We’ve all seen those scenes in the movies where a newly expectant mum makes a dramatic dash for the loo over breakfast as morning sickness strikes. But while mildly entertaining, this experience is far from the reality of nausea gravidarum, to give it the proper name, for most pregnant women. Here’s our guide to the six most common morning sickness myths…
Myth 1: It only happens in the morning
Despite the name, nausea can strike pregnant women at any time of day, with an unfortunate 24 per cent experiencing it consistently throughout the entire day, according to a study by nausea relief brand Sea-Band Mama. And while you should find the symptoms subside between the 12th and 14th week, 11 per cent of mums-to-be suffer recurrent sickness throughout the pregnancy. Dr Roger Gadsby, medical researcher and founder of charity Pregnancy Sickness Support charity (PSS), says, “For many women, pregnancy sickness, rather than morning sickness, is a much more fitting description.”
Myth 2: The only symptom is sickness
There is no hard and fast reason for morning sickness, although it’s thought changing hormone levels, particularly an increase in human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), could be the root cause. As the placenta develops, your levels of hCG increase, which triggers the release of oestrogen and progesterone, too. Oestrogen increases your sense of smell while progesterone helps relax your body – including your digestive and urinary tracts – which could be partly to blame for a lingering sense of nausea.
But vomiting isn’t the only symptom of morning sickness. Nausea can make you feel dizzy and light-headed and you may also find you have an increased sense of motion. You may also find that you have more saliva in your mouth. As a result, normal tasks can become trickier. You could feel sick as a passenger in a car for example, or the smell of your once loved perfume may turn your stomach. Keep a check on what seems to make you feel worse – a food diary might help.
Myth 3: You won’t be able to eat
Feeling hungry can contribute to morning sickness, so it’s better to eat something little rather than avoid food altogether. If you find morning sickness does in fact strike first thing, eat a plain piece of toast or a biscuit before you get up.
Eat consistently throughout the day. Small meals high in carbohydrates and low in fat (such as bread, rice, and pasta) are better than sweet or spicy foods. Eat little and often rather than have three large meals each day, advises the NHS. The smell of hot meat might make your stomach turn, so try cold meats instead. If you suddenly like the smell of food you wouldn’t normally eat, give it a try. It’s important to listen to your body.
A deficiency in vitamin B6 and zinc has been linked with morning sickness, and your body particularly craves these vitamins during pregnancy. Zita West, fertility, pregnancy and birth expert, explains, “If you are being sick, you may have depleted your magnesium levels, too. Opt for foods high in these vitamins (such as wholemeal bread, raisins, hazelnuts, apricots, ginger, broccoli and fortified breakfast cereals), which have the added benefit of other nutrients and fibre.”
Myth 4: It’s not normal if you don’t have morning sickness
As Zita explains, “If you do not have any nausea at all, it doesn’t suggest that your pregnancy is any less viable and it is not a cause for concern – you are just lucky!” In fact, only about 60 per cent of mums-to-be actually experience it and studies have suggested it may run in the family, with women whose mum suffered it being more likely to do so too.
Myth 5: Your baby isn’t getting enough nutrients
If you’re suffering with morning sickness, there’s no need to worry about the impact your vomiting may be having on your unborn child. Of course it is unpleasant for you, but no harm will come to your baby. Even if you’re only managing to keep a small amount of food or drink down, he will get all the nutrients that he needs.
Myth 6: There’s nothing you can do
Rest is your most important tool in the battle against morning sickness. Make time to put your feet up and recharge, taking sips of water regularly. Avoid drinks that are really cold, sharp or sweet. Wear comfortable clothes that won’t pinch your stomach and keep yourself distracted as much as possible. If reading or watching the TV makes you feel worse, try closing your eyes and listening to some gentle music.
Don’t get caught short while you’re out and about. The PSS advises putting together a little pack, such as boiled sweets, a bottle of water, baby wipes and a sick bag (a nappy sack works well), that will mean you won’t feel panicked if nausea catches you at an awkward time.
Symptoms not to ignore
Severe cases of morning sickness, known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum, are very rare, occurring in only 1 in every 200 women. However, if you find you are having any of the following symptoms, you should seek medical help:
- Prolonged and severe nausea and vomiting
- Weight loss
- Low blood pressure (hypotension) when standing up.
- Very dark-coloured urine or no urine passed (over 8 hours)
- Unable to keep food or fluids down for 24 hours
- Have abdominal (tummy) pain
- A temp above 38C
- A racing heart rate
- Blood in your vomit