B-complex vitamins, especially B6, which helps the body to metabolize protein. This seems to be especially true for women who are under a lot of stress, have taken the pill recently, or are prone to motion sickness.
- Fatigue. Some women discover that being overtired increases the tendency to feel nauseous.
- Stress. Pregnancy is inherently stressful because it is a time of change.
- Protection. There is some speculation that morning sickness may be nature’s way of protecting the fetus from toxins present in some strong vegetables or spices.
To help cope and cut down on the amount of morning sickness and digestive problems you experience, try these tips:
- Increase your levels of protein. This may help to stabilize your blood sugar.
- Get plenty of B-complex vitamins, especially B6, in your diet.
- Try to eat frequent small meals throughout the day. Take small snacks, such as trail mix, bananas or the old pregnancy stand-by, saltine crackers, with you whenever you go out.
- Avoid foods that are spicy, high in fat, rich, or high in sugar. You may also need to cut back on caffeine.
- Experiment with the best time of day to take pre-natal vitamins. Taking them with food is usually best.
- If you are having strong cravings or aversions to certain foods, listen to your body. Give your body what it feels comfortable with.
- To avoid frequent heartburn, try papaya enzyme (papain) with your meals. Consuming acidophilus in yogurt or kefir drinks, drinking liquids between meals rather than with them, or drinking bubbly mineral water, which makes you burp, can also help.
- Some women find that they are extremely sensitive to odors, especially cooking odors, but also to perfumes and cleaning agents or other strong odors. Avoid the ones you are sensitive to whenever possible. This is a great excuse to get someone else to do the cooking!
- Get plenty of rest. Sometimes just lying down for a few minutes can relieve nausea.
- Conversely, getting enough exercise seems to alleviate pregnancy nausea. Try going for regular brisk walks.
- Ginger is a very effective natural remedy for nausea. You can purchase it as a tea or make your own from 1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger, or ½ teaspoon of dried ginger, or take one or two 500-milligram capsules. Nibbling on candied ginger can also help.
- Chamomile, peppermint, spearmint, fennel, raspberry leaves, and wild yam have been shown to be helpful in relieving digestive problems during pregnancy. You can use these in tea form or purchase tinctures and add them to a small amount of water. Herbal scents can also soothe.
- Try this aromatherapy technique for morning sickness: mix three drops of lavender essential oil with one drop of peppermint essential oil, put this into an aromatherapy diffuser or a bowl of warm water, and allow it to scent the room.
- Several homeopathic remedies can help. Nux vomica is recommended for vomiting and vertigo. Ipecacuanhua is a remedy for nausea with irritability. It is safe to take these in potencies of 12X or 30X.
Luckily, morning sickness usually goes away by the fourth month. A few women may experience some nausea throughout their pregnancies, but these cases are rare. Even more rare is hyperemesis gravidarum–morning sickness that becomes so severe that it can threaten the health of the mother or fetus. Read Medical Marijuana: A Surprising Solution to Severe Morning Sickness (http://www.mothering.com/articles/pregnancy_birth/birth_preparation/marijuana.html) for ideas and other links on this topic.
It may also help to know that there seems to be a positive side to morning sickness and nausea. Studies show a significantly lower risk of miscarriage and stillbirth if nausea or vomiting is present. Also, fewer low-birth weight babies are born to women who experience these symptoms.