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The “good news” that you have conceived is only the beginning of an adventure you need to prepare yourself for. Pregnancy brings along many physical and emotional changes that you need to deal with on your way to childbirth.
Very often, the first sign of pregnancy is morning sickness. A misnomer by name, it is neither an alarming sickness nor does it always happen in the morning. It refers to the symptoms of nausea and vomiting that typically begin in the morning and usually resolve as the day progresses. So, if you’re dashing in and out of the bathroom to vomit, do not worry, you’re not alone. Here are some facts about the nature, symptoms, and useful ways to tackle morning sickness.
What is Morning Sickness?
Most pregnant women suffer from morning sickness. It is most common during the first trimester. For some women though, the effects of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy linger throughout their pregnancy with symptoms extending until delivery. Professional treatment is not usually needed for this.
What are the Causes of Morning Sickness?
Most women complain of nausea during pregnancy as the most common symptom. While there isn’t any specific cause, nausea and production of the human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) hormone appear to be linked. Medically, this pregnancy hormone is produced by the body once the fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine lining. While the exact linkage between hCG and nausea is unknown, it is true that they both peak around the same time. This is why experts assume that there is a clear connection between them.
The exact causes of morning sickness during pregnancy are still unknown. However, most experts agree that hormonal changes probably play a vital role. These include:
1. Oestrogen Levels
This hormone can increase greatly during pregnancy when compared with levels found in women who are not pregnant. The changed hormone levels can trigger morning sickness.
2. Progesterone Levels
During pregnancy the levels of progesterone also rise. Higher hormone levels relax the uterus (womb) muscles to prevent an early childbirth. However, due to the relaxation of the stomach and intestines, excess stomach acids accumulate causing gastroesophageal disease, or acid reflux.
3. Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG)
As discussed, the developing embryo produces this hormone soon after conception and then it is produced by the placenta. There may be a potential connection between hCG and morning sickness.
4. Sense of Smell
When you are pregnant, you might experience an increase in sensitivity to strong odours, which might aggravate your nausea further.
A pregnant woman may also secrete increased saliva and have heightened sensitivity to certain smells, and feel changes in the taste of some food.
Remember, not all vomiting may be due to the pregnancy.
Some other contributing factors might be:
- A sensitive stomach can worsen morning sickness
- A urinary tract infection can also be a possible reason
- Stress or fatigue cause a physical reaction within the body, leading to nausea and vomiting
Some pregnant women might experience excessive nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. They might feel sick many times during the day and be unable to keep food or drink down, impacting daily life to a great extent.
Excessive vomiting is known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) and often needs advanced care. It’s not known what causes HG, or why some women are susceptible to it. Experts believe that it is linked to the changing hormones in the body that occur during pregnancy.
Signs & Symptoms Of Morning Sickness
Most women suffer from both nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. The symptoms and intensity can change according to overall fitness, eating habits and genetic influence. The most common symptoms of morning sickness include:
- Feeling queasy and nauseated
- Loss of appetite
- Aversion to certain foods
- Depression – When there is severe vomiting, you may find yourself unable to do daily work or take care of your home. It can affect your relationship with people around you and cause depression
- Feeling weak or light-headed
The queasiness might start after waking up in the morning or might get triggered by certain smells. The feeling of nausea and unease can happen at any time in the day and may continue for weeks, or even months.
The intensity of symptoms differs from person to person. Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy improves for most pregnant women after 12th week. Unfortunately, for some, these symptoms can affect their entire pregnancy.
When Normally does the Morning Sickness Start and End During Pregnancy?
Nausea and morning sickness in first trimester starts within 4 to 8 weeks of gestation and reduces between 13 and 14 weeks. However, it can also start earlier and last longer. Every woman doesn’t experience nausea for the entire duration of the first trimester. It could carry on for only a couple of weeks or come and go throughout the first few months.
Morning sickness can affect a mother’s quality of life to a great extent. The loving support of family and friends help greatly during pregnancy to overcome the common health issues. Some dietary alterations and getting plenty of rest are usually all that is needed to treat morning sickness. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, doctors advise taking necessary medical treatments as remedy for morning sickness.
There are medications that can be used in the initial stage of pregnancy to help improve the symptoms of morning sickness. These include medicines that include vitamins (B6 and B12) or their combinations to make you feel better. There are many supplements and drugs which are available as pills and are safe for the foetus.
There are a few treatments that are available over-the-counter for morning sickness may help address your specific problem.
1. Medical Treatments
- Vitamin B6 is useful in helping expectant mothers to deal with mild to moderate nausea.
- Antihistamines, available easily in forms like doxylamine, are used to treat vomiting and nausea during pregnancy. Having a combination of Vitamin B6 and doxylamine may also be prescribed as an initial treatment for morning sickness.
- Zantac or Pepcid are reflux medicines that sometimes work if your nausea is caused by stomach or intestinal problems.
