Feeling sick and throwing up are common pregnancy symptoms, so what can you expect and how can you treat it
Morning sickness is nausea and/or vomiting in early pregnancy. It can vary from woman to woman and usually ranges from mild nausea to regular vomiting.
Other than the actual vomit itself, morning sickness can make you feel dizzy and light-headed, nauseous to the point that you will vomit and give you an increased sense of smell and motion.
Although morning sickness is very common in early pregnancy, it’s still not known exactly what causes it. Morning sickness is closely linked to the increase hormonal and physical changes happening to your body, but it could also be triggered by a number of other things, including certain foods, smells, motions or a decrease in your blood sugar levels.
Here are a few theories...
In pregnancy, the increased levels of progesterone relax your uterus muscles, which helps prevent premature birth. It's thought that progesterone also relaxes the stomach and intestine muscles, leading to excess stomach acid, which makes you feel sick.
Some experts think morning sickness is down to low blood sugar levels due to the placenta draining energy from you.
Morning sickness could be an evolved trait to protect your unborn baby against toxins ingested by you. Morning sickness causes pregnant women to experience nausea when exposed to smells or foods that are likely to contain toxins that could be harmful to the baby.
Although it's called ‘morning sickness’ it doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll only happen in the morning. For some women, morning sickness will occur at the same time each day - it could happen only at night - or it may be felt all day long! It’s believed that morning sickness tends to hit in between meals, when your stomach is empty, or when you feel tired and fatigued. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way of predicting when morning sickness will happen.
Morning sickness typically starts around week 4 to week 6 of pregnancy, though this does vary.
It usually declines towards the end of your first trimester or at the beginning of your second trimester. From around week 16 of your pregnancy, you should be through the worst of your morning sickness. However, if morning sickness continues or gets worse, it's best to head to your GP or midwife.
Morning sickness is incredibly common and around 50% to 85% of pregnant women suffer from it in some form. The severity of the morning sickness varies from women to woman, but there has been a recent study linking mothers' and daughters' morning sickness experiences - if your mum suffered badly when she was pregnant, chances are you might do, too.
Other factors that might make you more prone to morning sickness include:
If your morning sickness symptoms are excessive and you begin to feel it’s a real problem, you may have Hyperemesis Gravidarum. A very small number of pregnant women develop this condition during pregnancy and if left untreated, it can potentially cause a nutritional deficiency to your unborn baby.
So, what can you do to help relieve morning sickness symptoms?
"Get plenty of rest and drink lots of water. Vomiting will drain your energy levels and make you dehydrated, so doing these two things will make you feel better. If you can’t keep water down, try water based foods and snacks, such as ice lollies, ice cubes and fruit juice, " suggests independent midwife Janine, from Birth Basics.
"If you can, try and eat something before you go to bed. Nothing too heavy, just a light snack as this will prevent your sugar levels from dropping and should help lessen the morning sickness when you wake up," Janine advises.
Eating small meals more often can work in the day, too. Your blood sugar levels will occasionally drop and you’ll become hungry a lot quicker than usual. This is often when the nausea kicks in. Eating smaller but more frequently means your stomach won't be empty. Choose slow-burning foods, such as complex carbohydrates, and avoid sugary treats, as they’ll cause your sugar levels to crash. Breakfast is a great way to start, so check out our suggestions on the best breakfasts to ease morning sickness.
While it's important to stay hydrated, avoid too many liquids near meal times. Excess liquids can cause havoc with digestion and make you more likely to bring your food back up.
It may also help to keep a morning sickness diary to try and pinpoint what triggers your sickness. "You might even notice a pattern," says Janine. The diary may reveal which foods to avoid or when you're likely to feel at your worst/best.
"Avoid being around strong smells or eating pungent foods," Janine also says. "Both of these are common triggers of morning sickness. Stick to dry, plain snacks where possible as they are less likely to smell."
Steer clear of traffic fumes or smoky rooms and fill your lungs up with simple fresh air.
Some people swear by acupressure wrist bands. These sit on pressure points that help relieve motion sickness and pregnant women can use them for morning sickness, too.
Midwife Janine suggests getting treated to a foot massage. Certain points in your foot control nausea, so drop hints to your partner!
Slowly sucking on a mint or sipping on peppermint tea can soothe morning sickness, as may ginger and lemon. Mandarin can also help - eat it, use as an aromatherapy oil or use in a massage oil to rub into your feet to help revive your body, easing the nausea.
If your morning sickness is severe and changes to what you eat, lifestyle and habits have no effect, your doctor may suggest anti-sickness medicine, called anti-emetics, to stop the vomiting. Possible side effects of anti-emetics include:
Certain antihistamines are another possible option, as there's some evidence they may stop nausea symptoms. You still must see your doctor before you take them though.
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