Queasy Does It!
The truth about morning sickness and ways to soothe tummy troubles.
Approximately 70 percent of pregnant moms experience some type of morning sickness (hyperemesis) during the first few weeks of their pregnancies. And about 10 percent get an extra-special dose that can last well into the third trimester or through the entire pregnancy.
Those women are diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum, the medical term for nausea due to severe morning sickness. This can result in weight loss and dehydration and causes approximately 50,000 U.S. women to be admitted to hospitals annually.
Some say morning sickness may be nature’s way of protecting a forming fetus from anything that could be harmful to its development. That might be comforting news, but if you’re turning green at the thought of your husband asking “What’s for dinner?”— help is on the way. Some simple steps can minimize or even alleviate the discomforts of morning sickness.
When It Starts
Expectant moms usually begin to feel queasiness around the sixth week of pregnancy. The worst of it peaks around the eighth week and starts to subside after the 12th.
There are a variety of theories about what causes morning sickness. Many physicians believe it takes root in the combination of changes affecting a pregnant woman’s body. Those changes include surges in estrogen levels, a heightened sense of smell, low blood sugar, excess stomach acids and, of course, exhaustion.
The good news is that medical studies have shown morning sickness is a strong indicator of a healthy pregnancy. A National Institute of Child Health and Human Development study found that women who vomited during their first trimester were less likely to miscarry or deliver prematurely.
But even a mild case can be debilitating. “If the nausea is interfering with your daily life,” says Stephen Hebert, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist, “if it goes beyond your ability to function normally, then you need to consider treating it.” Dr. Hebert says that most pregnant women will experience some level of morning sickness.
Moms-to-be don’t need to suffer unnecessarily, though. There are ways to lessen the effects of a queasy stomach. “Sometimes episodes are brought on if your stomach is too empty or too full,” says Dr. Hebert. “It’s best to not eat three big meals a day. Break those meals down into six smaller ones.” You benefit because you’re not triggering your stomach’s queasy reaction to food, but you’re still keeping your body (and the baby) nourished.
Getting Through the Mornings
If you’re in the throes (pardon the pun) of morning sickness, here are some additional ideas from Miriam Erick, author of Managing Morning Sickness: A Survival Guide for Pregnant Women (Bull Publishing, $16.95.)
- Remain still until the nausea passes.
- Open windows to let in fresh air.
- Throw out fragrant soaps, cologne and other aromatic products.
- Sleep alone.
It Can Happen All Day
Even though most pregnant women experience morning sickness when they wake up, it is not uncommon to feel nauseous any time of day. Erick, a high-risk maternity dietitian, says some 30 percent of women suffer later in the day. She advocates renaming the condition pregnancy sickness.
As the day wears on, expectant moms are exposed to foods and smells that may not have been bothersome in the morning. Fatigue from a busy day can contribute to that queasy feeling. If that’s the case:
- Try to take some time to rest and, if possible, squeeze in a short nap.
- Keep a journal of the times of day you feel sick and what was going on around you — odors, what you ate and where you were. That information might help you minimize contributors to your nausea.
- If you commute, see if you can avoid being caught in rush-hour traffic.
- Arrange for someone to prepare dinner or call for takeout.
‘It Worked for My Cousin’
Eating three crackers first thing in the morning worked for your cousin Laura, so why isn’t it working for you? Every woman is different and so is every pregnancy. Even something that works for a while may not work all the time.
Still, here are some tricks that might help ease nausea.
- Avoid fried, fatty foods.
- Drink lots of clear fluids. Try ginger ale. Some women also have great success with tea made from ginger root.
- Suck on hard candy.
- Smell or taste a fresh lemon.
- Eat more carbohydrates (plain mashed potatoes, white rice, dry toast).
- Ask your doctor about taking vitamin B-6 or Unisom.
Tips for the Workplace
“Working environs can be the toughest place to endure in early pregnancy,” Erick says. “Even though your body is starting to change, your officemates are in the business-as-usual lane, which means perfume, occasional music, routine coffee breaks and probably drinks after work.” Once you announce your good news, you can make simple requests of your co-workers to minimize overwhelming scents and other nausea triggers.
Should You Call Your Doctor?
Even though morning sickness is fairly common in pregnancy, some symptoms may require your doctor’s attention. These include:
- Vomiting for more than 12 hours.
- Fever above 102 degrees.
- Blood in the vomit.
- No sign of improvement in a few days.
- Losing more than a few pounds.
Most women feel much better during their second trimester. Before you know it, you’ll hold your baby and that queasy feeling will only be a memory.
Claire Yezbak Fadden is a freelance writer.