Despite the name, morning sickness can affect you at any time of the day or night. It can cause nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP) and although it can be very unpleasant, there is normally no need for it to cause any concern as it is a normal part of most pregnancies. For most women, morning sickness will begin by week nine of your pregnancy and for 90% of cases the nausea and vomiting will end by the beginning of the second trimester.
What causes morning sickness?
Unfortunately it is not known exactly why some women suffer from nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. Some researchers believe that the following may be causes:
- Increased oestrogen levels: during pregnancy, your oestrogen levels rise considerably during the first trimester. It is believed that this rise may cause short term nausea as oestrogen levels can heighten your sense of smell which may be the reason why smells can trigger nausea.
- Increased Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin levels (hCG): Once an egg has been fertilised, your body starts to make the hCG hormone. It may be possible that this rise in hCG may cause nausea and vomiting.
- Nutritional deficiency: although there is no firm evidence, it is thought that a lack in the B6 vitamin may possibly be another reason for nausea and vomiting during those first few months.
- Gastric problems: Your body starts to produce progesterone which is a hormone that helps to prepare your womb for pregnancy and also to protect the lining of your womb. As your body produces more progesterone, the muscle movement in your intestines, oesophagus and stomach reduce and this may cause nausea and vomiting.
There are also some factors that may contribute to the risk of you suffering from nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, including:
- You have suffered in a previous pregnancy with nausea and vomiting
- There is family history (on the female side) of nausea and vomiting
- You have suffered from motion sickness
- You have suffered with sickness whilst using some contraceptives
- Stress can make sickness worse
- An enlarged placenta may also contribute to the nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. You may get an enlarged placenta if you are having a multiple birth.
Things you can try to ease morning sickness include:
- Resting when you can as tiredness can make up feel worse
- Drink small amounts often rather than gulping large amounts
- Eat small meals frequently, do not let your stomach get empty
- Try eating plain dry foods such as toast and crackers
- Try eating cold meals instead of cooked meals as they give off less smell
- Keep some dry crackers, biscuit or a sandwich next to your bed and eat them before getting up in the morning or in the middle of the night if you wake
- Avoid sweet foods/drinks
- Avoid smells with strong smells
- Wear comfy clothes
- Try eating foods containing ginger. Ginger is safe for you and your baby during pregnancy and you can have it in several forms.
- Acupressure wristbands
- Taking a pregnancy vitamin and folic acid
Should I worry?
Although morning sickness is normal in pregnancy, some women are unfortunate and suffer from excessive sickness, this is known as Hyperemesis Gravidarium (HG). There are also some other causes for sickness including a UTI (urinary tract infection). According to NHS Direct, if you experience any of the following, you should contact your midwife or doctor:
- Have abdominal pains (tummy pains) Have a high temperature (over 38c)
- Have very dark-coloured urine
- Have not urinated for 8 hours
- Feel weak, dizzy or faint
- Vomit blood
- Have a racing heart rate
- Have repeated episodes of vomiting
- Are unable to keep food or fluids down for 24 hours
Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy can make life for the pregnant woman experiencing it, very hard and difficult to continue with normal daily activities and can have a very negative impact on their quality of life. For many pregnant women, they can only get through this difficult time with the support of their family and friends.
by Jenny, mum to William and James