Morning Sickness and Why Pregnancy Nausea Happens
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Morning Sickness and Why Pregnancy Nausea Happens

Morning sickness is experienced in around half to two-thirds of all pregnancies. Find out more about pregnancy nausea and if it can affect the baby.

Morning sickness affects more than half of all pregnant women and although it most commonly occurs in the morning it can actually strike at any time of day or night. For most pregnant women the sickness will start somewhere between week 4 and week 6 of the pregnancy until around the end of the first trimester. One in five women experience pregnancy sickness into the second semester and a few unfortunates have nausea and vomiting throughout pregnancy.

What are the Symptoms of Morning Sickness?

The effects can include some or all of the following:

  • Nausea
  • Appetite loss
  • Vomiting
  • Psychological effects, such as anxiety and depression.

Why Does Morning Sickness Occur?

  • Morning sickness in pregnancy is due to a combination of physical and metabolic changes taking place in the body. Some of the factors are:
  • Low blood sugars as the placenta takes energy leaving mums-to-be feeling nauseous and low in energy.
  • Increased levels of hormones including oestrogen which can rise a hundredfold during pregnancy.
  • Altered carbohydrate metabolism
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Increased sensitivity to smells and odours.

Pregnancy sickness is believed to be a natural defence mechanism to protect the foetus from toxins. Small amounts of toxins that could be lethal to an embryo may not harm an adult but if the mother feels nausea when exposed to the smell or taste of foods with toxins she will avoid them. This theory is well-supported as there is a good correlation between toxins in food and the foods that trigger pregnancy nausea. In addition it has been found that women who have no morning sickness are more likely to miscarry or to have a child with a birth defect.

Can Morning Sickness Harm the Unborn Child?

The process of vomiting and retching will not harm the baby although it can cause aching and soreness due to straining the abdominal muscles. The developing foetus is well-cushioned by a sac of amniotic fluid and studies have shown that suffering from morning sickness reduces the risk of miscarriage.

Morning sickness will have no effect on the unborn child providing the mother is able to eat a well-balanced diet, drinks plenty of fluids and is able to keep most food down. In about 1 in a thousand pregnancies the morning sickness is so severe it can lead to dehydration and weight loss and this is known as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). This requires treatment, usually in hospital, to ensure the embryo receives nutrition and will not be born underweight.

How to Manage Morning Sickness

Pregnant women should not take anti-nausea medications as this can encourage them to eat foods that can have toxic effects on the growing baby which could lead to birth defects or miscarriages. Thalidomide is a classic example of this. There is no cure-all for morning sickness but there are a range of things that can make the situation more manageable.

Morning sickness relief can be achieved through a combination of diet, aromatherapy and even yoga. Food should be eaten more frequently in smaller portions and there are foods that should be avoided and those that should be sought out. For further information read Morning Sickness Remedies: Treatment for Pregnancy Nausea which has a comprehensive list of things that help and those to avoid.

© Jo Jackson  August 2010


Nausea and Vomiting During Pregnancy

Pregnancy - morning sickness

Thumbnail photo credit: Evil Erin on flickr

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