2. Natural/Home Remedies
There are some natural home remedies that our mothers and grandmothers swear by for dusting off your question how to deal with morning sickness during pregnancy.
If you experience mild nausea and vomiting, adopting simple measures might be enough as a remedy for morning sickness during pregnancy. These suggestions are not supported by hard evidence, but obstetricians commonly recommend them.
- Eat small meals and snacks slowly and frequently throughout the day so your stomach is never empty. Food rich in protein and carbohydrates might be helpful.
- Don’t lie down right after eating because this can delay digestion.
- Snacking on fruits, nuts and crackers may also help you feel better if you wake up feeling nauseated at midnight.
- Take your time to get up in the morning – wait on the bed for a while.
- Avoid eating oily foods and being exposed to smells that trigger your nausea.
- Eat dishes served cold or at room temperature as steaming hot foods tend to have a stronger aroma.
- Don’t eat fatty, deep fried, acidic, or junk foods because they can slow down your digestive system.
- Drink fluids between your meals, but don’t drink too much at one go so that your stomach becomes full. Sipping fluids regularly throughout the day is a good way to stay hydrated without filling up.
- Carbonated beverages must be taken in moderation only. Some women also find sour juices like lemonade or sports drinks containing glucose, salt, and potassium helpful in replacing lost electrolytes.
- Be careful of non-food triggers that make you nauseous. These include a damp or stuffy room, the smell of heavy perfume, a bumpy or fast car ride, or even certain visual stimuli, like flashing lights.
- De-stress and sleep. Watch TV, chat with a friend – nausea can get worse if you’re tired or stressed.
- Ginger helps to relieve nausea and is also an alternative remedy for making an upset stomach better and relieving queasiness.
- Sip peppermint tea or suck peppermint candies if possible especially after meals as it can relieve nausea.
- Aromatherapy is helpful for some women who find the scents of lemon, mint, or orange refreshing.
If these home remedies don’t help, consult your doctor for anti-nausea medicines for your particular problem.
Risks & Complications of Morning Sickness?
Generally, morning sickness is a common feature of pregnancy and has very low risk. Unless it leads to dehydration or makes you feel too ill, it does not need medical attention.
According to the National Institutes of Health, HG affects only about 1 percent of pregnant women and usually goes away during the second half of pregnancy, and typically does not cause serious complications in the mother or child.
When to Seek Help?
If you find the sickness and vomiting during pregnancy affecting you too much, you might need medical intervention. Please discuss your situation with the doctor if you experience any of these symptoms:
- If the symptoms get too severe to handle
- If you are unable to take your regular food and water intake
- If you are losing weight too quickly
- If your fluid consumption reduces drastically
- If vomiting is associated with fever, headaches or abdominal pain
Hospital care may be needed if your condition deteriorates or you become dehydrated and ill.
As discussed earlier, severe morning sickness during pregnancy or hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) needs to be treated medically for a smooth pregnancy.
Various metabolic and neuromuscular factors are thought to contribute to HG; however, the exact cause is unknown. Consequently, treatment of HG can be difficult as the aim of its treatment or the full effects of potential treatments on the growing foetus are unknown.
Pregnant women should call their doctor if:
- symptoms of nausea or vomiting are severe
- urine becomes infrequent
- their urine gets dark yellowish in colour
- they are unable to drink any liquids
- they feel dizziness while standing
- they faint when they stand up
- feel an increase in their heartbeat
- they vomit blood
There are some common doubts and fears in the minds of all expecting mothers who undergo morning sickness. Here we address these common questions to help you deal with the condition better.
1. Can Morning Sickness Lead to Miscarriage?
Women who have miscarriages are in fact less likely to have had nausea. If your baby or your placenta was not developing properly, it means you’d have lower levels of pregnancy hormones in your system. Hence, you’re not suffering from vomiting.
However, don’t be worried if you don’t experience morning sickness. A significant percentage of pregnant women in their first trimester with normal pregnancies have mild or no nausea. Consider yourself blessed and don’t worry if you’re not suffering!
2. Will Morning Sickness Harm My Baby?
Fortunately, vomiting doesn’t harm your baby in any way. Even if you’re unable to gain any weight in the first trimester, it’s generally not a concern as long as you’re able to complete your daily food intake. Take a prenatal vitamin supplement, after discussion with your doctor, to make sure that your nutrient needs are fulfilled.
However, please note that severe and prolonged vomiting has been linked to a greater risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, and new-borns who are small for their gestational age. If you are experiencing severe symptoms that you’re struggling to deal with, it is best to consult your doctor.
Morning sickness and other health worries of pregnancy might cause temporary unease. However, all mothers learn coping mechanisms to focus on the care to be taken for a successful pregnancy. Do not let the pains of constant nausea, vomiting, and resultant tiredness affect your normal life. A positive approach and hope of holding your baby after nine months of pregnancy should help you to deal with the experience of morning sickness.